A symphony concert is a flow of information aimed for the ears, but when dispatched in a torrent, some must be collected elsewhere.
My lap became occupied by the program chosen by Walla Walla Symphony on April 24 at Cordiner Hall, as my tiny ear canals were insufficient to absorb the work of two very busy Russian composers, who must have bought manuscript ink in drums at wholesale price.
I am delighted, but truly baffled, how our local non-headliner musicians populating this rural American orchestra perform only a handful of times each year, but still get everything so very right.
The first of two acts was Tchaikovsky's "Symphony No. 4," which challenges musicians with plenty of fortissimo brass production and whole minutes of complicated pizzicato plucking across every string section.
I had to keep reminding myself I was not in Boston or Saint Pete, listening to a major resident orchestra. These guys in our little Walla Walla Valley can play anything. They were tight, profoundly expressive and memorable.
I initially felt sorry the program insisted that soloist Stephen Beus had to follow the laudable Tchaikovsky performance with the Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 3.
However, Beus played the Rachmaninoff masterfully in this showcase opportunity. He can rapidly fire individual notes of miniscule duration, and he pours tremendous and delightful meaning into every measure. An early prodigy from our neighborhood, he's around 30 now; in 10 years his name will surely be printed in the big type that leads advertising posters.
The Walla Walla Symphony supported Beus in the Rachmaninoff as beautifully as it had performed the much more difficult Tchaikovsky.
I am an audience watcher, so I swung my head around several times to gauge the response. There was rapt attention in the house and both halves of the program received standing ovations. I noted quite a few empty seats. Many people could have witnessed, but missed, this opportunity made unique as there was only a single performance. That's an unfortunate fact of life for a small town orchestra.
I was happily situated to have been a member of that audience. The deluge of musical notes that my hearing could not absorb spilled into my lap and swirled around to shape a lithe and adorable Russian doll. She was as layered as is a Walla Walla Sweet, a hint of which tinged her breath, and she surpassed gorgeous.