Music is a language without discrimination, giving everyone an opportunity to interpret it on their own. During times of uncertainty, music can act as a binding agent between communities. As we experience quarantine in the Seattle area, Seattle Symphony continues to stream previously recorded broadcasts to bring people together during somber times like these. While I do admit that viewing a concert online does not deliver the same environment and social setting as viewing it live, I admire Seattle Symphony’s effort to share Antonín Dvořák's Symphony No. 8 with us.
The broadcast started with a small delay due to technical difficulties, but the rest of the show went smoothly. Five minutes into the livestream, there were over 1,500 people tuning in. I found this extremely inspiring. When I looked at the comment section, it struck me that there were people from all over the world centered around the same screen. Some were viewing the performance all the way from Tokyo and others were from the local Seattle area. Although this is not a typical concert venue, the live broadcast allowed a greater number and diversity of music enthusiasts to appreciate a performance from the comfort of their own homes. Additionally, the Seattle Symphony provided the virtual concert at no cost, making the experience more financially accessible than the live Benaroya Hall experience. After all, the various camera angles gave the online audience a 360-degree view of the performance at the grand concert hall.
Dvořák Symphony No. 8 is around thirty-six minutes long and originally premiered on February 2, 1890 in Prague. The Seattle Symphony, conducted by Thomas Dausgaard, performed this piece on February 2, 2020. Dvořák Symphony No. 8 has four movements, each radiating a unique mood and tone. The first movement, Allegro con brio, started out with a smooth, mellow tone. I immediately noticed that there was excellent cohesion between the instruments as they performed crescendos and staccatos effortlessly. In addition, there was strong intentionality as the music shifted from slow to fast, which was reflected in the performers’ energy and passion towards the music. There was a small shift towards the second movement, Adagio, which was more lively than the first. This movement was by far my favorite since it was whimsical and playful as the music picked up. Peaceful and uplifting, Adagio’s melody had strong parallels to old Disney music. It also included a brilliant solo by the first chair violinist. The third movement, Allegretto grazioso—Molto vivace, shared the same cheery tone as Adagio; however, the melody sounded more grand and formal. At the end of the third movement, there was a seamless transition to the fourth movement called Allegro ma non troppo, which translates to “fast but not too much.” In this movement, the cellos took the lead, providing a strong foundation for the rest of the orchestra to build upon. The performers maintained the high spirited energy all the way up to the finale. The finale itself was crisp, with well-executed crescendos and skillful control. It was definitely the showstopper for the night.
Despite not being physically present in the same room with the performers, watching this performance was a fantastic way to connect with other members of the music-loving community during times that can seem extremely isolating. If you are feeling lonely or need something to do while you’re quarantined at home, I would strongly recommend streaming a concert from the Seattle Symphony. Not only will you feel more socially connected, but you will also receive an outstanding performance!
Dvořák Symphony No. 8 was broadcast online by Seattle Symphony March 28, 2020. For event information see here.