Every few weeks or so, my mother and I go to Symphony Hall in Boston. It’s always fun to go into Boston at night, drink a glass of wine and enjoy quality music, but last week was particularly wonderful. I always enjoy a good piano sontata and being able to listen to one by Mozart is always a treat. My favorite part is observing the pianist: their technique, their style, the emotion they bring to the piece. I rarely do my research ahead of time and cram a little before the concert as I sit waiting, reading the program. This particular concert, I didn’t. (I was too enthralled with the people watching!) So, I didn’t quite know what to expect from the night’s soloist, Menahem Pressler.
As the piano was being prepared onstage, I found it odd that instead of a piano bench or stool, they placed a chair. And then two cushions: one for the seat and the other attached to the back. Then, to the rise of applause not two, but three people walked on stage. Leading the procession was an elderly man hobbling along with his cane, assisted by a younger gentleman. Behind them was the conductor. I was intrigued. Obviously this gentleman was important to the world of music. I predicted that this elderly man was to sit down next to the first violinist to enjoy the performance while his son or grandson sat down at the piano to play the concerto. But I was wrong. Instead he stopped by the cushioned chair and nodded to the audience before sitting down and placing his cane to the side. From that moment, he had a strange affliction on me.
Now, some of you reading might be thinking what a heel I was not to know who Menahem Pressler is. He is a classical pianist rock star!
“Menahem Pressler, founding member and pianist of the Beaux Arts Trio, has established himself among the world’s most distinguished and honored musicians, with a career that spans almost six decades,” his bio reads. He was born in Germany in 1923 and fled the Nazis, escaping to Isreal before making a name for himself as a pianist. His musical career was launched when he was awarded first prize at the Debussy International Piano Competition in San Francisco in 1946. From there he had an illustrious career as performer and teacher. But, wait. When was he born?
I looked back at his birth date. 1923. I quickly did the math. There he was, a man of 93, about to play.
As the music began I waited in complete anticipation of what kind of music would come out of him. I was absolutely mesmerized not just by his gentle touch on the piano, but also his strength and precision. The way he moved his arms and hands; it was with such elegance, as if he was making gentle waves of music, conducting the vibrations of the strings.
An inspiration like that comes along every once in awhile, and for me that is truly what it was. When he was done, I couldn’t help but feel so moved by his performance, his passion, and yes his age and by how much sincere love of music and the piano he has.
Now, I’ve barely touched the piano in years. But over the last few days since the concert, I’ve pulled out some of my old favorites and began to play again. It is my hope that this will continue over the next weeks, month and years.
It’s been amazing how some things just come rushing back. I firstly pulled out one of my favorites from my high school senior recital; a Chopin Nocture, the encore Pressler chose to play the night of the concert. Through muscle memory and a surge of emotion, the notes poured out of my fingers. (Well, most of them, anyway.) Next, I pulled out the first movement of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata, a piece I have been studying and playing since I was 14 years old. Again, it was so familiar and beautiful. Even though I made mistakes in some of my notes and had to move slowly through a few passages, the old passion was there.
What a gift to be given this desire to play again. Have you ever been given that opportunity to feed your love of an art form?
I know that my playing, even if a bit choppy and in the background of the hustle of my house, is an inspiration to my own children. That’s really what it’s all about. When you feed your own self and find yourself inspired, that’s when you can do the same for others. And let’s face it, in this busy day in age, in this hectic life that we all lead, the stresses of our job and family life, we all need a little bit of personal inspiration to keep ourselves going.
You can’t always find your own inspiration, sometimes it has to find you. Sometimes it needs to smack you cross the face, wake you up and remind you how important it is to be creative, to feed your own soul, to find that love of learning.
Here’s to finding that inspiration!
Bio credit: https://menahempressler.org/bio.html
Photo credit: https://ximo.wordpress.com/2014/12/27/mozart-dirigit-per-daniel-harding-lantidot-perfecte-a-tants-excessos/, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Bio/BSO.htm
Get some inspiration at the next Teacher Art Retreat!