It was a beautiful day for a ball game, but first things first. At about noon I walked to Symphony Hall from the studio apartment I’m renting on Newbury Street to meet Steve Rosenfeld and his son, Matthew, for lunch at the Symphony Cafe. I hadn’t seen Matthew since he was in high school. That was about thirty years ago. After lunch they were going to hear the BSO play the Mahler Ninth Symphony on the Friday matinee and then in the evening go to a Red Sox game.
Going first to the stage door entrance because I wanted to drop my violin off in the dressing room, I was in for a pleasant surprise. Maestro Keith Lockhart, my old boss from our Utah Symphony days, who is probably better known in these parts as the conductor of the Boston Pops for the past twenty-plus years, was walking down the street at the same time. I hadn’t seen Keith for quite a while and we quickly caught up on children, careers, and future plans. Very nice to see him again.
I’d never been to the Symphony Cafe before. Part of the Symphony Hall complex, it’s an elegant buffet, perfect for a pre-concert meal. There were salads, stuffed sole, veggies, nice desserts, and most importantly for a matinee concert, good coffee. I first met Steve, a lawyer, long ago in 1979 while I was chair of the BSO orchestra committee and he was hired to represent the musicians to resolve a dispute with management. We later teamed up on very successful contract negotiations and along the way Steve became a real music lover, even taking up the clarinet for a time.
Steve found me at the cafe, and not having much time before the concert he got right to the nitty gritty. He had read my blog about the Mahler Symphony No. 9 and he was concerned. I assured him that the vast majority of musicians in the orchestra felt it was a true masterpiece and that he had nothing to fear. I expressed my personal view that I had burned out on Mahlerian excess some years ago and found parts of the Ninth very tedious. Steve, always a probing questioner, asked me what composers hadn’t I been burned out on, and my immediate answer was Mozart. Why was that? he asked. My response was that every time I play a composition by Mozart, even one that I’ve done a hundred times, I feel a new window is opening up to some greater awareness of humanity. His music is always fresh. For me, with Mahler it’s all about how he feels and how he perceives a world I’m not familiar with and am not particularly attracted to. It’s also a world that he revisits time and time again throughout his work. With Mozart, whether it’s a divertimento or a symphony or a concerto, his insight goes far beyond himself. His music portrays the kaleidoscopic variety of human sentiment on a human scale. It portrays all of us, not just him. Not bigger than life. Just life.
After Steve finished his work for the BSO musicians, he became chief of staff for Michael Dukakis and even later became heavily involved in health care law. Most recently, he founded an incredible organization called Health Law Advocates, a consortium of lawyers who advocate for health care justice by providing pro bono representation to poor residents of Massachusetts.
The matinee went very well, as usual. I was pleased to hear Steve report that he especially enjoyed the last movement Adagio. Including our upcoming tour, I think we have ten Mahler Ninths on the docket. By the time we finish the run, I should have all the notes well under my fingers.
After the concert, I went back to the apartment for a little R&R, and also to practice for my concert on Long Island this weekend. Then, with a rare free evening, I decided to go to Fenway Park for the Red Sox game. I got a great seat from a scalper sitting behind and somewhat above home plate. I got to see Big Papi sizzle a long double off the center field wall that got the crowd chanting “Let’s Go, Red Sawx.” I had a foot long hot dog and a beer. Even though I’m a Yankee fan, it was nice seeing the home team prevail. It was the ninth game of the season, so it wasn’t do-or-die for the playoffs. The world would not have ended in a cataclysm if the Sox had lost. If Mozart had been free I would have asked him to join me and I’m confident he would have had a great time and made some lewd jokes about the foot long. I would have had second thoughts inviting Mahler.
Here’s a heads-up. Today I created links to just about all the writing I’ve published. Just go to the Writing page and click on whatever tickles your fancy.