Saturday, November 3, 2012


The first hat I had to wear on Thursday was that of academic journal editor, for a long phone conference with my fellow editors and our publisher. Much talking. The rest of them were all in the path of Sandy, so it got rather wet out there.

Next hat, that of concerned pet owner, as Pandora went grumbling in for another medical exam. We are in the "adjust dose of medicine, then have another blood test" phase of diagnosis.

Third, my social hat, because it was time for one of those approximately biennial confabs of writers and editors for the classical reviewing website. Up in the city, but naturally. And in a wine bar. Recognized immediately the editor I almost never encounter in person, managed at first to overlook the one I see more often. Hovering waiter asked what I wanted to drink; a request for white wine, not too dry, produced something which nursed perfectly for the hour-plus that I was there. Editor mused: she'd had beer and champagne, what should she drink next? Suggestion that she proceed down the alphabet and have a wee dram kind of passed everyone by.

Lastly, my reviewer's hat, for it had been lately suggested to me by competent authority that, as I would be coming up to the city for the confab anyway, I proceed a few blocks further to the symphony hall for the evening's concert. The funny thing was that, not having known they were going to say that, I'd come up for an overlapping but not identical concert the evening before. So they got a review of two concerts for the price of one.

Only a few times earlier had I gone to two performances in the same set of one work, and this was the first such occasion where I could really hear a distinct difference in the two renditions. As for the part of the program that changed, as far as I'm concerned there's not that much to choose from between Lou Harrison and Henry Cowell - they're both great - or between Prokofiev's Second and Third Piano Concertos.

Between the pianists, however, young and Chinese though they both were, a huge gulf lay. Yuja Wang is great stuff. Her playing is powerful but clean, and she knows how to hold back and drop pearly notes. But then there's Lang Lang. I'd heard of him, of course, but never in person and I'd never really listened to him before. What is this guy, a put-on? My first thought was "musical quackery, like practicing medicine without a license." Comic pianists of yore like Victor Borge and Jonathan Edwards (oh, probably nobody remembers him) should look to their laurels.

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