Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Two works of lyrical modernity

This evening I attended a concert at Walt Disney Hall featuring LA Philharmonic players performing the String Quartets Nos. 10-12 by Shostakovich. The program notes describe these pieces as works of "philosophical lyricism". I agree completely. These quartets combine a remarkably vibrant lyricism shot through with a sense of fracture and alienation that is quintessentially modernist in spirit. Quartet No. 10 was written in 1964 - just 40 years ago.

When I sat down in my seat I noticed an older man sitting two seats to my right in the row in front of me. He looked rather familiar and as I overheard bits and pieces of his conversation I suddenly realized that he was Frank Gehry, the architect who designed Walt Disney Hall. I'm not one to eavesdrop on other conversations but I couldn't resist catching the little stories he was telling to the other couple in his party - such as being brought to tears on first hearing the wonderful acoustics in Disney Hall and the rather long struggle to bring the building to fruition.

When we broke into intermission, the woman next to me leaned over to Mr. Gehry and said something - presumably a compliment of some sorts. I leaned over as well and congratulated him creating such a beautiful concert hall. Like the Shostakovich quartets, Disney Hall is marvelously "lyrical" but in an unconventional sense.

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