Cantus in Memory of Benjamin Britten

Rach took me to the Seattle Symphony tonight for my birthday. We didn't actually have tickets, so we had to stand by the ticket office and see if we made it off the waiting list. The lady in the office gave Rach and I a sign that said "I Need 2" and we were supposed to hold it up as ticket holders walked in. We felt pretty silly, because all these other people had signs "I need 1" "I need 3" and so on and we looked pretty silly, eyeing each other suspiciously and maneuvering for best position. The ticket office had only one person serving the waiting list, so it was agonizingly slow once tickets did get released.
But luck was on our side. We got perhaps the two last tickets, and were the last ones to dash into the auditorium, ushers waving at us frantically at every turn.
Why the sellout? The Russian National Orchestra, led by conductor Vladimir Spivakov, was in town. No exagerration: half the audience was Russian. I didn't realize there were that many Russians in Seattle. Spivakov is the Russian Justin Timberlake.
The program:

  • Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 2 in G major, Op. 44

  • Arvo Part's Cantus in Memory of Benjamin Britten

  • Tchaikovsky's Suite from Swan Lake

Mikhail Pletnev was the piano soloist. I've never heard Tchaikovsky's 2nd piano concerto before. The second movement was very melodic. Overall, though, I liked the Cantus best. Never heard it before, and it simply consisted of all the strings playing the same descending A-minor melody in successively lower octaves and slower tempos. The 2nd violins played
one octave below the 1st violins, at half the tempo. And so on through the violas and then cellos. And one lone chime in the background, playing a single note. Simple, and beautiful.
So tired right now. Woke up at 5:30 to go play basketball at Sound. Got stuck at a railroad crossing by a freight train next to Safeco field, and sat there for something like 20 minutes. Jason fell on his chin while playing and had to go off for 10 stitches. I'm calling him Scarface. I finally felt my jump shot coming back at the end of the morning. I haven't felt it since I had knee surgery. How beautiful it would be if it returned.
He's feeling pretty puffed up right now, with his Heels #1, and NC in the lead for the Sears Cup, which Stanford's won every year except the first year, when Carolina won it. No problem, we'll pull it out after the swimming and tennis teams do their thing.
Was watching the Region 3 DVD of Crouching Tiger tonight just to make sure my Apex DVD player would process it properly, and it did. Neil's borrowing it for Movie Night at Amazon's AV room tomorrow. Watching a few scenes, I realized how much I love listening to Zhang Ziyi speak Mandarin. And how difficult it was listening to Michelle Yeoh and Chow Yun Fat's Mandarin. My dad says Chang Chen's Mandarin was supposed to be deplorable because he plays a Mongolian barbarian in the film. But if I'm going to ding Kevin Costner for a bad Bostonian accent in Thirteen Days, I can't very well let Ang Lee off for allowing bad accents in his film either. Zhang Ziyi is a native Mandarin speaker, and I love listening to very accurate Mandarin. People who can speak it well can cast spells over me, it's like witchcraft.
I realized something while listening to the Cantus. I put myself on the edge all the time, all in the hopes that somewhere along there, I will find a moment of grace. Why tread along the edge of the abyss, where the risk of pain and failure is so acute? Anyone who has ever felt longing knows.
Nietzsche wrote in "Beyond Good and Evil":
"Whoever battles with monsters had better see that it does not turn him into a monster. And if you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss will gaze into you."
I'm trying hard. To find that grace. To vanquish those monsters without becoming one. It's hard work.