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   unexpectely familiar with an obscure Stravinsky ballet
Saturday, March 2 2024
After the usual Saturday morning routine in front of the woodstove, I retreated to the laboratory to catch up on some of the writing that precedes this. After I got enough of that done, rewarded myself with a nice bath of mostly solar-heated water. During the course of that, I shaved for the first time in over a week. During our time Mexico City, my beard had grown to a length of about 3/8 of an inch.
This evening, I agreed to go with Gretchen to attend a performance by the Woodstock Symphony Orchestra (I didn't know there was one) at the Woodstock Playhouse (a building I have seen many times but never gone into). The plan was to first go to Cucina (sort of next door) for drinks and rosemary french fries and then see the performance, which was featuring one of Igor Stravinksy's later, less-known, neoclassical ballet Pulcinella. I like Stravinksy, even if it's not has crazier riot-precipitating material.
Our first stop in Woodstock was at the Colony Café, where Gretchen hoped to find her glasses in the lost and found (she'd lost them a couple weeks ago at Squirrel Flower show). But they weren't there. They'd probably gotten stepped on and then thrown away.
We parked in the muddy field that serves as the playhouse parking lot and then walked over to Cucina, where not only was the restaurant full, but so was the bar and even the little lounge where people wait to get a table. But the hostess was nice and said there would probably be a spot in the lounge very soon. Gretchen went to the bar and got me an Other Half Green City Hazy Double IPA, which was one of the best beers I've ever had. She also tasted three different wines before deciding to just go with prosecco. By then, we both had comfy spots on a couch. Shortly thereafter, the amazing rosemary fries came out. Soon after Cucina opened back in 2006, we used to go there occasionally just for the fries, but they had nothing much else we could eat and they were expensive, so we stopped going. I probably haven't been there in something like 14 years. Now, though, Gretchen says they have more food we can eat and she's generally less concerned about our budget (even though I've been unemployed for more than seven months). But if I'm going to a non-vegan place in Woodstock, I'm probably going to want to go the Bear Cantina. That is, unless we're attending an event right next door to Cucina, as we were tonight. As for tonight, though, my dinner consisted of rosemary fries and a delicious hazy double IPA. That was fine with me.
I'd considered the Woodstock Playhouse to be something of a toy building, particularly after I heard that it stands on the ashes of a much nicer building that burned down in 1988. Inside, when there aren't lots of well-off people dressed to see an orchestra performance, it looks a bit dingy. But tonight's crowd made it look okay. Most of the people in attendance were the kind of greyhaired boomers Woodstock is mostly still populated with, though there was smattering of younger blood (though nobody in attendance looked to be younger than about 30, meaning there were no screaming babies).
As for the orchestra, it's a bit small for a symphony orchestra but it had, among other things, 14 violins, 5 violas, 4 cellos, 4 basses, 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 trumpets, and a trombone. (My Googling suggests that a symphony orchestra typically has 16 to 30 violins.) Everybody in the orchestra was dressed in unisex black suits except for the first violinist and the vocalist, both women in floor-length gowns. Unusually, the conductor was a woman. I hadn't read the program and thought the Stravinsky ballet was going to be the opener, so I was amazed at how much it sounded like Mozart. That was because the opening was "Exsultate Jubilate," the one work tonight requiring a vocalist. It was supposedly in Latin, though the only words for the last third of the work were variations on the word "hallaleujah."
Next came Stravinsky's Pulcinella, and it was immediately familiar, like a pop song from the 1970s. It was so familiar in fact that I just assumed it was famous and everyone had heard it. But Gretchen had clearly never heard it and was astounded that I was claiming to know it. The reason I knew it was that it had been among the vinyl records in my parents' record collection when I was a kid. I didn't like all their music, but I'd liked that one and played it on repeat, starting probably when I was about eight after we moved to Virginia and was allowed to use the record player. (Other random music I was exposed to in this way was a collection of symphonic covers of Beatles songs, Camille Saint-Saëns' The Carnival of Animals, Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, various Disney productions of classical music, and a collection of music by the Four Tops that my mother got from a bargain table after we moved to Virginia in 1976.) It's doubtful I've heard any of Pulcinella since I left for college about 38 years ago, but I'd burned it deeply into my neurons. Since I knew every nuance of every note of the music, I could compare the version in my head with what I was hearing. This told me that the orchestra was doing a great job, only stumbling a little through the fast parts. As for the places where Gretchen thought the orchestra might be making a mistake, such as the harsh sound of the trumpet during the "Vivo" section, I could tell her that that is how the music is supposed to sound.
We talked about this more during the intermission, during which I bought and drank a small $8 bottle of red wine. Gretchen agreed with me that Pulcinella, though superficially neoclassical, contains all sorts of strangeness and dissonance, cluing the listener in to the fact that it's not your grandmother's classical music. I said that I actually like it more than Stravinsky's earlier, more controversial work. I like the weirdness, but it's nice that it's cut with more traditional harmony and melody. Later Gretchen would tell me that she found it "sexy" that I was so familiar with what she considered a highly obscure work by Stravinsky.
The last half of the concert featured what I thought was an overlong work by Felix Mendelssohn. It just kept going and going, and occasionally teasing that and end was coming that would then take forever to arrive.

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