If I could be called unusual for one thing it is the fact that while growing up in the US in the 60s and 70s I never bought a single recording of rock ‘n roll. Don’t get me wrong, I did like to listen to much of this music, but it wasn’t interesting or compelling enough for me to pay for it. Then, in my early 20s I bit the bullet and bought my first album. But it was not anything popular, it was The Best of Bach, or something like that. I have never been a musician. I don’t know how exactly I became enamored with classical music, but that is what happened. Throughout my adult life I bought many recordings and went to many, many concerts. What I can say for sure is that my love for classical music was part of my overall appreciation for Western civilization. The art, architecture, literature, legal systems etc.that made up the warp and woof of the civilization born of Athens, Rome, and the forests of Germany. The modern, and more so the post-modern, attacks on Western civilization have been distressing. Back in the day, I was appalled by Jesse Jackson marching around Stanford chanting “Hey hey, ho ho, Western Civ has got to go.”
This week I went to a concert for the first time in several years. The fact is that my young(er) wife is rock ‘n roll. And now my teenage daughter is more hip hop, or whatever current pop music is called, than rock ‘n roll. In any case, even my solo classical music outings became nonexistent until this concert.
The venue on a rainy and cool Friday evening was La Seine Musicale, a music and performing arts center located on Île Seguin, an island on the Seine river in the western suburbs of Paris. During most of the twentieth century, Île Seguin was home to a Renault car factory, covering virtually the whole island. The factory closed in 1992 and in 2005 all the buildings were demolished. The new music center opened in the spring of 2017. Among the first artists to play there was Bob Dylan. The overall design of the project was in the hands of the architect Jean Nouvel, but he did not design the modernist building. His work is not to my taste, it is only on an island totally wiped clean of all the existing buildings could Nouvel create something that did not clash with the surroundings. However, it is a great site that is accessible by pedestrian bridges.The musical auditorium itself was wonderful. Every place seemed to have a perfect sightline and the seats were ample and comfortable.
The primary piece on the program was the Violin Concerto by Tchaikovsky, played by the young maestro Daniel Lozakovich. I had an interesting view from behind the orchestra. To see the physical motions of the musicians working to such precision and harmony to create such beauty added to my appreciation that evening for my beloved Western culture. From that rear viewpoint the sound of individual instruments was clear, especially the horns that were directly in front of me. They even tended to obscure the soloist in a way that made this live performance different from the many times I had heard it in recordings (my old record of it had the great David Oistrakh as the soloist). The Tchaikovsky violin concerto is also the centerpiece to the plot and sound track of the wonderful French film from 2009 Le Concert that is funny, moving, and shows Russians as human beings. The lovely Melanie Laurent does a credible job as the soloist.
My dear western civilization seems to be going down the tubes. Now the Western values are primarily hypocrisy and cynicism such that we would destroy Ukraine just to harm Russia. Western civilization has been captured by evil forces that would be better to be defeated today. However, there was a bright spot to the evening that is for me a tiny ray of hope. Estonia, like the other Balitic countries, has been exuberant in their hate for Russians and everything Russian. The orchestra that evening was the Estonian National Symphony Orchestra. And yet they played Tchaikovsky!