Brahms at Lincoln Center (or: An Ode to Music)

A sea of voices, shifting fabric, and creaking chairs greets you as you enter Avery Fisher Hall. It's a full house, with people of all ages filling nearly every seat. The older generation is slightly better dressed, as for a proper night out; the twenty- to thirty-somethings are in more casual attire. Some surreptitiously sip their wine and snap photos of the hall.

And then comes the first magic of the night, my favorite moment, when the orchestra tunes its instruments, a cresting wave of sound washing over you. After the applause at the conductor's entrance, a silence deeper than the grave fills the cavernous hall. The conductor lifts his hands. Anticipation. Down they come and the first notes break the silence like a sharp blade breaking a seal, flooding music into your body. 

Kurt Masur has been practicing his craft for 60 years. His frail body sometimes sways precariously as his hands guide the orchestra. Occasionally, he grips the railing of his stand, but his presence commands respect, attention, full cooperation.

The violinists' wands move in perfect unison, a beautiful synchrony. It is miraculous that this group of people together can create such magic. Perfect harmony. A single organism, beating with one heartbeat, one soul, pulsing to the conductor's rhythm. Amazing also how music can make us feel - and that it makes us feel at all. It's just sound waves, after all. The laws of physics. And yet, when these waves come in contact with our brains, they are transformed into a magic that defies explanation.

I feel like we're in a movie. The soundtrack is Brahm's Third and Fourth Symphonies. In the scene that I direct in my mind's eye, the audience members are all actors. They are frozen on screen, hundreds of faces all fixed on the stage. I feel as though I could walk among them and peer into each face, know each story, each mundane yet epic tale behind those eyes. In this moment, we're all bound by the music, our entire beings infused with its melody, collectively swimming in a symphonic cloud of pleasure.

Thank you, C., for choosing to celebrate your birthday in such a wonderful way. 

Yours truly, one magical note at a time,


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