Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Opus 52 Waldstein performed by Jeremy Denk

I do not know what makes a particular performance of music profound, it is a mystery to me as much as some of the things I do are a mystery to others. It is, because it is what the musician does. The mixture of movements of the hands and body, with the feelings and analysis, to the point where there is a waterfall of expression that we bathe under as listeners, and that emotion, in live performance, reflects back on the musicians.

Jeremy Denk spent some minutes before the concert telling us what music meant as nourishment for the spirit, when the technical difficulties had overwhelmed it in him, and this nourishment of air and light returned him to the state where he could practice and then play the music. Somewhere in the forest of notes there is the music, somewhere in those waving flags there are the notes that must be placed with greater weight.

I recall the first time I went on point and could stay there as long as I liked. I knew that this time was different. There was no tugging this way or that, but instead a single line shot straight from toe through spine and drew up out of the top of my head. I was soaring in place, floating, even through the pressure on my feet. I could feel the compression only at that first moment, and then there was nothing but pure balance. Ever since, I've known that soaring feeling as that moment when the body, mine or another's, had found a pure expression of some pure platonic truth that had been formed in a mind, in a spirit, and then projected outwards.

I wish I knew works well enough to point to here or there and say, "this is the moment when he did that, and that is what made the treble glitter above the rolling crests of the harmony." But alas I do not, and I can only say that that he seemed to toss the melody back and forth between his hands as a juggler might, by slight of skill make two hands suffice for five balls. The depth below reverberated in its turns of the melody as the stars above in the treble in their turn. I watched a whole night go by in minutes, as a night goes by in an hour in Second Life.

The final sprint was the rushing soaring moment again, his hands floating someplace between air and ivory, and then the light turned to a darkness, a crying for some land forgotten, before, in the next instant, paradise and youth regained, and his fingers flew as the feet of a small child in an open park, kite trailing behind fly. They seem every moment to be about to trip one over another, and then landing precisely right.

Denk tells us that a poem is a machine made out of the world, if only the keys on the piano moved, as they could have, so that the second life machine could be as polished as this pianism was.

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