Siege Diaries 3/21/2020

Conductor Bernard Haitink at the moment of conclusion of the Shostakovich 15th Symphony with the Berlin Philharmonic. The concert dates to May 30, 2015.

In the world we have lost, I am on the road to Chicago.  I have a tour at the Robie House tomorrow, followed by the Chicago Symphony.  I’ve planned to wear one of my vintage dresses – probably the black one–with my new All Heels on Duty shoes. I have a day off on Monday, where I’ll drive back.

In the world we have lost, I have another concert scheduled the following weekend in Cincinnati.   And two more in Ann Arbor and Columbus in April – Shostakovich quartets. I’ll be seeing Dead Can Dance at the end of April, and then the Royal Conservatory Orchestra, the Kindred Spirits Orchestra, and two Toronto Symphony performances.

Beyond that, who knows?  Perhaps the world will reassemble itself in some simulacrum of its previous state.  Perhaps some of the summer concerts will go ahead. Perhaps the Shostakovich quartet cycle in October will happen.  I’d already purchased tickets for the next TSO season, and had started to mark out other concerts I was interested in.  I can have hope, but who knows what normal will be when this is all over?

In the world that we have, I got up this morning, with the tightness of stress gripping my chest.  I then spent 45 minutes watching the Berlin Philharmonic under Bernard Haitink perform the Shostakovich 15th symphony.  I got to watch his expressive face and restrained, delicate conducting style.  I got to watch all of the soloists – from the solo flute that opens the piece, through several amazing violin solos, the expressive cello solo in the second movement, and solos for trombone and double bass and celesta–not to mention the fabulous percussion variety in this work.  I got to watch Haintink’s face as the work concluded with the quiet sparkle of a resolved major chord, and how he held them in that quiet for a few moments.

I would likely have never seen this in the world that we have lost.  It’s part of the Berlin Philharmonic Digital Concert Hall, and it’s a subscription service, one of many that’s been provided for free during these dark days.  I never saw the point in paying for such a thing–I have plenty of my own CDs, and there are lots of performances on YouTube.   But now I do–the quality of these performances is topnotch, from the sound to the camera work.  Seeing the Berlin Philharmonic in person is a dream I’ve had, but relatively far down on my list.  This is not quite the same, but I can see things in these performances I would have never seen hearing them live.  So tomorrow, at the appointed hour, I will sit down and watch a performance of the Shostakovich Leningrad that I was to have heard live.

This is the light in the darkness I was looking for, along with the increasing number of concerts being livestreamed by artists, along with the sudden emergence of videoconferencing services like Zoom that on Thursday allowed me to attend two Toastmasters meetings and a virtual hangout with my SCA friends.  They are like stars appearing in a darkened sky.

This is the world we have, and there are still things in it to acknowledge and thus calm our fears, to lend strength, and to show us what is not lost.