Buying single occasionally affords the luxury of a seat that would ordinarily be unavailable when purchasing mere days before the concert. A pair of tickets on the front row? Impossible. But a single ticket… well… a single ticket can linger, passed over by pairs and partners, awaiting purchase by the solitary concertgoer.
It was through a single ticket purchase that I ended up on the front row of an incredible performance tonight. It began with a Mozart oboe quartet. Three musicians in black. One musician, the oboist, in a sapphire blue, floor-length gown. Her blond hair and fair skin offset by the brilliant blue of her dress, she was at once both elegant and powerful. Out of thin air with her breath and fingers, she created one beautiful, soaring line after another. She wiped her mouth with the back of her hand after each movement, handling this little necessity with grace and precision. The purity of the music stood out in stark contrast to the mechanics of its creation—that human imperfection that ultimately underlies all great art.
Brandenburg #5 was played by seven musicians. Six with black shoes, one with brown. Five pairs of black shoes had wide, flat soles. One pair of black shoes had pointy ends. The shoes had their own conversations throughout the music. Sometimes they were quiet and still. Sometimes one shoe would move with a nervous energy, half tapping with the beat. The brown shoes lifted up onto the toes throughout the piece, the heels rising up off the floor in parallel with the musical line. At the end, all the shoes lined up together, a job well done. The audience applauded.
After intermission, a Brahms piano quintet. Specifically, the Brahms piano quintet in F Minor, Op. 34. This is a piece that’s special to me. I played the fourth movement as a young (but still older than everybody else) musician during the Sacramento Youth Symphony’s summer chamber music camp. It was an incredible experience, and one that I still remember. I believe the violinist in my group was about 10 years old, and the cellist was maybe 11. As a 17-year-old I remember feeling like I stuck out a little bit, being so much older than the others… but they were wonderful musicians. And we played together brilliantly. That experience, that odd little group of kids who came together to play some of the most incredible music on earth, that was special. And to hear it tonight, played by my professor, felt like a kind of a “return”. A return to something, somewhere near the center… this part of me that was there when I was 17 and is still there now. After all this time, after all these years. A gift to be shared and strengthened, a light in the dark night and a compass that calls me home… I felt it tonight. I carry it with me always. I have carried it and I carry it still. It will be with me when I drift off to sleep tonight, and it will be there when I wake. Because it’s part of me.