Marin Alsop Played Beethoven at Baltimore Symphony Orchestra

Marin Alsop Played Beethoven at Baltimore Symphony Orchestra on January 14th 2017.

Just as Beethoven inspired and tremendously changed the world through his classic songs and unwavering commitment and passion for creating classic music, so does Baltimore's Iconic music Director Marin Alsop took Beethoven's inner voice to heart. 

  • In her performances, Marin has helped us understand Beethoven's enduring love for music and his creative genius. She has made Beethoven's note her own, revealing the powerful notes and songs through her excellent performance and have it re-echoed for the world to feel and experience.

On the night when one of my dear friends Paulette asked me to join her other two friends at the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, I was again on the road to another incredible music experience that will linger longer.

But it was the night with Marin Asop that was truly reminiscent of my encounter with the Mexican-Spanish Tenor Placido Domingo at Education without Borders in Abu Dhabi in 2007 where he performed in the desert.

In Marin Asop, we see the passion for music and love for humanity. What a privilege and a joy to see her conduct that night.
 Little did I know that I will be witnessing the performance of another of the world's leading conductors.
Marin unleashes her artistic vision to also spread her passion to make the world a better place and her enduring commitment to accessibility in classical music.

In the whirlpool of male maestros, Marin made history when she rose above the torrents to gain the position as the 12th Music Director of Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and became the first woman to head a major American, British and Brazilian Orchestra. She became inducted into the Classical Music Hall of Fame in Hollywood amongst a host of accolades.

 But the success of her music career does not stop with her, as she has been very influential in encouraging and inspiring other women in music both in schools and her own aspiration to see many women become conductors and composers and provided amateur youth artists with the chance to perform alongside professionals

During question and answer time that followed after her powerful performance, Marin answered questions about her career, her passion for music, and even Beethoven's creativity even in the face of his darkness and adversity.

She acknowledges that her field as a composer in the two major Symphony orchestras; [Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and San Paolo Symphony Orchestra] is quite of a challenge as the music on the orchestra is still much dominated by men, and it is such a conservative field but she has become a role model. She also agrees that 'the idea of women to assume major or ultimate leadership roles is still a big obstacle and that is also true of music'. In spite of her progress, it is a field where men are predominantly in the lead and there is still a big obstacle and this is an issue for her and many people today as there are still not many women on the podium around the world.

She agrees that 'In spite of the progress that women have made, it's not so much of prejudice as it is of comfort. 'We are not quite comfortable in our society and in our world for women to assume certain leadership roles', but she believes and hopes that will change. She feels that women like herself coming to the top of the conductor roles is a contribution towards achieving that goal. Her journey in music began as a child in New York where her parents were musicians and encouraged her a lot, but she realized that not all young girls have the musical silver lining.
'If you look around, you will see that there are not many women on the podium and we are not quite comfortable and we are in a shock to see a woman conducting, where we use to see a man in a white tie and the tails".

She feels that 'in spite of these obstacles we are seeing that orchestras are changing and this is a new time, a new era, and this is a great moment we wish to re-invent ourselves in the twenty-first century. Always at such great moments, there is an opportunity for people who need to be willing to take those chances and to bring more women on the podium on board the very top of the conducting world.
"We as women must also be seen as role models who create opportunities for the next generation as much as we can".

She positions herself as a positive advocate for women and shares the view that 'as women, we should not only be a role model which is naturally a bi-product, but we also have to take a proactive role in becoming mentors'. Marin has created fellowship opportunities for many young conductors and many of her colleagues are supportive and are joining her in this. She knows that for societies and stereotype to change, it does take a long time but she is hopeful that her contribution as a lead female conductor and those of other inspiring contributions from women will help change the course of things as she is passionate about education for kids and for young people in particular learning to use instrument could transform their lives.

For Marin, 'music is an incredible opportunity and it is a universal language that appeals to all and in our DNA and we are all hot-wire into music and it is something that binds all of us together. Whether you're not quite into music or not, we are all born into it and inherent into our being and by reaching out in this way, we are breaking barriers and transcending our differences and reaching out in an emotional level.'

When all forms of communication break down music can be the reparative voice as you have to let go and exist with each other to create something greater than yourself. It is a healing experience. Music is creating a major social role and besides being able to bring people together and transform young people's lives, it also captures an emotional moment for all of us. So when she travels or heard about people who are deprived of music she feels 'it is like taking away an emotional moment or experience and depriving or denying them an emotional moment and living to each other'.  She admits that in those countries where banning music is commonplace in her view is one of the cruellest things she could imagine living a life devoid of music

We all love to use new technologies and Merlin has taken advantage of new technologies in music too. However, even in really liberating music technologies like iTunes etc, which makes music more accessible and democratic,  we lose some of that human touch and contact and loose the natural to the more corporate sound and more synthetic sound.   Marin agrees that one of the things she loves about symphonic music is that it ties us to the past with incredible immediacies like the sooner you hear or listen to Beethoven you are transported to a couple of hundred years ago and we don't wanna lose that connection to our past and sense of human history. We live in a world of technologies and she looks at technologies as playing a supporting role and not a replacing role.

Marin like other classical music composers and icons believe that Beethoven's deafness impacted his music, but he did not allow his disability to stand in the way of his passion and creative ability. Although he could not listen to the dissonant harmonies in some of his late pieces or hear the cheers from the audience in his final excellent performances, his inner self-gratification that he was bringing something pleasant and enduring to the world.

It is known that Beethoven's deafness advanced slowly and gradually and erratically influenced his music itself.

He lost human contact, that was also part of his lot whilst his personal fight against the fate of deafness was an important part of his personal credo.

Beethoven was a man of intense individuality and this was clear in both his personal character and musical notes and songs, and his deafness obviously contributed to that.
His originality both as a man and as a musician was enforced by deafness but not determined by it.
This is because he was already himself practically from the beginning, and he had tasted pain from his childhood.

Probably, afflicted by deafness and lacking his hearing in his later years, it caused him to turn more inwardly, finding and defining and relying on his own strength and spirituality that manifested itself in his music. 
Greeted by the greater feelings of loneliness due to his deafness Beethoven's introspection must have at least been hastened, thus the originality of his work intensified into mind-boggling achievements. 

His previous experience, prior to his unfortunate condition seems to have enabled him to put his passions on paper so that we could hear what otherwise only he was hearing in his head and heart.

At the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra

But my first experience at watching the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra perform was when Paulette first asked me to join her and her sister Deb and brother in law Dick to watch Tim Burton's 'The Nightmare Before Christmas'. This classic performance was animated, magical and a classic Walt Disney - styled animation that momentarily takes you to the phantasmagoria of a dream world. Part-fantasy, greatly enthralling, this musical film tells of the powerful story of Jack Skellington, a resident of 'Holloween Town' who out of curiosity have discovered that there was a 'Christmas Town'. Jack was excited about celebrating the holiday there. Jack's longing to also spread Christmas joys, but his antics put Santa Claus off and the holiday in jeopardy.
Jack faced consequences that were both severe and comical and makes this incredibly powerful Walt Disney production both jolly and macabre, and a fine blend of light and dark. It was also the poetic voice that followed up with powerful music that made my first visit to the Baltimore Symphony a memorable first experience. 

Andrew Benson Greene 


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