Last night I went to see the Spokane Symphony and guest artist Valentina
Lisitsa doing Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 2 — the famous "Rack 2."
Most of the experience was pretty much inexpressible. But I wanted to make
a few minor notes here on some details of the concert.
The venue was the Fox Woldson Theater in downtown Spokane. I had
been in the place before its conversion, back when it was simply the Fox
movie theater. But I had never been in it since it has become the home
of the Spokane Symphony. It is a beautiful place.
I had my ticket for the concert since last September. Thus I knew across
the months that I had a 4th row center seat. I figured it would be close
to the stage. But never having been in the new hall I didn't realize
exactly how close until I actually found my seat and, during the first
musical break, they rolled out the big Steinway concert grand. I was
close enough to Valentina last night that I probably could have wadded
up a piece of paper and thrown it and hit her shoulder — maybe about
18 feet. And of course I was even closer to the side of the big Steinway.
It was more the experience of being in a piano bar than a concert hall.
The piano part in the Rack 2 is often submerged into the orchestra. But
being so close I could make out virtually every note even in those sections.
And when Valentina hit that big double forte chord in the treble in the
slow movement I think I nearly jumped out of my seat — it sounded like
an explosion going off.
Lisitsa was wearing a strapless watermelon colored gown. And when her
right foot moved occasionally back from the pedals I could see that she
was wearing a pair of sparkly silver sandal-type high heels. Her demeanor
at the keyboard is what you see in her videos, much like that of Rubinstein
and Horowitz — once at the keyboard masters of the universe. Valentina
— my Queen.
Spokane is a small town and I was a bit worried that the local audience
would be what they call a "cold" audience. But I was glad to find that
they were very appreciative of her. She received a very vociferous standing
ovation and 3 call-backs. At which point, as is her habit if she gets a
good reception, she did a solo encore. Sitting down on the stool she leaned
toward the audience. "Would you like fast, or slow?" she joked. Then she
launched into the Rachmaninoff Etude Op. 39 No. 6, nicknamed "Little Red
Riding Hood" for reasons that are unknown to me.
Taking photos was prohibited in the hall. Ordinarily that wouldn't have
been much of a problem — turning off flash and shutter sound it would
have been tough to see me take a photo in the dark of a theater. But in
this regard being so close to the stage worked against me. With the
lights from the stage and the arc of ceiling lights extending from it on
the ceiling it was as if I were in broad daylight. And then there was
the fact that being so close I didn't want to do anything that might
remotely disturb Valentina at her playing. As it was the only photo I
have from last night is one of the marquee at the Fox Woldson taken
with my cell cam. And I was surprised I got even that one due to the
scrolling of the electronic text.
It being the end of the month I was dead broke. I wasn't too sure if I
could make the walk downtown given the way I've been feeling lately, but
there was no way in hell I was going to miss Valentina. I had my tiny
bottle of nitroglycerine tablets in my pocket. And I had my Blackberry
in case of a real emergency.
So I walked it. As I walked my mind drifted, back to the 18th century
and the period of Rameau — a time which has been on my mind a lot lately.
And it occurred to me that if I had lived back then that I probably wouldn't
have been the type of person who could have afforded a fancy carriage.
Or who could even have afforded a horse. If I had wanted to see the opera
I would have walked it. Somehow in some way that gave me comfort. Let
others drive their fancy cars and buy their $5.75 glasses of wine at the
hall. "Moi, je suis avec les Ramistes" — the faithful, if sometimes rather
So I walked. All by myself. In the dark. In the cold.
It was wonderful.