On Saturday, Sept. 5th, the Tulsa Symphony played a tribute to Beethoven, celebrating his intense yet gorgeous work at the ONEOK Field. As COVID-19 has shown us this past year, not all surprises are bad. In this case, it was stellar, bringing in a diverse crowd of music lovers enjoying the concert at the baseball field. This was a breath of fresh air; it was a step in the right direction for the Tulsa Symphony. With the overlap of voices through the stadium, it was unanimous that concert-goers were thrilled to have this opportunity to be in a relaxed place with friends and family. Though the setting was a vast departure from the dark theater-hall and well-lighted stage, it never felt strange. It felt as if this could be a new home — a good once in a while venue for the performance arts here in Tulsa.
The concert started off with the symphony welcoming principal guest conductor Daniel Hege. He then went on to thank the crowd for showing up and supporting the Tulsa Symphony through the unprecedented circumstances. Hege remarked how great it was to be conducting on a baseball field. Soon after, the musicians jumped right into playing the Coriolan Overture, a fiery piece depicting anguish and rage in a wide range of dynamics and notes that mimicked (if not spoke) to the audience’s emotions.
Following the Coriolan Overture, the energy of the musicians didn’t change; rather it went on to the next piece. Acclaimed pianist Yefim Bronfman was the next guest to come up. Like Hege, Bronfman was in good spirits about performing in the baseball field, donning a Driller’s uniform. Bronfman’s performance of the Piano Concerto No. 3 was incredible — he controlled the piece. He nailed every placement of the notes. He never competed with the conductor and the symphony to be the loudest or most memorable musician. Through each passage, they complemented each other, bringing the concerto to life with every calculated move. After the audience broke out into a standing ovation, Bronfman then went on to play an encore. His technique was incredible. It didn’t feel rushed, but well thought out, making the piano sing.
The concert closed with Symphony No. 7. The piece needed no introduction as it encapsulated through the movements of what we needed: hope and courage to keep moving forward. Symphony No. 7 surprised me — the conductor jumped right into each movement without pausing, which worked perfectly for the second movement into the third, highlighting each mood.
Overall, the concert felt right. The music didn’t feel too bright, telling everyone to forget about what has been going in the world, but it didn’t feel dark either, reminding people of the uncertainty. Instead, it almost felt as if Beethoven himself wrote through facing the unknown; if there be hope, hold onto it, even if it’s a sliver of it, for it is worth holding on and making the best of the situation. Tulsa Symphony’s next concert will be on Sunday, Oct. 18 at the ONEOK Field.