Concert Note:
Tonight’s the Night
5 August 2019

There I was, chatting with Ray Soleil on the phone, talking about everything and nothing. Here’s a good example: concerts. I was talking, hardly for the first time, about how the desire to attend concerts has waned in recent years, almost to the vanishing point. Perhaps it would be better to say that my interest in concerts is no longer strong enough to overcome the gravitational appeal of staying home, no matter what, but I didn’t say that. Instead, I told Ray that I had, in fact, ordered a few sets of tickets to upcoming events. Among them, a Mostly Mozart concert with no Mozart on the bill. I had told Ray about this concert when I bought the tickets, several months ago, and suggested that he and Fossil Darling might like to go, for I expected an evening of first-rate music-making. The orchestra would play Beethoven and Schubert, with an eminent pianist, and a remarkable conductor whom I hadn’t seen, but whose recordings I found tremendously impressive. I rattled on about all of this once again as we were chatting on the phone on Friday — long enough, apparently, for it to click in my mind that the concert would take place later the same day: that night

Let’s not go into why I have fallen out of daily contact with my calendar. Nor let us recall how many tickets have gone to waste because, by the time I remembered them, I was not feeling very well, or the weather was bad, or the pleasure of a quiet evening at home was especially alluring. I quickly called Kathleen to advise her that we had a date at Lincoln Center, and was almost disappointed to hear that she, although also surprised, was up for it. Almost disappointed.

We agreed to meet at the fountain on the plaza. Kathleen walked from her office, and texted me, while I was still in a taxi coming down Broadway, when she arrived. At first, I didn’t see her, and she didn’t see me, even though the plaza was not crowded, and several further texts were exchanged. Then all of a sudden there she was, walking up to me. Her idea of standing by the fountain had been to loiter in the arcade of the State Theatre, while I was where we belonged, in the arcade of Philharmonic Hall — neither of us, I suppose, where we said we’d be. As we went through the doors, a woman told me that I was the best-dressed man on the scene.

It is true that I was a vision in pale pink. I was wearing new trousers, trousers that were already a size too large. They were pink. (Ralph Lauren.) My jacket, too, was pink. (Tallia.) Unlike the trousers, though, it was much too large. “It’s a house,” I complained to Kathleen. “I feel like David Byrne in Stop Making Sense.” My shirt was a Gant plaid in pinks and pale greens, with one very hot-pink stripe — enough to convey a hint of what this getup might have been like. I was not wearing a tie. The jacket’s excess baggage aside, I felt very comfortable. I also felt somewhat shocked to find myself the only gentleman wearing a jacket at all. As usual, most of the men in the orchestra seats were my age or older, and had grown up with the same dress code. While I considered an open neck the furthest tribute to August’s relaxation, everyone else seemed to have forgotten that he was in Manhattan, not at a backyard barbecue. One particularly lame old gent was dressed like a sophomore, in T shirt, shorts, flip flops, and a cheap short-sleeved shirt worn open down the front. Thus did Rome fall. But all this déshabille only made me feel more comfortable. 

Anyway, there I was in Philharmonic Hall, just as I had been fifty-two years ago, for the first season of Mostly Mozart. I know that you’re supposed to call it Geffen Hall, but when that happened, and “Avery Fisher” was dropped, I decided to hell with the whole thing. To put it more politely, I adopted the position that it’s improper to name  important buildings after a living persons. If they had changed the name to Bernstein Hall, I’d have been the first to cheer, even though I was never a big fan of the conductor. (I haven’t forgotten that Zankel Hall, in the basement of Carnegie Hall, was to have been named in memory of the hall’s virtual curator, Judith Arron, until some moneybags interfered.)

Indoors, of course, all resemblance to the original Philharmonic Hall — or to any earthly concert hall outside of Japan — has been effaced. Nothing in the view from my seat in Row Q revived a vision of Boris Goldovsky leading a group of singers in performances of the great comic ensembles from the Mozart-Da Ponte operas. The only thing that gave that long-ago concert any palpable reality was my body’s quietly throbbing insistence that it had lived every minute of the intervening aeon. A somatic counterpart to Leporello’s mille torbidi pensieri. 

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