Beethoven by Candlelight @ The Athenaeum

After the Year Live Music Died, it was wonderful to finally attend a concert again.

It’s hard to believe that my last live music experience was back in November 2019, when I went to Adelaide for my second U2 Joshua Tree tour show. Had I known that the world was going to go to hell four months later, I would have packed my evenings with live music and other outings, but hindsight is 20/20 as they say.

This show was a part of the Candlelight classical music concerts, taking place in different locations around Melbourne and featuring the works of Bach, Mozart, Vivaldi, and, in our case, Beethoven. They take their name from the hundreds of flickering candles decorating the stage – flameless candles, naturally, since no one would touch the OHS nightmare of real flames in a million years. Plus, I imagine the real candles would probably get a tad too toasty for the performers. Real or fake, they’re a striking addition to a live setting and definitely create a special atmosphere.

It was great to be back at the Athenaeum Theatre, a relatively small venue that made the piano concert feel even more intimate. The pianist was a thirty-something with a long mane of hair and a bushy hipster beard; he took the time to introduce each piece and give a brief overview of where it fitted in Beethoven’s distinguished career. We were treated to three Beethoven sonatas: Sonata Pathétique, Waldstein Sonata, and – of course – the famous Moonlight Sonata, which, despite its romantic name, was actually meant as a funeral march. The majority of people, myself included, are only really familiar with the impossibly haunting and mesmerising first movement of the Moonlight Sonata; listening to it live was simply magical. As a parting gift after some well-deserved applause from the audience, the pianist closed the night with Für Elise, the piece played by the beginner piano students the world over.

I have to say, I kinda enjoyed the socially-distanced seating. I don’t expect it to stick around when things are fully back to normal, but it was quite nice to have an empty seat on either side of us. On an average, the audience looked noticeably younger than what you’d normally expect at a classical music concert, very likely because of older people being extra cautious despite minimal to zero community transmission in Melbourne right now.

We felt like it would be a shame to leave the city straight after the concert on a Saturday night, so we headed to the Federation Square for coffee and some light second dinner, while watching the spectacular Sydney Mardi Gras parade on the big screen. Melbourne city may not be back to its former self, but it was nice to see it regain at least some of its liveliness.

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