I missed Mars

To regret the past, to hope in the future, and never to be satisfied with the present: that is what I spend my whole life doing.

Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky, letter to Anatolii Tchaikovsky

concert2Last night was a gorgeous night. My windows were still open at 10 p.m. because it was so mild. Earlier in the evening, on the walk back from Teatro Angela Peralta at seven I wove through a family of seven kicking a soccer ball in the street, bouncing it off walls, and laughing greatly as they teased and joked with one another. Women talking quietly in doorways were quick to smile and say Buenas Noches as I passed. Teen lovers found the shadow near a street lamp for their caress and kiss.  It was warm and people were still in short sleeves, sweaterless. What a welcome change from the early cold that’s been part of the past two months.

By the time I ran out of paved road and cobblestones, I had reached the start of the serious uphill part of the walk on the dirt roads and I made my way past the field where the burro had been tethered Saturday morning, and the field that just last week had been burnt to clear the underbrush. The scent of burnt organic matter mixed with the coolness of the air, and the aroma was acrid but not unpleasant. The coolness hung there, there being heat from neither fire nor mass of stones below.

I was making my way back from one of the most pleasant concerts in quite a few years. Serguey Kossiak, the principal violinist in the Morelia symphony, had been the soloist for the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto in D. Both he and the Sinfonieta Potosina sounded terrific. I realized just how right the size of the orchestra is for that theater:  the music filled the hall. There seemed to be perhaps 400 in attendance and after the first movement, with its great crescendo, there were some who jumped up yelling “bravo!” The conductor turned to the audience and said, “we’ll play the entire piece. That was just the first movement.” At that point a stylish woman sitting a row in front of me reached for her rather large bag and withdrew a tablet personal computer. Was she a journalist? A blogger? So moved by the performance that she just had to capture it? In need to email her friends – after all, she couldn’t use her cell phone, could she? A friend of the orchestra or soloist? Regardless, a woman sitting next to her had the good sense to tell her to put it the device away.

After the program’s intermission, the Sinfonieta Potosina played Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scherherezade and it too sounded wonderful.

I had arrived late to the theater, not having known whether I would attend.  The concert began at 5 p.m. and at 4:45 with a 30-minute walk still ahead of me, I was still discarding top after top and hanger after hanger onto the bed, attempting to decide what to wear. I know, I know. I thought I was all set, and then … well, after discarding many combinations of jackets, tops, and mismatching jewelry, I made it to the theater only to find the doors locked and I thought “In Mexico! They take tardiness even worse than my second grade teacher did.” Someone took pity, opened the doors and so I heard the last strains of Holst’s Mars.

During the intermission I was speaking to a gentleman who mentioned that the Concerto had been featured in a recent movie and both of us set out to name the film, which neither of us could. I’ve been told that names and nouns are the first to escape our memories and I am living proof of that. We were both intent to “Google it” when we got home. The Violin Concerto in D was featured in the French film Le Concert, directed by Radu Mihăileanu. A wonderfully humorous film with serious undertones, it was released in 2009. The video below is from the final scene.

In the 19th century the first two violinists who attempted the Concerto could not perform it due to its difficulty. A third violinist, Adolph Brodsky, premiered the work in 1881 with the Vienna Philharmonic and, at its conclusion, initial enthusiastic applause gave way to boos. A noted critic of the time said that the concerto proved that it was possible to create music that “stinks to the ear.” Critics like that are why you just gotta make up your own mind.

The quote at the top of this post by Tchaikovsky is from 1878, the same year he wrote the Violin Concerto, the year following his disastrous marriage.


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