19 February 2015


I took myself and a friend to hear Corey Jamason at the Conservatory play the Goldberg Variations. The harpsichord was a 20th-century instrument, modeled on one of the 17th-century. The evening began with a short suite by J C de Chambonnières, after which the performer left the stage, and returned a moment later in his shirtsleeves, jacketless. This surprised the audience, who responded with good-natured laughter. He explained, somewhat shyly, that since he had to cross arms occasionally to play two keyboards, the jacket would restrict his movement, and his cuffs would snag on keys. So, no jacket. The audience listened with rapt attention throughout, to a very interesting and enjoyable performance. Corey performed the repeats in perhaps 6 of the pieces, so the entire performance took about an hour

11 February 2015

Period Piece

After a pleasant afternoon with a friend, viewing the Keith Haring exhibition at the deYoung Museum, I took myself to the Conservatory of Music, to hear some Beethoven cello sonatas (from Opus 5 and Opus 102) on period instruments. The performance was surprising, interesting, very passionate, energetic --- there were a few moments when I feared that the cellist would fall off his chair! He and the pianist were thoroughly engaged; this was no dry academic exercise in historical reconstruction, but a very expressive and intelligent performance. The cello dated from 1710, the fortepiano from a hundred years later. The cellist admitted that the bow was from the mid-19th century, but averred that its innovations had already been introduced by Beethoven's time. The scores, however, were very 21st century: small digital screens operated by a pedal, by the cellist, and by touch, by the pianist. All in all, a very involving and exciting event, that I felt privileged to hear and see. The encore (after a standing ovation) was a set of variations by Beethoven on themes from Mozart's 'Magic Flute.' A good time was had by all.

04 February 2015


I remember a time, long ago in Iceland, when I happened to be relaxing in a garden behind the parliament building. A very drunk official, possibly a politician, sat down beside me, and spoke to me for some time in Icelandic, a language with which I have only a slight acquaintance. But I caught the drift of his remarks: the abuses which Icelanders were experiencing at the hands of foreign countries, fishing illegally in Icelandic waters. Our very one-sided "conversation" went on for some time; somehow, we understood each other.


Recently, as I was walking along Market Street downtown, I was accosted by a young woman determined to supply me with a cosmetic cream, a promotional item for a nearby shop. "Why not?" she demanded, when I declined the item. "Because," I said, "I'm beautiful already!" A few yards further along, a young man canvassing for an environmental cause queried, "Are you friendly?" "Not right now," I replied.