Partitas, etc.

>Some part of me always wonders if, when I step into a church, I’ll burst into flames. So I was a bit surprised on Tuesday night, when, at St. Peter’s Church in Midtown, I didn’t. I had gone to see a friend of a friend play one of Bach’s solo partitas for violin, (Partita No. 2 in D minor, BWV 1004, to be exact) which was described by the program notes as the “Mount Everest” of solo violin. Wikipedia says that the piece is: “a pinnacle of the solo violin repertoire in that it covers practically every aspect of violin-playing known during Bach’s time and thus it is among the most difficult pieces to play for that instrument.” Truly, it was amazing. Beautiful, deep, moving, athletic.

And because I am the kind of person–and the kind of writer–who is as intrigued by the almost-missed details as the main event, I was as impressed by her playing as I was her moment of reflection before starting. She took a breath, closed her eyes, focused her thoughts toward something outside of herself, or perhaps inside. It was, I think, as important for her as it was for those of us in the audience. It said to us: I am about to try to do something very difficult. It’s important, and I need your help. Should you have the chance to hear someone tackle this–do.

My friend (and downstairs neighbor) Mary was accompanying on piano for the other pieces on the evening’s program. Mary has a grand piano in her living room, which is the same size as my living room, which is to say it takes up most of the space. I suppose it could be a nuisance, living above a professional pianist, having to listen to the hours and hours of practice and learning, of rote exercises and strange inconsistent blips of sound. But I like it. Years ago, I asked her if she knew Manuel de Falla’s “Ritual Fire Dance,” which is my favorite piece of music for piano. She said she didn’t, but that she knew of it, and would learn it. I get to hear it now periodically, floating up through the floor while I’m cooking, or working, or sorting the mail.

I realized, while I was sitting in the aisles of the church, that there is a certain kind of older lady that I like–there were several of them seated around me. They’ve raised their children, and they color their hair, and they wear clothes that are a very specific kind of older lady. A vest with a busy print, maybe metallic, over a basic turtleneck and a long skirt. Large jewelry–big pendants on chains, brooches and big rings. It’s desexualized, like a lot of older lady looks, but its kept a certain kind of style. Maybe in trying desperately hard not to look like what they think an old lady looks like, they’ve created their very own subset of old-lady looks. Dark, rich colors are definitely in.

Yesterday, I had to take the train up to Mt. Sinai hospital to make a hand off for one of my too many jobs, and I took the opportunity to walk across the park at about 98th Street, and take the train on the West side back down to the office. It was very cold, but also very bright. The park is a different place way up there, with bigger spaces, and practically empty. I buried my hands in my pockets and took my time.

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