Having spent much of June in gumboots and raincoats, a large chunk of New York’s population streamed on to Central Park’s Great Lawn on Tuesday night to hear the New York Philharmonic perform Mozart’s Jupiter Symphony and Beethoven’s Symphony No 7. I joined some friends who had thoughtfully staked out a comfortable spot under a tree using a large red-checked picnic blanket. We secured our perimeter with cast-off shoes, a bottle or two of wine, and chatted amiably for hours, thankfully spared much of the trampling-upon experienced by other groups in less favorable locations.
Despite my preference for cooler weather, Tuesday night in New York was perfect. The most gentle of breezes caressed our shoulders, and for a long period of time, as the orchestra played in the warm evening air, around 100,000 people who usually feel harried and hemmed in by each other simply relaxed and slowed down in the company of so many strangers. I’m certain the repertoire had something to do with the crowd’s behaviour, too; it’s difficult to feel stressed listening to Mozart, and even Beethoven’s musical passion could not help but be dinted a little by the sheer beauty of the weather. It’s been years since I’ve attended an outdoor concert of classical music. In Sydney each January during the Festival the SSO performs a concert in the Domain, but they insist on programming Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture to finish, every single time, which I find quite sad.