[Photo by Scott Hanoian, Musical Director of the UMS Choral Union]
From the first downbeat of the music to the enthusiastic standing ovation, Maestro Iván Fischer brought tremendous energy into Hill Auditorium on Friday night.
On the stage, I had the pleasure to sit and listen to the first three movements of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, then jump to my feet to sing the final Ode to Joy with the UMS Choral Union. Connection, energy, and joy abounded in that music hall.
Throughout the entire concert, I found myself reflecting on how unlikely this moment was. Many factors could have prevented it from coming into being, but there it was, a real gift and a moment we desperately needed.
The Budapest Festival Orchestra was almost unable to travel to the U.S. for its scheduled international performances. One of their members has dual citizenship in Hungary and Iraq. He would have been barred from entering the U.S. due to the recent travel ban executive order. Iván Fischer and the rest of the orchestral community were not going to leave their friend and colleague behind, so they had to push hard and advocate for their member. The outcome was quite uncertain, but eventually, with the recent judicial stay, they were able travel into the country as a full orchestra.
Iván Fischer would never leave his colleague behind because he knows the harm that discrimination can bring. Quite personally, he knows the horrific doors it can open. Maestro Fischer’s grandparents died in the Holocaust.
I found myself reflecting upon this as well when he began to conduct the music on Friday night. In addition to his tremendous musicality, Maestro Fischer is famous for bringing his orchestra to play at the sites of abandoned synagogues where Jews were taken and then killed.
I watched him initiate that music on Friday night and pondered how his grandparents would think he is an absolute miracle, which of course, he is.
So there we were on stage, bringing music to life. It may have never found its way to this particular moment, yet remarkably, it did.
And the music did really come alive.
With a lot of enthusiasm, we performed Beethoven’s 9th Symphony. We’ve all become somewhat accustomed to Beethoven’s signature sounds, but his music broke so many rules from his era. It stood outside the box, inviting people into awe, wonder, and mischievousness of their own.
And considering the most unlikely factor of all, this glorious, joyous, complex 9th Symphony was composed after Beethoven had completely lost his hearing. A Deaf man gave us this gift to hear, and he is deservedly famous for it.
We heard it again on Friday night, and at the end, everyone stood to their feet enthusiastically and roared with applause. In a time of uncertainty in our own lives, joy had found us.
In response to all of this, a silly memory popped in my mind. It seems kind of funny to move from soaring Beethoven to eccentric Jeff Goldblum, but that’s where my mind went on Friday night. I suddenly remembered that scene in Jurassic Park when Dr. Ian Malcolm finds those unexpected dinosaur eggs on the island. “Life finds a way,” he says.
I think it does. Despite the harm and trauma we continually unleash in the world, I think in the end, it really does.