Clara and I joined our friends Jeff and Mary last night for a wonderful concert by the Minnesota Orchestra at Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis. The house was packed for the featured piece on the program, Beethoven's Third Piano Concerto, with Alfred Brendel as soloist. Brendel (b. 1931) is retiring from the concert stage, so last night was probably his last appearance at Orchestral Hall. I heard him in concert about 30 years ago, when I was in high school, and went backstage after the concert to get his autograph. I still have it in an album somewhere. He's best known for his Beethoven, and his performance of the Third last night was memorable. And after several minutes of standing ovation, he sat down again to play, as an encore, a piece which I brilliantly identified to Clara as a Schubert Impromptu (no. 2 in A Flat, Op. 142, D. 935).
After the intermission, many of the people around us had left, sated with Beethoven and Brendel, or perhaps unenthusiastic about the final piece, Shostakovitch's Sixth Symphony. The deserters missed out on a great experience. The symphony begins with a long, meditative slow movement, full of wonderful opportunities for the woodwinds, and ends with two much shorter movements full of verve and playfulness. It was the kind of music—especially the first movement—that I was glad to hear in a concert setting, where I could really focus on the music. Shostakovitch and Beethoven make a good pairing—both so full of suffering and resilient energy—and this afternoon I listened to two of my favorite chamber pieces by the two composers: Shostakovitch's Piano Quintet no. 2 (written shortly after the Sixth Symphony) and Beethoven's String Quartet op. 132—the Heilege Dankgesang, to celebrate feeling well again.
Meanwhile, Peter and his friends spent the entire afternoon playing Nintendo 64 and listening to very loud music, like Blur, in the back room.
My poem " Phrasebook " has been published online in Ergon: Greek/American Arts and Letters .
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