Sunday, October 19, 2008

Weekend(s) Update(d)

Some quick updates as we await tonight's monumental Game 7 . . .

As promised last post, I did attend Simone Dinnerstein's recital last night, even though I couldn't get my borrowed iPhone (which is not set up as a phone) to tap into the school's wireless network - no in-recital Game 6 updates for me. No matter - the recital finished in a tidy 1:44, while the baseball game had a fortuitous 15-minute delay for an umpire injury(!). Dinnerstein was remarkably efficient in her recital pacing (like a well-pitched Tim Wakefield game), starting right on time, never leaving the stage during the first half, taking a brief intermission, and avoiding many an optional repeat. She did grace us with an encore, but it was as short as could be: the opening piece of Schumann's Scenes from Childhood. (I had the slightest fear that we might get all the scenes, but no worries.) So, at 9:45 I found myself sprinting to my car and was soon listening in on the 4th inning of what turned out to be a satisfying victory, most of which I got to see on TV.

Dinnerstein's recital was excellent, by the way, whatever impression the uncivilized paragraph above may have left. If I didn't find myself consistently engaged, I certainly wouldn't blame her playing, which was as imaginative and colorful as advertised. I was, regrettably, distracted. I might complain about the programming, specifically the decision to open with the Copland and Webern variations back-to-back. It was a small and somewhat sleepy crowd anyway, but I don't think it helped to begin with two such forbidding works, however beautifully they might be constructed. I'm all for not being tethered to chronology, but I also didn't see/hear how these two works led to the Bach French Suite that followed.

Anyway, the second half was the highlight. I really enjoyed Philip Lasser's variations on a Bach chorale - as weighty and creatively varied as a good set of Brahms variations, and that's saying a lot. And what a beautiful chorale Lasser chose. What I enjoyed most about the Lasser is how gorgeously and idiomatically he writes for the piano (helped along by Dinnerstein's playing, of course). Every note sounded like it was conceived with the piano in mind, unlike so many modern piano works that seem to treat the keyboard as a monochromatic percussion instrument. Dinnerstein's closing performance of Beethoven's final sonata was mesmerizing at times. Honestly, although Op.111 is legendary for being such an interpretive challenge, I think it's written so beautifully that it's pretty foolproof, assuming the pianist can handle the notes and has a soul - which most pianists do! I'd like to return in some future post to this issue of indestructibility (because I know many will disagree), but, for now, let's move forwards by going back to last weekend.

Way back on Monday (almost a week ago), I promised to get around to blogging about a second delightful musical experience from that weekend. I've already written quite a bit about the BSO's Saturday night Mahler 6, but Sunday afternoon I had the pleasure of attending a wonderful wedding of two young musicians. To say music played a big role in the ceremony would be quite an understatement as there was a pretty sizable orchestra on hand of 25-30, as well as a chorus and multiple soloists. And yet, this was not some big-budget, trust-fund extravaganza. I believe that most of the musicians were volunteering their efforts as friends of the couple. (Remember, these were musicians putting on the wedding.)

My favorite sequence was the processional, which was listed in the program as the slow movement of Bach's Double Concerto (a perfect choice which, it so happens, has been performed at all five of my family weddings) and the famous Nimrod movement of Elgar's Enigma Variations. Both were immensely satisfying and emotionally moving, but one noted that the bride had not yet arrived as the Elgar settled down from its gorgeous climax. There followed a slightly mysterious intro, with sweeping harp arpeggios and the like, and all of a sudden a violin was heard playing Somewhere Over the Rainbow. It took me a few seconds to realize that the violinist was the bride herself, who'd created this sumptuous arrangement as a surprise for her groom - hearing the violin soaring up above, it sounded like some ultra-Romantic violin concerto (Korngold-eqsue?). She eventually put her instrument down and let the orchestra sweep her up to the altar.

Yes, it was sappy, but amazingly, the Bach-Elgar-Arlen procession progression worked, showing that the Great American Songbook deserves a place in the canon. But all that aside, the entire service was evidence of how powerfully music can communicate, whether establishing a reverent solemnity (Bach), creating overwhelming emotion (Elgar), or describing unembarrassed romantic joy (Rainbow). By the way, I think the Bach can do all of that on its own, but the rainbow was such an unforgettable surprise. And having all the performers giving so generously of their gifts lent something special to the afternoon as well.

But that's enough superlatives about the past. Time to get ready for the emotional rollercoaster that is any Game 7 of a playoff series. Here's hoping I don't need Nimrod to get me through the night.

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