Sunday, March 31, 2024

half a concert

My concert expedition on Saturday morning was not entirely successful. The Beethoven Center at San Jose State was sponsoring the annual Young Pianist's Beethoven Competition. I'd been to this once before. Spending a Saturday morning listening to six high school students of professional accomplishment play Beethoven sonatas in the cavernous concert hall of the San Jose State music building had been a pleasant experience.

This time, walking the half mile from the nearest convenient parking to the music building in the middle of campus was a chore. I arrived at 9:30, the announced starting time of the concert, to learn that it was actually scheduled for 10:00. About 30 people - fewer than there are Beethoven piano sonatas, and a small enough audience that instead of being spread out in this giant hall, we could have fit snugly in the tiny recital room in the Beethoven Center itself, which is a lot closer to where I parked - waited silently for the music to start. In the event, one of the judges didn't arrive until 10:15, the first pianist didn't appear on stage for five minutes after that, and then spent two minutes silently sitting at the piano bench, gathering his nerve or possibly just thinking about John Cage, before launching into the "Appassionata" Sonata. The second pianist spent her two pre-playing minutes flexing her arms by adjusting the height of the piano bench, and then played "Les Adieux." By the time of the third performer (Op. 90), I was thinking more about a visit to the restroom than about Beethoven.

By the time of intermission, it was almost 11:30, so I bailed on the second half. I hadn't found the performances that artistically inspiring, and I wasn't overwhelmed by the opportunity to hear somebody else play the "Appassionata" again. So I limped back to my car, stopping along the way for lunch at a new campus-side restaurant whose gimmick is that they put Texas-style barbecue meat in their Vietnamese pho soup. Interesting idea, which sort of works and sort of doesn't.

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