Whenever I hear Schubert’s Ninth Symphony on the radio, I always think it’s Beethoven until I listen more carefully or look up what’s playing. After tonight I won’t have that difficulty. Last time I went to hear the Philadelphia Orchestra live, I noted that the conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin seemed to interpret the Beethoven symphonies with a more oompa-oompa beat than I was used to. Tonight, Nathalie Stutzman, the new Principal Guest Conductor, rocked the rafters by revving up the orchestra and the dynamics of Schubert’s Great Symphony. By the 4th movement, the principal cello Hae-Ye Ni was leaning forward and playing so intensely that her hair was coming over her face. Not that the other musicians were playing any less intently. Even the older, male principal viola Choon-Jin Chang played no less vigorously, though it would take dynamite to dislodge his gelled helmet of white hair. They were responding to their conductor, who actually moved her arms at times as though she were cranking up an engine. During the slower, softer segments she looked as though lost in dreamland.
Reality dissipated some of the buzz from tonight’s music on my way home at 9:30 pm. A homeless woman was trying to rest on the bench in the bus shelter. When she asked the man at the other end of the bench to stop smoking a very foul-smelling cigar, he belligerently and obscenely refused. He was still spluttering as I got on my bus, even though she seemed to have given up. “May all beings live with ease.”