TOEFL and Rachmaninov

I just got back (well, actually I got back a while ago but I've been downstairs so I just got back in my room) and I thought I'd drop a quick note about today before going to sleep.

Today I had two major events: the TOEFL test and the Japan Philharmonic concert.

About the TOEFL I can be brief. It was long, it was boring, but I think it went well. I was finished well ahead of everyone else and fortunately they let you leave immediately. It still took me nearly three hours. No surprises here though. I'll get the result in fifteen days, or so I've been told.

Then the concert. As I said previously, this was the first time I've been to a classical performance. I can tell you though, it will not be the last. It was amazing! My seat was on the third floor almost entirely in the back, but I still had a very good view (the way the hall was constructed I don't think there were any really bad seats).

They played two pieces, both by Rachmaninov: Piano Concerto no. 3, and Symphony no. 2, in that order. The first is a favourite piece of mine, and this was an excellent performance. The pianist, Koyama Michie (Japanese name order, so Koyama is her last name), is my new hero. She put such energy, such zest into this piece, it was almost like she was performing a play behind her piano at times. She also made it look and sound so effortless, and that's saying something since Rachmaninov's piano work is the most complicated I know. It was very obvious she enjoyed the piece a lot, and that the audience enjoyed it a lot as well. When they started the final parts of the third movement, nearing the end, I was hoping they'd reveal a previously unknown fourth movement or something, I didn't want her to stop! But after 45 minutes it was over, and followed by a well deserved round of applause that lasted nearly 10 minutes. She came back on stage five times because people just wouldn't stop applauding. :)

I've got several different performances of this Piano Concert on my computer; this is now my favourite one (ok, so I'm biased cause I saw it live, who cares :P )

Then there was a fifteen minute intermission, followed by the Symphony No. 2. They played the 60 minute symphony in its entirety (it is often shortened). It was definitely very good, but Rachmaninov without piano is like a café without beer. Nothing bad about their performance, I just like the first piece better than this one. Still, I enjoyed it a lot.

Random notes:

  • I think I was the only non-Japanese there, at least I didn't see any others. :)
  • Whenever the orchestra fell silent during the short pauses between the movements, everybody would start coughing simultaneously. It was as if someone turned on a sign "cough now". I had to stop myself from laughing out loud the first time that happened.
  • During the final applause all the orchestra sections stood up individually, and strangely the percussion section got the loudest applause. My theory is that people felt sorry for them because they hardly had anything to do (with the exception of the timpani which had a fair share of work in the second piece at least). There was this one girl on xylophone, I think she had maybe five measures through the whole 60 minute piece. She was just sitting there the rest of the time. I applauded extra hard especially for her. :)
  • No amount of money thrown at speaker hardware can beat the sound quality of a live orchestra.
  • I'm definitely going again, but I'll try to find a hall that's a bit closer. This was definitely a beautiful hall with great acoustics, but it's just too far away. It's almost fifty minutes by train, and it's quite an expensive journey as well (and the concert tickets aren't cheap to begin with). There are definitely halls closer by that the Japan Philharmonic frequents, so this shouldn't pose a problem.
  • This post is nowhere near as short as I had intended it to be. :)

Categories: University, Personal, Japan
Posted on: 2007-07-07 15:37 UTC.


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