Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Taming of the Shrew

Just in time for the new year ahead; I've been tamed. And here I am with my much, much better half. I can't compete with this man's intellect, wry humor, or sense of rubato, but I've been told we make a good pair, and that's a good thing, especially after a marriage of 25 years. Even our own children, Anna and Sarah, still like us!

As the year 2009 comes knocking at my door, I'd like to list a few of my favorite magic moments from this past wondrous year.

I'll begin with the most recent experience, which was a sensational book club meeting at our dear friends, the Roshals, as we dissected Vladimir Nabokov's Pale Fire. I traveled all the way to Zembla with my daughter Anna to buy just the right Onhava pickles, placed them in a jar, and shook them onto a plate. Those Zemblans! They know their pickles! Oh, how I love Zembla and Nabokov! Pravda Vodka went down smooth and warm; I could feel my capillaries open. A hard potato bread and peppery cheese plus Russian Tea and blacker than black coffee made all six senses come alive. Anna and I left the book club still fascinated by Zembla, and Charles X Kinbote, the supreme delusional narrator and voyeur. Kinbote reminds me of someone...(a secret, I mustn't tell).

So, dear readers. Here are a few more of my favorite 2008 magic moments: At St. James Cathedral, I felt close to tears during the performance of Mozart's Requiem under the inspiring leadership of Dr. James Savage. Each note and phrase of the Requiem was played and sung with tenderness, reverence and compassion. As I write about this St. James experience, I recall Lisa Cardwell Pontén's magnificent soprano solos illuminating my heart and soul; her voice soared with Mozartean beauty. I also sensed an all-embracing love emanating from the choir, orchestra and congregation as tenor Howard Fankhauser slowly lifted his head to sing, his eyes moist with grief from the sudden loss of his young son, Colin; Howard's performance was a triumph of the spirit; I felt Howard sang for his child. In moments such as these, I feel blessed to be a musician.

I've adored combining goals with that renegade Finn Ilkka Talvi. I admire his multi-faceted talents, and if we weren't married, I might be jealous. Together, we've watched our dedicated violin and viola students aspire to new challenges. We've shared well-guarded secrets of interpretative style and technique with our pupils, passed down from the Great Masters, such as Heifetz, Galamian, Odnoposoff, Temianka, Granroth, Bouillon, and Nadien. Our musical backgrounds are similar, yet different, which makes it all the more intriguing.

We performed a duo concert together at Western Washington University through a generous invitation from Professor Walter Schwede last October. Ilkka and I met the excellent pianist Dainius Vaicekonis during our collaboration at WWU and offered works by Khatchaturian, Ravel and Sarasate. Ilkka will feature many of these compositions during his return engagement to Pori, Finland, after an absence of many years, while also leading master classes.

Life is gathering momentum for our family. My absolute hands-down favorite magic moment came as a welcome surprise during the recent blizzard that swept Seattle. I played Principal Viola for Emerald Ballet Theatre for their production of The Nutcracker under Artistic Director Viktoria Titova and Musical Director David Waltman, and you know what? I never knew the Nutcracker could be so charming! The EBT production lifted my spirits high enough that I'll never want to say good-bye. Not a single show was canceled due to snow. And I'm eager for next year's run.

I wonder how and if they say "Live Long and Prosper" in Zemblan. Vladimir, can you help me?
Photo by Anna Talvi

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