First Concert in a Long While

Oct. 27, 2022 – by Frank Cadenhead

A few months ago, I made my first musical outing in more than a year. (The next one is this Sunday – Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony appropriately). The first one was… ahh… problematic – not with musical issues but with my age and a new society. The concert was 11 June – the final one of the 2021-22 Paris season of the Vienna Philharmonic. It is always in the Theatre des Champs Elysees – their preferred venue in Paris.

Traveling there, I usually get off the Metro at the Etoile station. When you walk up the stairs, the Arc de Triomphe fills your entire view. I walk down the Champs-Elysees and turn on Ave. George V and pass the famed hotel. The theater is only a few blocks from there but it is maybe a 15 or 20 minute walk and I am getting old. I decide to take Uber instead.

The driver offered to be there after the end of the concert and ask me what was a good time. I looked at the program: Gubaidulina’s Märchen-poem, the Shostakovitch 9th Symphony and, after the intermission, Dvořák’s Sixth. It was certainly not more than two hours from the 8:30 start. My estimation was on the mark, the concert ended at 10:25.

The orchestra was, as usual, in fine form and obviously in rhythm with their guest conductor, Andris Nelsons. It ended with heavy applause and bravos – an applause that went on and on. After the forth bow, Nelsons turned and commenced an encore, some Viennese polka work I didn’t recognize. This went on and on. The applause at the end was even more celebratory until finally the orchestra stood as a group and began to leave the stage, some 30 minutes after the end of the program. It was my luck that my Uber driver had the patience to wait for me.

On the way out, which was crowded and took more time, I was surprised to see that my suit and tie was the rare exception in the audience. A few had ties and a sports jacket but even they were the exception. Even the women seemed to have dressed down… and this is for the Vienna Philharmonic!

When I brought the ticket for this event on the internet a few days before, I was surprised to find tickets available in the orchestra, row 7 center. It was 165 euros but I was happy to see them available. Before the concert commenced a teenager came in and sprawled next to me in one of those 5 remaining empty seats. I then remembered that the under 25 and over 65 set can often buy unsold tickets an hour before the concert for 20 euros. Unsold tickets for a Vienna Phil concert? Maybe I will try this the next time.

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