No, you don’t have to sit in these seats to hear Mahler but for $21, we thought we’d go for it.And it proved to be the hottest ticket in town–many many people begged us for a ticket, but we just strode through the mass of hungry music-lovers into the crowded hall.
The pluses of these seats. The sound is fantastic–you can hear every plucked string–and why not–you are directly above (and I mean straight up) the musicians in one of the acoustically best places in the world. Also, you finally get to see young people at a concert and watching them conduct along with Levine was a treat. Lastly, you hear the best music in the best hall for very little money.
Ok, the negatives. These seats are not for the faint of heart–you have to walk up four double flights or wait for the elevator in a line–then you have to go up and down more steps that include very high risers for those of us who are vertically challenged to get to your vertiginous seats. Finally, you are one flight above the bathrooms and since there are too few at Carnegie Hall, this can be a problem if you hope to go during the intermission.
We were there to hear James Levine conduct the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra (see my previous post, “A Masterpiece Conducted by a Master”). The program included Mahler’s Songs of a Wayfarer with velvet-voiced Peter Mattei
and Mahler’s Seventh Symphony. These were wonderful performances of both works including the 7th which had been a closed book to me before. The immense work, played by more than 100 instrumentalists under Levine’s vigorous baton, sounded gorgeous. As the 75-minute symphony ended, the audience whooped and cheered the final Meistersinger-like
knock-your-socks-off fifth movement. Many brass, cowbells, harps and percussion; this symphony is perhaps best heard in a hall. But whether you are a fan or not, I’m pretty sure there won’t be a better reading of it very soon. It was especially exciting to hear it played where Mahler himself conducted the New York Philharmonic (though not the 7th) in 1909-1911.
Having said all that, is it worth it? of course, just get there early, go (a lot) before you land in your seat, wait for the elevator no matter how long it takes and remain seated during intermission. You can always spend a bit more to avoid some of the climbing but if you are reasonably fit, you can do this.
Some of us may remember Leonard Bernstein conducting his adored Mahler in inimitable style. (Source: last.fm)