Friday, November 13, 2009

It pays to be brazen

I just had the most AMAZING evening.

I don't know where to start.

It all started in Kathryn's beautiful mind. She found out about a concert being given by the Israeli Philharmonic: Kurt Meiser conducting with Nicolaj Zneider soloing the Mendelsohn violin concerto. HELLO. We put our two heads together and made it happen! I've been looking forward to it for two weeks and when this evening finally arrived I had the perfect outfit: little black dress (compiments of Lizzie), blacks flats and my new earrings. We were accompanied by the sweet Whipples as well as Naomi and Gill Weinstein, who are Jewish locals. The Weinsteins know many of the musicians in the Phil and they took us back stage to meet some of them while they were warming up (amazing thing #1). It turned out that Kathryn and my seats were in the back row (do not distress) so we marched up to the front and waited till the lights dimmed. Lo and behold there were two GREAT seats in the fifth row, right in front of the soloist (amazing thing #2). The first piece was phenominal. Then a Greek god walked onto the stage...oh wait, it was Nicolaj Zneider! And would you beleive it, he was almost more enjoyable to hear as to watch. No, in all seriousness it was a beautiful interpretation. When he was clapped back for an encore (he must have bowed a hundred times) and quieted the audience and dove into Bach's Unaccompanied Violin Sonata no. 2, Sarabanda. That's when the real magic started. Doing an unaccompanied piece was his only option since the orchestra didn't prepare an extra piece. It is so challenging to hold an audience with solo Bach but he was captivating. It was so masterfully executed and extrememly inpirational. I once heard Robert McDuffie say, "Playing Bach is like stepping into a cool shower on a hot day." I couldn't say it better myself. The audience went wild once again and he was so gracious as he inched off stage.

The lights came on for intermission and Kathryn and I concluded that we might as well live up to our stereotype: brazen American. We marched back stage and found him. He was chatting amiably with another admiring fan and we just stood and stared. It was unreal. He was much taller in person. He graciously signed our programs, posed for a picture and wished us well in our own musical endeavors sending both of us off with a kiss on the cheek. But the fun did not end! We snuck up to the balcony where there were seats behind the orchestra which offered the perfect view of the brilliant Kurt Meiser conducting the Scottish Symphony without a score. As if that wasn't enough of a learning experience I learned a great lesson from my new friend, Mr. Znaider. While we were chatting with him backstage his assistant had been frantically searching for an extra violin part. He combed down his wild, sweaty hair (concerto playing really is a workout) tossed on a pair of reading glasses and inconspicuously set himself up a stand in the back of the first violin section. (P.S. soloists never do this.) It was so inspiring to see him play that symphony in the back of the section with the same passion and finesse that he played his solo, even though he knew that no one noticed he was there. That is truly the mark of a great musician and a person with integrity. He played, not for recognition, but for personal satisfaction and fulfilment. What a lesson to learn!

When the concert concluded, Naomi took us to the back once more to meet Maestro Meiser. Wow. Again, a gracious man. He is eighty-two years old and just underwent a kidney transplant. Even though he was so tired, he took the time to nourish us "seedlings". What a dear, sweet man. That is the sort of gracious attitude that I wish to engender in my career and through my life.