A classical music year begins
Been a while since I took a full two weeks off from work, but that’s just what I’m doing right now and it has been a godsend. Part one of my holiday vacation was spent with my family on the beach in the Dominican Republic. Part two is unfolding up here in snowy upstate New York. A vacation should contain as many perfect days as possible, and happily I’ve experienced such days in both locales. Can’t remember the last time I felt this relaxed, which is not a bad way to start the New Year and a new decade.
The routine at the Sanctuary resort was pretty simple but completely fulfilling: all you can eat breakfast, followed by a few hours of sun-worship by the sea, followed by fresh-grilled fish and salads for lunch, followed by more sun-worship and a few dips in the ocean, before an evening of cocktails and dinner. Along the way I tore through two wonderful books (Virginia Woolf’s To The Lighthouse, surely one of the great novels of the 20th century, and Haruki Murakami’s enormously entertaining, and occasionally quite moving, Kafka on the Shore) and listened to a heap of music on my iPod. Selecting suitably exotic fare for the occasion, French music was clearly my repertoire of choice. I don’t listen to Koechlin’s Jungle Books often, but hearing David Zinman’s performance of the complete multi-opus cycle was something of a revelation. And if there’s anything more sublime and gratifying than hearing Debussy’s La mer or Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun while lying just a few feet away from the glistening, green-blue Caribbean I’d like to know what it is. Also high on the pleasure list: a late-afternoon spin of Ravel’s complete Daphnis and Chloe ballet (Myung-Whun Chung on DG). What a rapturous score! Call me a cornball, but when I’m listening to the entire piece, the “Daybreak” section brings tears of joy to my eyes. Only wish that Ravel and Debussy had written many more orchestral works!
Months ago, I had planned to return from the Caribbean and spend at least one night in New York City before heading up to our house in Columbia County. The reason was purely musical: I wanted to hear Leif Ove Andsnes play Mozart with the New York Philharmonic and Alan Gilbert (Andnses and Gilbert are clients) and I wanted to hear Alan conduct Schumann’s Second Symphony. Having heard Leif Ove play Mozart live and on CD, I was expecting something special, and Leif Ove delivered the goods in Concerto No 23. What an effortless technique – and his playing is always deeply expressive without ever being affected! He has such a rich and ringing tone that I think of miniature bells ringing ecstatically when Leif Ove’s fingers are running up and down the keyboard during Mozart’s allegros.
Schumann’s Second is a piece I have loved for many, many years – one of my very favorite symphonies in fact. But the performance I heard Alan conduct was somehow the very first time I heard it in concert. The Phil played it with enormous fervor and beauty, particularly the heart-wrenching adagio, surely one of the most gorgeous and heart-felt movements in all of classical music. Was great to see both Alan and Leif Ove backstage afterwards – they are both great guys. I certainly hope they work together again soon as they showed some fabulous chemistry in this concert.
I arrived in Hudson, two hours north of NYC and reachable via Amtrak train, yesterday afternoon and celebrated New Year’s Eve with Brian. He spent Christmas with his family even further upstate, so it was especially nice to be reunited after a week apart. Today was one of the classic do-nothing days that I truly treasure, a New Year’s Day comprised of reading and listening to music and watching movies until you drop (which will happen fairly soon). I’ve been reading a biography of Haydn lately, and inspired by the chapter on his Sturm und Drang works I listened to a couple of symphonies from the old Hogwood set of Papa’s complete 104, which sadly never reached completion. Nos 50 and 54 brought much pleasure.
The movie highlight was undoubtedly Peter Bogdanovich’s absolutely irresistible Paper Moon, which we downloaded from Netflix. I hadn’t seen the film since I was a kid and I enjoyed it far more than I expected to. In HD, the stunning cinematography, capturing expanses of prairie, scenes of small-town America and a plethora of Depression-era detail with equal brilliance, was a revelation. And all the performances, especially by the scene-stealing young Tatum O’Neal, are flawless. Completing this perfect picture is a score comprised solely of 1930’s originals. I own a large collection of big-band CDs, but the Paper Moon period pre-dates most of what I have and minutes after finishing the film I downloaded best-of collections of Hoagy Carmichael and Django Reinhardt from iTunes. What spoiled brats we children of the digital age are! On a snowy holiday night, my entire evening’s entertainment came into my home via the Internet. The first decade of the 21st Century may have been a very rough one, but the ever-expanding collection of instantly available high-quality digital entertainment is at least one cause for just a bit of much-needed optimism.
Don’t want to look ahead to what awaits me at work right now, but January 2010 is a particularly auspicious month as it marks the 10th anniversary of my leaving my old job and starting my new company. So many wonderful things have happened work-wise over the past decade, and I feel grateful to continue to make a living promoting music that never fails to stimulate me. But for now all I want to do is savor my last two days of vacation. In any case, I just noticed it’s close to 2am so I think it’s time to power down the computer even if I still don’t feel very sleepy. But before signing off, let me wish you all a very happy New Year full of wonderment of every kind.