Not Just Another Concert at the Chan Centre

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 pre­miere 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 pre­miere. 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 Mon­tre­al 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 pre­miere of a new Cana­di­an work that will real­ly knock my socks off, but it has­n’t hap­pened yet.