For the second piece of the evening, guys came out and partly dismantled the grand piano in preparation for the torments it was to experience. They slid back the top cover to a place where it straddled the strings, and allowed access to the guts of the piano. This also moved the music rack back farther. Then, out came Jade Conlee and Magdalena Wajdzik and squeezed side-by-side onto the piano bench. They then proceeded to play the cacophonous Celesta Mechanism: Cosmic Dances by George Crumb. This involved playing on different ends of the keyboard, tapping lightly on keys and then building in speed and force until virtually pounding on them. They also reached inside the piano and strummed or plucked strings, maybe even banging on them. It was certainly a wake-up call at the beginning of the concert, and it could have been the soundtrack to a footchase scene from The Bourne Identity or a James Bond film.
This was followed by a BEAUTIFUL song, "Mas que un Bolero", sung by Ferzan Demircioglu and composed by Natalia Esquivel-Benitez, who I gather was right there in the audience, as a woman who seemed to fit the name arose, came up, and hugged the singer and shared the enthusiastic applause from the audience.
During the night we also got something of a mini-concert of Dicterliebe by Robert Schumann, as sung by one of my favorite AMF vocalists, William Goforth. Somehow, Goforth reminds me a bit of a classical version of American Idol's Adam Lambert. He is an amazing vocalist, and sings German in a very compelling way. I have no idea the content of the lyrics, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. Wenwen Du played piano. She is amazing at the keyboard. I subscribed to her page on Facebook, along with Jonah Kim, to see what other things they do throughout the year, and was startled to see one evening, while I was visiting New York City, that she was at the Disney Store in Times Square, about 1 block from where I was eating dinner. What a small, funny world we live in. Facebook is really a game-changer in a lot of ways.
Following Dicterliebe, was the jazzy, whimsical "What Kind of Dog Are You?", written by Andrew Thomas, who also played piano on the piece that evening. The crowd loved it, and it was a humorous refreshment after the fairly heavy-duty Dicterliebe.
And this brought us to the last piece I could stay for, as I had to get home to bed and preserve some of my 42-year-old mind for work the next day. I made it only to #9 out of the 23 scheduled works. I stuck it out for another opportunity to see Carlos Avila and Jonah Kim play together. They were again a powerhouse duo as they performed Brahms' Sonata for Piano and Cello No. 2 in F Major.
Here's the thing about Carlos Avila. When he plays piano, the note starts before his finger presses the key. You can see it coming. It's like a tennis player winding up. Arm stretched back, back arched, ball tossed gently skyward. You feel anticipation knowing that ball is going to get whacked.
Avila plays piano in much the same way. His whole body goes into each note. You can see the note coming. From where? I don't know. From beyond. From some other universe. The ether. It's as I described in a previous post. The Magic Portal effect. There seems more to each note than just the mechanics of a key driving a hammer into a metal string. There is passion in each tone. Nuance. His chi is focused like a martial artist. And he plays through the note. He has follow-through. The music is noticeably enhanced by this commitment. Each note is not just something that happens for a split second - with a beginning and an end to its existence. The notes are like neutrinos traveling from the sun, passing briefly through us, and then continuing onwards to some other place. You have the feeling that the music has been traveling through space and time since the inception of the universe and that Avila has briefly revealed it us. Afterwards, you have the comfort and the awe of feeling that it continues to exist and will forever. And always, as the last note of a movement or entire piece is fading into hushed silence, it as if, with your ears rather than eyes, you can "see" it receding into the distance until it passes beyond some sound horizon.
I would have loved to stay for the whole concert, but alas, the AMF artists ganged up and defeated me. And I thank them for it.