Today I drove to Fort Worth for a classical concert. Texas Christian University sponsors an annual chamber music festival called MIMIR. A set of budding musicians come to the festival to learn how to be better players, and the music professors who train them give a series of chamber music concerts as part of the event.
I arrived in Fort Worth in good order, and ate a roast beef sandwich and potato chips at a Quizno's.Then I walked in Fort Worth's excellent botanic garden. The fierce heat kept crowd turnout low, while the bright sun brought out lots of butterflies.
The indoor tropical plant collection in the conservatory delighted me. I also worked on learning to use my new cheap Chinese video camera. I bought this at Big Lots because I liked the idea of playing with low-fidelity images, and I liked also that the AVI exports work well in Windows Movie Maker. Yesterday I found the images I took while walking did not come out well, which educated me that one of the myriad shortcuts taken by the manufacturer was the lack of effective image stabilization. Today I focused on keeping the camera stationary. The little waterfall in the indoor conservatory came out beautifully, with a kind of faded, bygone days look. Although a reasoned argument may be made that the camera barely exceeds the video function on my point-and-shoot, I foresee great fun for the things I do with this camera.
I drove over to TCU's performance hall for the concert, and picked up my ticket at 'will call'. I arrived just before time for the performance to begin. I was pleased to see that hundreds of people had turned out for the 3 p.m. chamber concert.
The first piece was Arvo Part's "Fratres for String Quartet", played by:
Nathan Cole, a violinist with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra;
Stephen Rose, a violinist with the Cleveland Symphony Orchestra;
Kirsten Docter, a viola player with the Cavini String Quartet; and
Brant Taylor, a cellist with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
I am very fond of the work of Arvo Part and the "holy minimalist" composers. These works stand with one foot in medieval music and one foot in the future. The performance of it was quite good, and I was delighted to get to see a Part piece in concert. True to the genre,the piece constructs tones of melody around a triad, and features a lot of repetition in a meditative, ambient way. It made me long for a time when I could hear an entire long concert of this type of music.
The second piece was Dmitri Shostakovich's "String Quartet number 2 in A major, Op. 68". For this piece Stephen Rose departed the stage and was replaced by TCU professor Curt Thompson. Shostakovich's work always has a quality about it we would today call "meta"--sections of his pieces which sound very traditional are done almost by way of parody, and this 1944 piece manages to be bracing, uplifting and yet deeply tinged with despair. I will not play this year's fashionable game of guessing where his true feelings and sympathies lay in Russia, but instead will say that the quartet did a wonderful job with drawing out the nuance in the piece.
The third piece was Felix Mendelsohn's "Piano Quartet in B Minor, Op. 3". The players for this one were Stephen Rose, Kirsten Docter, Brant Taylor and concert pianist John Novacek. Mendelsohn wrote this piece at age 16 and dedicated it to an appreciative Goethe. In the first movement, Mr. Novacek made some pacing choices which were not stereotypic and perhaps not ideal. The second and third movements were delightful light bits of fun, while the fourth movement featured amazing piano work
coordinated with lively and vigorous strings. The fourth section is (as with early Mendelsohn in general, to my limited understanding) practically a Beethoven homage. The quartet had the entire audience on its feet, as they took was might have been dismissed as a "safe" selection and gave it real life. I love 3 p.m. Sunday matinee concerts.
I was delighted when Mr. Novacek, Brant Taylor and Stephen Rose returned for an encore performance. They did a new ragtime piece by Mr. Novacek. Ragtime offers two dangers--that it will be done merely as "flight of the bumblebee"-esque gymnastic theatrics, or that it will be done with "The Sting' quaintness. This brisk, uptempo but melodic piece suffered from neither defect, but was like a perfect gingerbread man after a fine meal.
I stopped at a Staples and picked up some noise canceling headphones for the next time I traveled, and at a Dollar Tree to pick up a one-dollar mini-tripod for the new camera.
I drove home and went for a walk around Glendover Pond, where I saw that many western kingbirds have taken over a tree I consider a scissortail flycatcher tree. They were lovely to look at,but more importantly I now think that the fledglings I saw recently were kingbirds and not scissortail flycatchers. I had recognized the possibility before, but now I elevate it to "working theory". I loved watching the robins forage in a small wooded area. A tiny bunny in our front yard won me over.
My wife had opted out of the concert so that she could do some professional development workand also relax. She kindly cooked us pork loin,Yukon gold potatoes and carrots, which tasted very good.
This was an insomnia weekend, but today turned out very well indeed.