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My husband and I attended the second concert of our local orchestra last night. The subtitle for the second concert was “Beethoven’s Back!” somewhat incongruously evoking the pop-culture’s famous Terminator’s two syllable sentence, “I’m back!” (I’m not sure if it was only I that felt slight awkwardness in this subtitle– but I interpreted it as an attempt at either reconciliation to the overwhelming power of pop-culture or wooing the pop-culture besotted public by the person/s practicing classical culture.) But, we certainly welcomed the “return” of the maestro composer.

First half of the program was dedicated to the guest pianist “Dr.” J.P. who played a flamboyant Beethoven piano concert well with the orchestra. He had a music book page turner with him, which was rather unusual. (By the way, when I first saw the inscription “Dr.” I was a little confused if the pianist was a M.D. or Ph.D. I settled on him as a Ph.D. rather than M.D., considering the context of its appearance, that is, on a page in a musical concert program. In a way, the fact that I was confused by the title “Dr.” does reveal an aspect of my personal history as a college teacher. The small liberal arts college where I taught for a quarter century was born out of the 1960s student revolution that demanded equality between faculty and students. At this college almost nobody called us teachers “Dr. so and so” – except for the occasional addresses on the envelopes. Instead, we were called by our first names, and we called our students by their first names, which was not necessarily a very easy thing to do, considering the number of students we had. Initially, each time a student called me by my first name, I remembered an anecdote rendered by one of my professors at graduate school in late 1970s. He said how startled he was upon hearing some young students call him by his first name – “you know, a young boy on a bicycle calling me L…” However, within a few years after starting to teach at the college I got thoroughly used to this practice of calling everybody by his/her first name. For this reason, these days I tend to assume a Dr. to be an M.D. rather than a Ph.D. A habitual behavior tends to normalize that behavior.)

In the last half of the program, the orchestra played Beethoven’s symphony No.6, “Pastoral.” As the entire piece forms a narrative, the first movement expresses a stroll in a peaceful natural landscape in a lyrical manner; I could easily imagine myself strolling on a calmly beautiful countryside with trees and brooks. In fact, it made me think of playing golf at our bucolic golf course – probably because we could not play golf due to heavy rain in the last few weeks. It was lovely. Pastoral was not necessarily my favorite symphony when I was young, but this time the orchestra’s rendition of the work moved me emotionally. This is a prime example of how age and experience could change one’s response to emotional or intellectual stimuli.

During the intermission, one of our friends complained about the people who applauded after each movement; she wanted a few minutes of calm to appreciate the music. I am not sure if the people who applauded after each movement did so out of misunderstood etiquette or genuine appreciation of the performance. But, if it is the latter case, I believe they should feel free to do so. After all, nobody complains when people applaud after a great aria during an opera; it is just an expression of passionate appreciation.

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