The word “concert” refers to having ” concerted” or “arranged” an encounter, an appointment whose purpose is to promote the meeting between artists and their audience, or between an audience and its artists. In such an approach, the audience perceives the music emerging from instruments or voices, interpreted by performers in a face-to-face context. Here, sound frequencies impact the human psyche with emotions, sensations and all kinds of thoughts and memories specific to each individual. No technological medium, no matter how advanced, has supplanted this experience. Today these platforms act as “approximation tools” to the real experience. In times of the current pandemic, and in the face of the inability to perform concerts, these media have certainly been able to relieve some cultural needs, such as access to information and education.
On December 16, 1770, two and a half centuries ago, the great Ludwig van Beethoven was born, and the world has chosen to celebrate him in the way that suits him best, that of digital media. Given the circumstances, his music is limited to be heard on streaming services, social networks, blogs and various platforms. After almost a year of cancelled concerts all over the planet, some sectors recognize that they miss the music performed live, but they also begin to think of it as “strange”.
Never before in the history of concert music has the world experienced such an implicit agreement: that of celebrating a single composer for an entire year. All the symphony seasons of 2020 would have been dedicated to the music of Beethoven, this giant born in precarious conditions in the city of Bonn.
In the case of symphony orchestras, I cannot think of any that went unnoticed on the eve of the performance of the most wonderful symphonies the world has ever known. The synergy built between all sections of the orchestra and its conductor cannot be expressed in words. The series of symphonies, from the first to the ninth, constitutes the best technical training for an orchestral ensemble. In a more abstract sense, they are an incomparable collective medium for a group of artists whose essence is teamwork. There is not a single orchestra that does not improve after performing a good Beethoven, a good Haydn or a good Mozart. After performing a Beethovenian symphony, the return to reality is always more lucid, no matter what follows, even if it is, precisely, a social crisis. His symphonies honor the origin of the word: they unite everything, they unite us all.
At a time when we commemorate the 250th anniversary of the giant of Bonn, and from the invisible, a new virus emerged that brought down a great complex of projections and celebration plans. Among the most diverse disciplines, the great music that never dies, that is inherent to human spirit, not only survives, but emerges with existential urgency. Those who think it is dying are wrong. Not only do we lack it, but now that we know it, we need it more than ever. I continually ponder why great music does not die, and in this exercise I often think of Beethoven’s music as the ideal example. Great works transcend space and time; in this sense, a great work of art has a life of its own and accompanies us all the generations that follow its creation. We leave this world, while a great work does not. Beyond all social, political or economic ups and downs, the human spirit will continue to hunger for the unique virtuous examples that art offers us and which inspire us to overcome almost any difficulty in practical life.
I dare to affirm that after experiencing a long fast from the stage, we, the performers, will return to our professional practice with much more understanding. I believe that the same will happen with audiences, who, aware of having a purpose for art, will cover their role better by stimulating more than ever their demand, by attending more concert halls and theaters than ever before.
I would venture to conclude that, having experienced the emptiness of the experiential aesthetic phenomenon, we have learned to better honor the memory of Beethoven and with it, that of several other titans. Perhaps we sensed that under the effect of his work we were better, now we know it with certainty.
During this year that is coming to an end, we lived a long tribute to great music “by deprivation”. We enjoyed it by other means that we knew could not replace the complex experience of coming together in concert. However, we found other ways to approach it. Throughout 2020 and before the pause to which it forced us, an exercise of introspection became possible and with it, a different homage, a true and very real commemoration.