My son Eric and I went to a concert the other night. We were not at all sure what to expect. The first concert at the Yale School of Music’s free venues that I dragged him to was horrible. The second attempt I made with my daughter, (to see an opera) we were turned away at the door as it had been inexplicably cancelled. There were many others I had every intention of going to, but it is harder for me to get myself out of the house in the evenings than it is to drag myself out of bed each morning.
However, I particularly liked the title of this one, so there we were. The first piece was by Heinrich Schütz, the music began and a young extremely tall and thin man stood in the center of the stage awaiting his cue. When he let out the first note both my son and I visibly gasped. How it was physically possible for him to utter such a low note was almost incomprehensible. I suppose I should not have been so surprised as the program was called De Profundis (the deep end: Music for low instruments). He was simply amazing. And the piece was so stirring Absalon, fili mi*. We were stunned.
There was some Mozart, Bach, a wonderful trombone trio performing Anton Bruckner’s Two Aequale (No. 1 and No.2) that I really enjoyed as well. The instruments were mostly bassoons (what extraordinary things!), cellos, trombones and an advant garde piece by Joacob Druckman played solo on a double bass. That one was funny, I thought. There was so much tapping, humming, use of bow and drum stick on the instrument that I could not fathom what “notes” he was so intensely reading off his stand, and at that precise moment in my private musings he began to read sotto voce what was written “tap with drum stick on side or bottom, it doesn’t matter where, when you switch stick for bow look at audience severely..) or something like that. It was quite funny, and the musician Donald Palma performed it well with a good sense of humor.
The last piece was another advant garde piece that was kind of relentless in its atonality, discordance and anti-tempo. Even the musicians looked a little bored as they really did quite a bit more standing, bows at the ready, then they did “playing,” in fact often when they did play it was one lonely note or pluck.
Eric almost mutinied on me. Now now, what have we learned today?
Absalon fili mi, fili mi
*Absalon was the third son of King David. He organized a rebellion against his father and was killed, leaving his father profoundly grieved.