Thank God for Antonin Dvorak!
March 9, 2008 2 Comments
I mean it. Sincerely, and without using God’s name in vain.
I thank God for Dvorak, Beethoven, Brahms, Rachmaninoff, and many other composers and musicians (not all of them classical, by any means!) whose productions fill my ears with beauty and my heart with joy.
Last week was rough. An uninvited intestinal bug raged through the entire family, leaving churning stomachs and blecchhy minds in its wake. Recovering, but in a physical and emotional funk, I left early Thursday morning for a business trip, to spend some time with (fortunately) a favorite client. Nonetheless, I felt drained and worthless, driving past bridge abutments on the highway and having some of those Jimmy Stewart/It’s a Wonderful Life moments (“maybe the world would be better off without me…!”). Ever felt like that? Well, despite the fact that I even had the collision damage waiver on the car, I stayed on the road and spent the day trying to concentrate on client needs instead of my own blah.
Friday the funk began to lift, creativity began to flow, and I felt like I was finally back to adding some value. But, the best was yet to come. My bride of (almost) 27 years picked me up at the airport, and we headed off for a bite to eat, and for a performance of Dvorak’s Symphony No. 9 (From the New World) at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center. The Czech Philharmonic Orchestra was on tap – fitting, since Dvorak was a Czech.
(NJPAC, by the way, if you’ve never been there, is a lovely facility right in downtown Newark. The building, and the logo, have always been favorites of mine).
The first piece performed was Dvorak’s Carnival Overture – it was an OK performance, nothing earth-shaking. Then, in a late substitution, the second piece was Beethoven’s Piano Concerto #5 (Emperor), a real favorite of ours – stunningly performed by a subset of the orchestra and a talented pianist named Simone Dinnerstein. Wonderful.
After intermission, it was time for the New World, and the performance was spine-tingling. The conductor was quite animated, the musicians clearly well-familiar with the piece, and the audience was barely able to contain its enthusiasm. Once the vigorous and stirring final movement was done, the place erupted in applause. By then, I was utterly transported out of my prior lethargy and thrilled to the marrow by such marvelous musical talent. The sounds coming out of those instruments – sounds that somehow, were once envisioned and created in the astounding mind of an amazingly talented composer – carried my feelings through the range of exquisite pleasure to minor-key sorrow to triumphant rapture.
(If you’re not familiar with the New World Symphony, waste no time getting a CD! The second movement, Largo, is one of the most hauntingly melancholy and beautiful pieces of music you’ll ever hear. The Allegro, which closes it out, will have you leaping out of your chair as your hair stands up on the back of your neck. Yes, it’s that good!)
Let’s be honest – sometimes, life can feel like sandpaper. Coarse grain sandpaper, on a fresh wound. Even old Antonin doesn’t look too thrilled in the picture here! But then, we have the gifts of music, food, wine, family, friends…and remembering those things, those Clarence-like reminders, we push through the bad stuff and acknowledge that we are blessed. Blessed, sometimes, beyond our wildest dreams…