February Music

I’ll take a little break from books and shift to music. We heard two wonderful concerts on consecutive Thursdays. On February 2 the Seattle Symphony had Emanuel Ax as their soloist. The 67 year-old Ax is one of the great heroes of the piano, a wonderful performer who is also kind, generous and an amazingly engaged musician. The piece was Beethoven’s “Emperor” Concerto which is a big favorite. When I was in college my roommate Shirley Lindberg and I would play a recording of this, especially for the transition from the second movement to the third. We would move the tonearm back again to the spot where that transition begins and listen over and over again. Ax’s playing of the second movement was entrancing. I wondered how many times he has played that concerto. His familiarity with it was so evident in his gentle and beautifully clear expression. In a weird way it made me think of my own long career as a preacher with the repetition that comes there, like the familiarity of reading the Easter gospel from John 20 each year: “Early on the first day of the week while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb…” There is a richness and power to that long relationship of speaking and hearing.  The audience brought Ax back for an encore, Chopin Nocturne in F-sharp Major. You can learn more about Emanuel Ax at emanuelax.com. The Symphony also played Charles Ives’ New England Holidays and included poems by Seattle’s Civic Poet (I didn’t know we had one) Claudia Castro Luna and projected artwork by local homeless people. It was a powerful presentation.

One week later, on February 9, we heard Hilary Hahn play Max Bruch’s Violin Concerto #1. She is by far my favorite violinist. She is so precise and so musical at the same time. We first heard her twenty-plus years ago when she was just a teenager; she is 37 now. Her very first album back when she was a teen was Hilary Hahn Plays Bach, which is all of the unaccompanied Sonatas and Partitas. That often takes age and maturity to play; Bach is so complex. But even as a teen she had such depth of musicianship and a real understanding of the music itself. She also played an encore – the Gigue from Partita #3. What a wonderful evening. You can learn more about Hilary Hahn at hilaryhahn.com

Our symphony is really good and on Wednesday, February 8, they pulled together a concert honoring the music of immigrants. Here’s the link to The Seattle Times article about it: http://www.seattletimes.com/entertainment/classical-music/this-land-is-your-land-seattle-symphony-responds-to-trump-travel-bans-with-music-beyond-borders/

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