By Ted Zagraniski, Culture Editor
There is but one Symphony Hall in Boston. Anywhere in the city – even when you are running late all the way across town – when you tell a taxicab driver “Symphony Hall” there is no chance that you’ll get to a different concert venue by mistake. The Handel and Haydn Society’s recent performances at Symphony Hall were a showcase of outstanding music, remarkable comforts, and classic 19th century decor.
As you may already know, there are actually a number of classical music ensembles in our city, and several of them play from time to time at Symphony Hall. The recent performance your reporter attended was especially neat because the Society is currently in its 199th Season. That’s right, if you are going to be here next fall, then you will have the opportunity to attend concerts in the Handel and Haydn Society’s bicentennial season. Even if you are not a big fan of classical music, such an opportunity is not to be missed.
If you will have graduated by next October, however, I urge you to consider taking at least one evening’s study break at Symphony Hall with “H&H”. As one of America’s oldest musical groups still in existence, H&H’s history is rich, their musical talents are conspicuous, and their concerts are well-attended by Bostonians. Should you need further inducement to make the short trek from Harvard Square to the Symphony T stop (Green Line, Heath St/“E” train from Park St) the hall itself is one of Boston’s star attractions. Naturally, as a presently relevant performance space, the sound reinforcement in Symphony Hall is simply the best. The building’s natural acoustics are enhanced by the latest technology, ensuring that exactly what the performers are doing reaches every seat.
But the art at Symphony Hall is not just auditory, it is visual as well. Be sure to look around and up as you enjoy the welcoming embrace of the antique wood and upholstered leather seats. A gilded and cream hall is split into an orchestra section and two balconies. An enormous pipe organ stands proudly dwarfing the stage. Above the second balcony, a ring of statues depicting mythical or historical figures adds depth and richness to the room. Above your head, the intricately designed ceiling and its far-off chandeliers give you at once a sense of your own smallness and the great majesty of the building’s history and reputation. As a pinnacle upon that sense of greatness, you will surely notice that the proscenium – which is gilded as well – has blank spaces upon which could’ve been written as many as nine names of musical giants which would then stare down at the audience. But when Symphony Hall was built the consortium of interests involved could agree upon only a single name worthy of the space above center stage: “BEETHOVEN.” Greatness, indeed.
The ongoing 199th season of the Handel and Haydn Society runs from now through May 18th, 2014. Along the way, their performances will feature principal works by Handel, Beethoven, Vivaldi, Bach, and others. Roughly half of these events will take place at Symphony Hall, while the others will be spread among some of the region’s most notable performance spaces – including Harvard’s Sanders Theater. Equally renowned groups which also frequent Symphony Hall include the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the Boston Pops Orchestra, The Boston Youth Philharmonic Orchestra, the Boston University Symphony Orchestra & Chorus, and more. Tickets for many performances are discounted with your Harvard ID.