Friday, September 09, 2005

Jack Knocks Them Dead Part II

I already know, before Lachenmann starts talking that this is sort of a demonstration performance. Jack is going to do the piece once, and then the orchestra is going to do it again, Lachenmann having re-written what was originally a quartet piece into an orchestra piece. I figure out that Lachenmann must be explaining what he did, which is fine if you understand German. My mind wanders. Two video cameras are recording the event. L. is wearing a light linen suit that is wrinkled, a white shirt and no tie. I do not think he would be admitted next door.

L. keeps talking. He says something that makes three people laugh. I have come to hear my son play. I do not care Jack about what L. might have to say. L. says something that sounds like "aufong" which I think is German for "begin." More people chuckle. Chris looks like he is about to fall asleep.

Finally, L. says, in English, "Lets play now. How you say (then some German word.) Ah, that was the problem. L. was filling in time until he could figure out to tell Jack to start playing.

There is silence. Swiss train compartment silence. I stop writing because the sound of my pen on my $17.89 brown soft leather journal with gilt edged papers and a maroon silk bookmark disturbs the silence. Then the first violin starts very softly, almost a ghostly sound. After about two minutes, L. starts talking again. Damn him. How did he figure out how to say stop so quickly. Then L. stops and the quartet plays a little. Then it stops and L. talks a little. This goes on until 8:30. Then L. walks off the stage and Jack does the piece from the beginning.

The piece is very modern, but listenable. The quartet members at times make a very classical sounding sound; at other times strange sounds that do not sound like they come from stringed instruments. They sometimes play with mutes on the stringsö other times above the bridge. The piece takes about 20 minutes, then ends abruptly. Nobody makes a sound or breathes for about 10 seconds, then Chris very slowly brings his bow down to the resting position, signaling the end and the audience erupts with cheers and bravos. They take five curtain calls. I think the audience should give them a standing ovation, but I am not about to embarass Chris by being the only one to stand. Maybe they do not give standing ovations in Europe. Then there is an intermission and we go into the foyer again. Everyone is smoking. Did I say the Swiss smoke a lot? Everyone is speaking German except for a few Englischers here and there. I pick up a couple of cough drops from a big bin, half expecting some greedy Switzer to pop up from behind the bin and demand five francs payment. I abscond with the cough drops and go back inside for the second half.

The Academy Orchestra is playing the same piece as re-written by Lachenmann for the second half. Chris sits out this performance since he just played. The associate concertmaster, who is a PhD violin student at Indiana University, and has already played at Carnegie Hall, moves up to concertmaster in Chris`s absence. They go through the same exercise in the second half, with L. talking a lot and then alternating talking and playing by the orchestra and then L. leaving the stage and the orchestra playing the piece completely without interruption. It sounds like a completely different piece, although there are familiar snatches here and there. I guess the point is to help people understand what they`re hearing, which is a good idea, if you can understand what the speaker is saying. Chris, who had four years of high school German, tells us later that he could not understand what L. was saying either. He said no one could understand him, even the fluent German speakers.

Afterwards we find Chris and ask him to pose for pictures with Jack. He agrees and they find L. to pose with them. I suggest we treat them to ice cream and they (minus L.) agree.

As we were walking through the foyer, a tall older man stopped Chris and talked to him a little bit. Afterwards, Chris told us it was Wolfgang Rihm, who I take it is a very famous composer. The other members of Jack seemed very impressed that Rihm had liked their performance. They said that L. also liked it. He told them "Don`t change anything."

We went to the Movanpick restaurant for our ice cream. I found out later that Movan is a small bird that "picks" its food, but the name should be spelled Mowan. Go figure. It was fun listening to Jack talk. We found out many things that Chris would never have told us. Although they were satisfied with how they played, they were practically giddy over their Saturday night performance, which was the day before we arrived. They played a piece by a Greek composer, Xanakis. They felt like they had really nailed it. Rihm told them he had never heard it played better. There was a smaller audience, but they were called back for eight curtain calls. A Swiss agent was in the audience and wants to sign them up for some concert dates. He could not make the performance tonight, but planned to send someone.

Kevin and Chris are staying at one host family and John and Ari at another one. John and Ari`s family heard Jack`s Saturday night performance, and afgterwards gave John 200 francs ($160) and told him to buy drinks for everyone. At Swiss prices that would buy about a beer each. (Just joking, it would buy way more booze than one would hope one`s son would drink.)

They tease Chris about his clothes. Kevin got Chris to actually wear a nice sweater because his luggage was several days late in arriving and Kevin got to dress Chris. Besides his suit, white shirt and two ties, Chris brought two pairs of jeans, some jean shorts and 4 or 5 t-shirts. He does not like to dress up.

We walked back to the pension and got to bed, just after midnight. A very satisfying and tiring day.


Anonymous said...

That would be Moevenpick on an english keyboard. You are writing on a German keyboard and should figure out how to do the umlaut over the o.

Anonymous said...

That would be Moevenpick on an english keyboard. You are writing on a German keyboard and should figure out how to do the umlaut over the o.

Amishlaw said...

Well, anonym, I would be foolish to contradict you about anything, but the place was not Moevenpick, but Movenpick. The waitress, who spent a year in Georgia as an exchange student and spoke very good English, said it was kind of a made-up word because the v should have been a w. There was no e after the o, and I do not care a fig about umlauts, I am struggling to communicate, however imperfectly it may be. (And by the way, you repeated yourself.)(And I know who you are.)

trucking fiddler said...

Just wondering how Jack got this gig? Are J.A.C.&K. all from Eastman? Are they principals of the Academy Orch? How long are they staying in Lucerne or in Europe? Am I asking too many questions? Thx, Fiddler/trucker...

Amishlaw said...

J and C were here last year. C was associate concertmaster and J was principal viola. When they heard that Lachenmann was supposed to be the featured composer this year, they went to the powers that be and asked, "How would you like Jack to come next year?" L. had heard them in Toronto and Mexico and wanted them to come, also. All of them are from Eastman, although J graduated several years ago with a master`s and performs with a NYC based modern ensemble, which is in residence at a college in PA.