Last night I had the honor of performing in a concert in memory of Patricia Zander, my teacher, who died this summer. (You can read some of my thoughts about her in an earlier post - just scroll down a ways). It was wonderful to see so many people - family, friends, her colleagues and her students - who came to celebrate the contribution she made to our lives while here on Earth.
There were remarks by her daughter, Jessica, as well as her ex-husband (but still friend) the conductor Ben Zander, her friend Alan Fletcher, and Neil Rudenstine (both her friend and her ex-brother-in-law - his wife is Ben's sister). Many others could no doubt have shared treasured experiences, myself included - I managed to speak a few words about what I had learned from PZ before playing a Schubert Impromptu. The most memorable line from the speakers was from Ben, who gave an example of PZ's directness, including when she was being critical: he remembered an occasion after a performance he had conducted of the Dvorak "New World" Symphony when she came backstage afterward and said to him, "Well, THAT was a step backward." This was only tolerable, I'm sure, because with Patricia these withering criticisms were accompanied and balanced out by sincere heartfelt love and affection and caring. She was quite an example to all of us.
I've heard it said that it is more important to attend funerals than weddings, because it makes us think about how we'd like to live our lives, with whatever limited time we've got. Yesterday was certainly not a funeral - PZ wouldn't have wanted any of us crying over her and probably was slightly annoyed, looking down at us seeing us making such a fuss over her. But it was good to think about a life very very well-lived, and in that sense Patricia can continue to live among us and influence us.
My part of the program was to perform a few minutes of Schubert; the other performances were all wonderful: Masuko Ushioda playing a movement of a Bach Partita, Lisa Saffer and Judy Gordon doing Schubert's "Seligkeit," four great NEC Faculty members (Don Weilerstein, Lucy Chapman, Kim Kashkashian, and Paul Katz) playing the Beethoven "Heiliger Dankgesang"). The concert concluded with the piano on the stage of Jordan Hall sitting symbolically unoccupied, while a CD was played of Patricia Zander and Yo-yo Ma playing Kreisler's "Liebesleid" - it was as if the music were being broadcast from heaven.
The nicest compliment paid to me was from my wife (that's not always the case!) - she said that hearing me and then immediately hearing PZ's playing right afterward (on the CD) made it clear that I had learned from her.
I'm not sure what PZ would have thought of the concert I played last Thursday evening in the National Concert Hall in Dublin, Ireland. As previously noted (in the blog post below this one) I participated in a performance of 8 pianos somehow playing at the same time. I am happy to report that the performance was a huge success - we had a lot of fun (a bunch of practice-a-holic competition winners who got to spend time with other pianists!!) and the audience was on their feet as soon as we finished playing (and that was to applaud, not just to leave). I also learned some new typically Irish phrases - well, actually I already knew to say, "that was good craic" (meaning, basically, we had a good time) and now I'm told it's also Irish to say, "that was great gas." Some have told me it's a bit old-fashioned to say that, but if you go to Ireland try it out and see what happens. My friend Ann Fuller has said she expects me to compile a lexicon of Irish usage (of English - I could never begin to sort out Irish Gaelic!). If someone tells you they'll "collect you at half four" that means they'll pick you up at 4:30. If you are really tired, you might tell someone, "I'm only wrecked!". Or "knackered", or "banjaxed." Words like "grand," "cute," and "bold" have slightly different usage in Ireland than in ths US, and as in the UK, the word "math" is plural ("maths") but "sports" becomes "sport."
Well, in case you've actually kept reading through all that trivia - my next musical project is a concert benefiting breast cancer care and research at the end of the month. More on that later.