Friday, January 30, 2009

In Concert

I love Jordan Hall

I love chamber music

I particularly love the string quartet 

I love Dvorak

All that by way of making certain disclosures about my preferences and prejudices. One might ask "if one string quartet is good are two better?" The answer is the Mendelssohn Octet, which I think is an excellent answer! Having doubled my focus on the quartet by including the octet the intervening steps became a fascination; thus the Dvorak quintet for piano and string quartet!

If my memory serves (the late eighties were a long time ago) the first time I heard the Borromeo was when they joined the Cleveland Quartet at Jordan hall for a performance of the Mendelssohn Octet. I should add the "Cleveland" to the list above. The Cleveland welcomed the youngsters in their performance, concluding their series of concerts.

On Wednesday night it was the "Borromeo" welcoming the youngsters, the winners of the 2009 guest awards. Kristopher Tong as replaced by Mary Lynch, an oboist, in a very beautiful quartet by Benjamin Britten, and by the way, during the applause I caught a very graceful and warm acknowledgment in the face of Yeesom Kim, who was right in my line of view.

In Brahm's String quintet in F major Mr. Tong was replaced by Laura Colgate, and also joining was Oleksander Vavilov, and again , a wonderful performance of a piece I really love.


All the foregoing was a delight. I particularly enjoy, nay, am moved, to witness mature people sharing themselves and their talent and experience with younger folks. This is how our culture grows. Have you ever considered the relationship between what we call on the one hand, our "Culture" and on the other the culture in which science grows organisms for study? We grow our Culture in a very similar sort of environment.

It had been a stormy day, snow and sleet and rain. The roads and sidewalks were ice covered by slush and water. I- even I- fell on my way to the hall! I was soaked, and the audience was small, enthusiastic but small. I stayed in my seat during the intermission. I could hear strains of the Dvorak whispering from back stage. We had the Piano Quintet in A Major, Op.81 coming, and the piano was being moved forward.

When the performers appeared we had all of the Borromeo joined by Andrei Baumann, the pianist. Jordan Hall is small, one might say intimate, and the faces of the performers are easily read. That is a great gift because the Borromeo are as much fun to watch as the are sublime to listen too. Each has his personality and expresses the music intensely. Intense, playful, dancing, and in the case of Mr. Tong, who happened to be right in my line of sight, mischievous, almost teasing, seeming to talk to his instrument as he plays.

It is a strange and wonderful thing when a performance suddenly sends an electric shock through both the performers and the audience. We had had a wonderfully pleasant concert thus far, and as that word connotes, enjoyable, satisfying, but not particularly remarkable. Then they started the Dvorak, and in the first few bars it was apparent to everyone, not least themselves that something extraordinary was happening! I am a passionate audient, but know nothing about performance that would enable me to explain why this was, but my heart started to soar. The music became a kinetic experience. Lyrical and dramatic by turns, poignant and then reassuring. for me it was a blissful experience, and for all the audience, I think. 

"In Concert" is an amazing concept. We say it often, but without it's real meaning. We say it as a thing, an occurrence. So and So will be performing "In Concert." It becomes a time and place. But the word means "acting jointly." It amazes me that in a world that we think of as being so jaded, so filled with greed and self interest, so motivated by baseness, that five people can come together and act with such complete accord, jointly, in concert, to reach across cultures to the heart of their fellow man. It is this, I think, that can "soothe the savage beast," perhaps the most savage, ourselves, if we spend enough time in places like Jordan Hall!

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