At Powell's, you never know what you might discover. I walked by a placard on the first level which said: I read dead people. How true, I thought. I went upstairs to the Music and Arts section to browse. There I discovered a hardcover book about violinists, opened the pages, and delighted in finding an unsealed envelope with the obituaries of both Mischa Elman and Louis Persinger from The New York Times and The Oregonian, circa 1960's. I bought the book, of course.
|Stendhal (Marie-Henri Beyle)|
While perusing the shelf stocked with Stendhal's works, I stumbled across another title that beckoned, and whispered to me: "Memoirs of an Egotist". I laughed for a moment because I, too, have been writing a memoir. Am I an egotist? I picked it up and read the back cover:
The only things I have passionately loved in life are:
In Milan, in 1820, I wanted to put these words on my gravestone. Every day I would think of this inscription, firmly believing that I would have no peace of mind except in the grave. I wanted a marble slab in the shape of a playing card.
Well, of course, I had to purchase this on the spot, and take it back to the hotel with me. It was as if Stendhal himself was reminding me how fortunate I was to have been hearing Mozart's "Prague" Symphony that week and playing Elgar's "Falstaff". Edward Elgar was an ardent Shakespearean, and Oregon Symphony's Music Director Carlos Kalmar had recruited actors to link Elgar's composition to the Shakespeare's text that had inspired the music.
Wine was being served at the hotel. I sat down with a glass and listened to my egotist friend:
At the age of ten, my father, who had all the prejudices of religion and aristocracy, vehemently prevented me from studying music. At sixteen, I learnt successively to play the violin, to sing, and to play the clarinet. Only in this way did I manage to produce sounds which gave me pleasure. My music teacher, a kind, good-looking German by the name of Hermann, made me play tender cantilenas. Who knows? Perhaps he knew Mozart? This was in 1797, Mozart had just died.
Later, at the concert, I sneaked upstairs to the balcony of Arlene Schnitzer to hear Mozart's "Prague" Symphony as performed by Oregon Symphony under the direction of Maestro Kalmar. The hall was filled to capacity. Stendhal accompanied me in heart and soul. This was Mozart at its loveliest; each note filled with warmth, sensitivity and precision. The orchestra, demonstrating enviable refinement and good taste, was a pleasure to behold.