Last week, I had the opportunity to attend the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra’s “Mozart Gala.” The venue is beautiful. The musicians are passionate, dedicated, and beyond talented. And Mozart, while no Puccini, isn’t exactly a slouch.
So, I’m sitting there, feeling pretty, letting the music wash over me, and out walks the guest pianist. He is to play a concerto (couldn’t tell you which one, but something by Mozart, obviously).
- This man is old. I had no idea how old, but well into his eighties was my guess.
- This man is tiny. MAYBE 5’2″ when you stretch him all out, but that is difficult to imagine, as he is so hunched over.
- This man does not move with ease or grace. Walking with a cane, with seeming great pain, caution, and difficulty, he made his way across the stage to the piano. He had a lovely younger woman assisting him in his journey. The piano was prepared with a chair stacked with two pillows, and there was a young gentleman designated to turn the pages, as this performer could not reach the music.
- This man played, to quote my companion, “like water.” When his fingers moved across the keys, there was no age, no pain, no difficulty. There was just beauty. Absolute joy.
When the piece was done, there was a well deserved and very spontaneous standing ovation. A bit unusual, as his concerto was in the middle of the performance, and we usually don’t stand up until it’s time to hit the door. And his smile. Oh, it reached his eyes. (yes, my seats were that good).
And ever the performer, he paused, waved, and the applause swelled. He reversed direction, and made his way slowly back to the piano. And there was Debussy. Claire de Lune to be precise. The audience was silent. The orchestra was silent. There was just this small man, and an experience for which words won’t do. And there were tears. Sometimes, beauty, truth, and joy just reach into your heart and come out of your eyes. Happens. And I know I was not alone in my experience.
After the concert, I learned a little more about Menahem Pressler, the old, tiny, and physically unimpressive man who brought a concert hall to silence, and maybe even tears.
- Menahem Pressler (born 16 December 1923, Magdeburg) is a German-born Israeli-American pianist.
- Following Kristallnacht, Pressler and his immediate family fled Nazi Germany in 1939, initially to Italy, and then to Palestine. His grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins all died in concentration camps.
- His career was launched after he won first prize at the Debussy International Piano Competition in San Francisco in 1946.
I would imagine that such a childhood would be a wonderful excuse for bitterness, anger, blame, hatred, and ugliness. But this man chose beauty. He chose joy. And he chooses to continue in this path when many would be in a recliner bemoaning their aches and pains.
May I ever so choose.
Bravo, Mr. Pressler. Bravo.
Light and Love,