We waited a long time for a bus to UBC on Broadway, but fortunately, thanks to some running in the rain and having gotten tickets ahead of time, we made it in to the CBC Orchestra’s afternoon Concert at the Chan Centre just before the doors closed. This was important, since the concert was being taped for broadcasts (it will be aired on April 18th on In Performance, June 11th on OnStage, and Septermber 10th on Jazz Beat) and missing the first half would have been a major disappointment.
Pam and I were at the concert for a bunch of reasons. First of all, it was an interesting program: the Shostakovich Piano Concerto No. 1 (this is actually for Piano, Strings and Solo Trumpet), a première of a new work, and the Symphony No. 2 of Kurt Weill (of Three Penny Opera fame). The concert was billed as ‘Swing Soft-Play Hard’, about the Jazz influence/orientation of the second work on the program, the première. The second reason was that I’d never heard the CBC Orchestra before, and I was curious. They are, as it turns out, the only Radio Orchestra in North America. Thirdly, I knew the soloist personally. In fact, I knew the soloist when we were young — I’m thinking when we were around 15 or 16 years old. We took a typing class together at the Friend’s School in Baltimore. I still remember the three of us (my brother, my friend, and I) all typing ‘All Glad Lads Fall’ as the typing teacher called out the words. Hey, 2 books and probably 1,000 times that much typed later in total (including right this very moment!) and I’m glad I spent that summer getting it right from the start.
Oh, one more thing: when I knew the afternoon’s soloist, their name was David Buechner. Today, he’s a she. She’s Sara Davis Buechner, and a world-class pianist and faculty at UBC.
I’m happy to say that for me, the Shostakovich was absolutely brilliant. If you had a check-off sheet for everything that makes a great performance, it was there: tone, pacing, wit, ensemble, drama, sensitivity, you name it. I doubt if I’ve ever heard a better performance of any of Shostakovich’s music, and the CBC is one of the best orchestra’s I’ve ever heard. Add to that a fantastic conductor (who I’d never heard of until today: Yannick Nézet-Séguin), who is the artistic director of the Montréal Symphony, and only 31 — watch out for this guy; he’s going to be a major league talent, and I’ll bet he’ll be the director of an even bigger orchestra in a few years. Sara was terrific, and I hope I get to hear her again. We met her afterward backstage, and although she didn’t recognize me at first, I pointed out that we had both changed a lot in the intervening years. We all agreed to get together when the term is over (especially Piano Juries, which are very time consuming as I remember from my — and my parents’ — years in music schools).
I was a little anxious before meeting Sara. I’ve never knowingly met anyone who is a transexual (although in 1 or 2 cases, I’ve suspected that this was the case). Also, I only knew her personally before the change. At any rate, the unusual-ness of being backstage after a big concert probably overshadowed the unusual-ness of meeting up with a former childhood friend after a sex-change operation.
The rest of the concert included the first time I’d ever heard the Kurt Weill work live. It was a real treat, and had a lot of the charm, wit and gorgeous harmonic shifts that you hear in works like ‘The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny’. As for the new work (the one with the Jazz influence), well, all I can say is that I really didn’t like it, and will leave it at that. I’m still hoping that I’ll hear a première of a new Canadian work that will really knock my socks off, but it hasn’t happened yet.