At the Curtis Institute

When he first introduced himself, one of our elders had notes on his tie and I asked him if he did music. Violin, was the reply. Things happened, chats were had, views and questions, and so he took us down to the Curtis Institute last night for one of the free student concerts.

Downtown Philadelphia is a great place just to look at after dark, and to have some activity there is grand. The Curtis is paneled, old, and fine. The hall was the Field, and of no great size but mighty acoustics. The instruments sound to good advantage, from what I can tell—and one day I hope I can report on the organ there nestled.

They did very little imponderable, did mostly musical things (the Chopin Barcarolle was my favorite). If you need some cultural cheer, you could visit the Curtis where some very hard-working people are playing with no little success. I was impressed. They were serious, they were trying with visible earnestness and they were succeeding in difficult things. I enjoyed just watching them perform with serious intent: never mind the music. And they had an enthusiastic audience of all ages, which I found unusual.

But the music was good too. After the Schumann French horn and piano arrangement we got the 4th of Mozart’s Horn concertos, piano and horn. This horn chap was a bit idiosyncratic about the timing in the interests, I gathered, of breathing, but he gave us a good concerto. The pianist had a mop of golden curls and an air of supreme confidence, and I had to laugh (silently, but considerably) at the aplomb with which he carried himself, what with the hair. Was this what it was like in the 19th Century? I am glad to have seen the day in which he played the piano, and since he’s just starting out, no doubt I’ll see him again. He even availed himself of the services of a page turner even when there was no need for one, and she, wonderful page turner that she was, somehow carried it off without becoming tangled in his egregious hair. And let him be entitled to his hair considering how well he plays. We had two solo pianists and another duet, piano and violin—which violin, I was told by a violinist, was handled flawlessly.

I understand it is very competitive, the Curtis. No doubt. Quality was on display. I appreciated as much as the music the intense concentration, the serious effort, the visible struggle at the piano, the clarity and competence, the earnest desire to do well. They were not aloof, or affected that I could tell from the second row. Not cold about it, and not weary or unenthusiastic. I loved it.


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