I have been thinking lately of the wonders of Toledo.
A person might disagree slightly, especially as to order.
But my list is:
1) The people, incredibly sincere and neighborly.
2) The water, which we ought to make much more of.
3) The Toledo Museum of Art.
4) The park system.
5) The public library, especially the Main Library, but the whole system.
6) The universities and colleges of the city and the region.
7) The Toledo Symphony. Someone recently said to me that it is a “hidden gem.” But an orchestra that plays at Carnegie Hall is not so hidden.
Nor do I like the backhanded compliment: “impressive for a regional orchestra.”
These musicians are good. Period.
So is their principal conductor and their management.
And people in Toledo know about the symphony, care about it, and patronize it.
The recent “pro-am” night is an example. This is when amateurs get to play with the orchestra.
The root of that word, is, of course, to love. Lovers of music who are not professionals got to play with the pros for one night, and it was great fun to hear and to watch.
People came out in droves to see moms, dads, brothers, and sisters play with the symphony for a night. But they also were delighted by the music of Brahms and clapped and stomped along to “The Stars and Stripes Forever.”
The orchestra’s programming at Carnegie Hall was famously adventuresome, but it is generally ambitious.
Recently the symphony performed the two Brahms piano concertos on consecutive nights, which is unusual and courageous, and takes a powerful pianist — in this case, Kirill Gerstein.
Those two concertos are steep mountains to climb, but conductor Stefan Sanderling told me he had no doubts. He knew his musicians could do it.
The audience too passed the the test of attention span and seriousness in the age of the text message, the mp3, and Lady Gaga.
The late maestro Robert Shaw used to say that the music of Bach, and Beethoven, and Brahms is the true music of “the people,” for if the people truly valued pop hits, what is popular would not change every month.
He also said that music created for the fad of the moment “doesn’t feed you back.”
The Brahms’ piano concertos feed you. The reception of the Toledo audience to these performances affirmed that.
So too the recent performance of the Verdi Requiem. The performance of this death Mass — which is really a life Mass, so full of Verdi’s visceral love of beauty and the world — was thrilling. The soloists, the chorus, and the orchestra were uniformly wonderful.
And, in this case, the beautiful but sometimes acoustically unforgiving Peristyle did not work against the music. Verdi has broad shoulders.
Next up, the Beethoven 9th, and the Ode to Joy with 1,200 singers, at the Huntington on April 6.
It is a tribute to this city that, at a time when so many orchestras are sinking into the abyss, this one is going strong. And people of all economic strata, as well as young people, can and do attend.
Live music really is better. Great music really is greater. And it belongs to us all.
Keith C. Burris is a columnist for The Blade.
Contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6266.
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