We had a good evening last night (and, alas, substantially into the morning).
First, we enjoyed a too-brief dinner with a niece visiting from out of state, my brother’s eldest, and with her daughter, who has recently put in her papers to serve a mission. My brother would have been absolutely insufferable with pride over this. In fact, he probably is.
Then we headed up to Abravanel Hall, adjacent to Temple Square in Salt Lake City, where we attended a performance of the Utah Symphony under the direction of Thierry Fischer. (Do people along the Wasatch Front appreciate what a remarkable thing it is to have an orchestra of this quality, and so fine a concert hall, in their general neighborhood?) It was an unusually varied program, beginning with “The Representation of Chaos” from The Creation, by Franz Joseph Haydn (1732-1809). Next were the very modern Figment V, featuring a marimba, and Two Controversies and a Conversation, starring piano and percussion. Both are by Elliott Carter (1908-2012 [and no, that's not a mistake]), having been composed in 2009 and, essentially, 2011, respectively. Then back to the past, with the Canon in D by Johann Pachelbel (1603-1656), which a small group from the orchestra played while standing. I freely confess, trite though it is, that I love Pachelbel’s canon. I can still remember very clearly when I first heard it. But my favorite version, by far, remains that of Jean-François Paillard, who, sadly, died almost precisely a year ago. And, last, the orchestra, greatly expanded in size, performed Gustav Mahler’s (1860-1911) enormous, lengthy, complex, and energetic Symphony No. 5. It was entertaining to watch Thierry Fischer conduct this work. Quite an aerobic workout for him. It is said, by the way, that, when the composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein died, having suffered a fatal heart attack just five days after, at age 72, publicly announcing his retirement from conducting, he was buried with a copy of the score of Mahler’s fifth symphony lying on his heart.
Then, settling down for the evening, we flipped on the television and found that one of the cable channels was just a few minutes into Ben Hur, which neither of us had seen for many years. We thought that we would watch it for a little bit, just to relax. But we ultimately watched the whole thing. Until near 4 AM. Absolutely mad. Quite irresponsible. Clear evidence of a lack of self-discipline. Still, although Ben Hur has a few weaknesses — there are three or four places where it’s too didactic even for me, and I caught an undeniable chronological error — I was surprised at how well it held up, over all. And I absolutely love the score, by Miklós Rósza. We’ve justified our madness by pointing out to each other that watching Ben Hur is a really good way to get into the spirit of Easter. And it is. If you have time, I recommend it. An alternative is to watch Mel Gibson’s 2004 film The Passion of the Christ. I realize that this film was controversial, and that many were frightened off by its reputation for bloody violence. But that reputation is exaggerated. And, anyway, a tamed and domesticated crucifixion is virtually a contradiction in terms. To be accurate, and to have the impact that they ought to have, portrayals of the crucifixion of Christ should help us to understand how very brutal it was, how lonely, and how high the price was that the Savior paid on our behalf. My family and I watched The Passion of the Christ some years ago for Easter, and we found it remarkably powerful.
Posted from Park City, Utah.