Before the music begins we’re intrigued by the sight of four different clarinets waiting at center stage. We’re not sure what they all are, but after some wikipedia digging I’d guess we saw soprano, alto, bass, and conta-alto clarinets there. These mysterious instruments do nothing to prepare us for the music that will come from them. Todd Palmer emerges with yet another clarinet, and proceeds with a string section to play The Dreams and Prayers of Isaac the Blind by Osvaldo Golijov. It launches me immediately into images of steamy, moonlit alleyways, through raucous dance-filled barrooms, and in to deeper mysteries. This may approach the intended effect – the program says the music is inspired by mystical Kabbalah and other Jewish traditions. It’s almost entirely original to my ear, imbued with a pulsing phantasmal energy.
After the intermission the full orchestra returns to render Berlioz’s grandiose Symphonie Fantastique. During the intermission Dad told me that his first experience of stereophonic music in headphones was on the flight back from his first tour of duty in Viet Nam, when piped-in music was a new feature on the plane. He was enthralled, listening to the piece over and over on his way “out of Hell and towards Heaven”. I made this my context for the piece as I listened, marveling at all that has transpired since my dad made that journey.