July 8th, 2005

frog princess


My best friend, Seth and I went to Wolftrap last night in the pouring rain. Fortunately, we had seats inside the pavillion. IN THE FIRST ROW, BABY! (I so do rock)

First I should say that my best friend, Diana, and I have known each other for 21 years. She and her family introduced me to the joys of classical music (to be fair, my father listened to a lot of classical music, but Diana's family taught me about its intricacies). Diana's brother, Paul, is a pianist (with a PhD in Piano Pedagogy), and Diana started playing violin when she was 3 or 4. Over the years she has played the violin, clarinet, piano, and probably a bunch of other instruments. She is also a talented vocalist who sings with a local a capella group. She, surprisingly, did not major in music in college, but rather, became a physical therapist, then quit and went to school for music education and taught elementary school music for two years before returning to physical therapy, while resolved to continue to seriously pursue music in other ways. She is an impressive and talented person and I can't say enough amazing things about her. Really.

Since she moved down to DC, she and I have made a habit of seeing a National Symphony Orchestra concert at Wolftrap Center for the Performing Arts every summer. Last year we saw Itzhak Perlman, the year before we saw Evelyn Glennie (a deaf Scottish solo percussionist), and I can't remember if we saw anything the first year she was down here.

This year, I saw that Joshua Bell was playing at the NSO's Tchaikovsky concert, All-Tchaikovsky: "Russian Bells and Cannons". This meant, of course, that he was playing the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto in D Major. So obviously Diana and I had to go. And we even let Seth tag along (Seth came to Itzhak Perlman as well).

It Was Unbelievable.

Joshua Bell has an incredible stage presence. He looks at ease and comfortable. Were it not for the full symphony orchestra behind him, I would have believed I was watching him play in his own home or studio for his own pleasure. He is incredibly expressive, both physically and musically, and you can see that he does more than play his instrument (I wonder if he had the Stradivarius last night? I doubt it... too moist), he has an obvious mutual relationship with his instrument. His phrasing is flawless, his dynamic contrasts astounding. Though Diana lent me the score (piano reduction), it was clear that he wasn't playing the notes on the page - he played through the phrases and the notes were just natural intermediate points in the musical sentence. Oh, he played every note. But the Tchaikovsky has the potential to sound very laboured and difficult. But Joshua Bell played through the phrases like they were old friends. He caressed his violin to move through the entire range of the instrument and danced a duet with the conductor, Emil de Cou. The first movement was so astounding that most of the audience applauded wildly, while Diana and I looked on perplexed (in a classical concert, one typically holds their applause until the final movement of a piece has been completed). The second and third movements were no exception.

I was literally in tears. The music is so beautiful, and Joshua Bell so superb, that it's difficult NOT to be overcome by emotion.

For years after I left my music program, I didn't listen to classical music, I attended no concerts, I played no instruments, I pursued no musical interest. Because it was my entire life once. And being there reminds me of what once was but isn't now. But I'm glad I'm a concert-going listener now, though sad that I'm not performing anymore. I was depressed about it briefly, until I realized (while driving into work today) that I can't feel my right hand most of the time. So, um, yeah. Six hours of practice a day? Not gonna happen. I used to say that I would absolutely not pick an instrument back up because I'd never be that good again and it would be depressing to hear how awful I am now. But it doesn't work for me. I was talking to Diana yesterday and she said, "I never tire of learning more about music, no matter what pays the bills." And she's right. And I want that for myself again. So... after I've pulled the new sheitel fund together, I'm going to start saving my pennies for a new instrument and I'll go from there.