Thursday, June 16, 2005

Another day in Chicago

Two girls playing bassoon duets on Michigan Avenue. I'd never expected to hear bassoon duets serendipitously, but now I think about it, how else would you hear them? Anyway there they were at the corner of Huron, I think it was, and Michigan, playing duets by not Mozart but an only slightly lesser composer (to judge only from this one piece: but of course it may have been the only piece he ever wrote) from about the same time, same place.

Of course I had to stop and listen. When they finished we struck up a conversation. The bassoon was my instrument, I told them, but that was over fifty years ago. I bet I still have some fingerings in hand. I sang the beginning of von Weber's Rondo alla ungarese, and they joined in, both of them.

One is a student at Eastman Conservatory here; the other is a high school student, only sixteen. But they pumped away at their bassoons like professionals, and more than one passerby stopped to listen. We dropped a buck in the open case and walked on up Michigan Avenue.

At the next corner three girls with identical skin color and hairstyles were playing string trios. Well, not only trios: we heard the end of a double violin concerto by Vivaldi, and the beginning of Mozart quartet minus the viola. They were very good indeed, and Yes, their sign said, We are sisters; help us through music school. So another dollar got redistributed.

I like Chicago. I like the youth, the architecture, the energy. I even like disliking the architecture, especially the incredibly ugly Gehry music shell at Millenium Park. We stopped there for a few minutes to listen to the Chicago Symphony rehearse Vaughan Williams's Sea Symphony. I suppose the performers were doing very well, but even when you sit only twenty rows or so from the stage -- as close as they'd let us approach during this rehearsal -- all you hear of course is music coming from loudspeakers.

The shell is at one end of a "pavilion," really an enormous lawn overarched by steel trusses bearing loudspeaker clusters. I imagine twenty thousand people would easily sit on that lawn listening to those loudspeakers: but why? If you want to hear "classical" music from loudspeakers, aren't you better off at home listening to CDs on a system you've chosen for your own taste? And if you want to sit on a lawn with twenty thousand other people, aren't you better off listening to something other than Vaughan Williams?

But of course I may be a grouch. I'm not at the moment: we're just home from dinner at North Pond. There are problems here, and I'll describe them (and, of course, the equally present virtues of the place) later on. It's late, and we leave tomorrow for Madison.

And rain and earthquakes at home. What a strange summer we're having.

1 comment:

John Whiting said...

How many readers caught the echo of "McCarthy pumps the old bassoon"?