Thursday, June 26, 2008


Every now and then I'd follow my husband into that Parallel Universe known as the professional orchestra. He'd sit first chair (that's the concertmaster), and I'd sit last, as an extra player. I didn't mind the work. We'd joke that I was concertmaster of the behind, which soothed my fragile ego.

The orchestra had their moments, of course. Some days were better than others. An inspirational figure on the podium infused the musicians, weary from the usual dot and dash talk, with raw energy, vitality, and curiosity. My hands down, favorite guest conductor over the years was Asher Fisch. Sigh. Can you imagine, Fisch turned me from a Wagner hater into Wagner lover? This he did during the Seattle Opera production of Parsifal in 2003, a work I considered a sleep aid. But under Maestro Fisch, playing Wagner was more like having an out-of-body sensual experience, those lugubrious phrases of Wagner's melodies suspended into timeless beauty. And if Asher Fisch, an Israeli Jew with a sexy accent, didn't appear to be offended by Wagner's virulent, anti-semitic remarks, why should I let the well-documented hatred destroy my personal experience? Instead, I chose to focus on Wagner's obsession with French, silk underwear.

The following year after my infatuation with Parsifal, I performed the Beethoven Violin Concerto in addition to all ten piano and violin sonatas. I was in for a surprise: Through Wagner I got Beethoven's slow movements, learning to linger on those beatific phrases without feeling the least bit hurried. Thanks, Maestro Fisch. Too bad I seem to have ended up on the blacklist in this town, or as Wagner might have said: Sie wird in dieser Stadt auf die schwarze Liste gesetzt. It would have been my pleasure to have learned more from you.
Painting by David Hellman 2006

No comments:

Post a Comment