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January 8, 2004

Just got back from a concert today. An old childhood friend of mine was giving a recital. Her name’s Kishani Jayasinghe. Remember that name even if you can’t pronounce it. Those of you who know me know how obscenely critical I can be of musical performances. I’d chastise Heifetz himself for his sloppy bowing through the Bach partitas, but in all the years I’ve known her Kishani has never disappointed me. The program was quite varied and included a little Schubert, Bellini, Gounod, Gershwin and some Shirley Bassey as well. A performance of the Prelude from Bach’s Cello Suite No. 2 rounded off the evening. The Prelude was reasonably well played by Tamara Holsinger. Her performance leads me to suspect she’s been listening to du Pré lately.

It saddens me to think that most of the classical musicians worth a damn are all dead or simply do not perform much anymore. Gould, Heifetz, Grumiaux, Menuhin, Solti, Casals, du Pré, Milstein, Szigeti, Horowitz, Rubinstein, Casadesus, Lipatti all left their mark in the last century. Ashkenazy, Barenboim, Perlman, Stern are still around but seldom perform. Yo-Yo Ma and András Schiff are probably amongst the few truly great musicians left. Of course this is a highly self-biased observation as there are literally hundreds of competent musicians left in the world, just as relevant to the art as the one’s I’ve named, but these were among the gods of them all. And there’s no one to take their place.

Anyone can play a musical instrument, but how many of us are capable of taking a listener right into the music. Seducing us with a note. Twisting us with a phrase. Resonating our souls with a pause.

Still, as I sit here listening to Lipatti playing Scarlatti and Gould playing Bach, I am thankful that for a little over a century we have had the ability to give musicians at least a little slice of immortality. The recorded note is always an echo at best and can never be as good as a real performance but at least we have something that was denied Haydn, Mozart and Beethovan. Imagine being able to hear Liszt on the piano or Paganini on the violin, or better yet, Handel on the organ.

Wouldn’t that be something to hear.

Day 18 and smoke free.

And I just listened to the Heifetz recording again and take back what I said about his bowing. His phrasing is very almost exquisite, though at times his rhythm put me in mind of a Vienese waltz, and there’s also some rather amusing ‘skipping’ in places that’s totally at odds with the tone of the piece..

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