Mar 7, 2007

Metro Goldywn Mahler

This title I didn't make up myself. I think it was concocted by Guillermo Cabrera Infante, the late Cuban writer, and it serves a double purpose in this post.

1. Carnegie Hall. Yesterday. The fantastic Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra under the astounding baton of Riccardo Chailly, played Mahler's Fifth Symphony, which is a crazy, cinematic work. Every Hollywood composer worth his salt has borrowed from Mahler, who was writing movie music long before the movies happened. Hence the title of this post.

2. Bruce Willis was in attendance at yesterday's concert. He sat across the aisle from me in the second row. He was accompanied by several conspicuous people, such as a malnourished, morose blonde, a guy with extremely long hair and another couple. Bruce looked very dapper in a beautiful, extremely expensive suit. His pate shone like the pate of a movie star. His presence created a stir, even in the temple of high art that is Carnegie Hall. However, this being New York, people just gaped as opposed to swarming and pestering. Still, in the intermission, two young members of the orchestra came down to ask Mr. Willis for autographs and pictures and he obliged. I wanted to tell him he should be asking them for an autograph, but I pretended not to care, like a good citizen of this jaded town.

There is no escaping celebrity. There is no escaping the weird aura of fame. (How I have managed to escape it all these years remains a mystery). I have to say, the presence of Willis at the concert was distracting. I berated myself for looking like a nerd from the Midwest instead of wearing New York black. In the powder room I fixed my hair and applied extra special lipstick. I happened to walk by Mr. Willis a couple of times and felt like asking him "wasn't that great"? "Aime vous Mahler"? But I didn't. I'm way too cool for school, despite my unfortunate choice of outfit.

Bruce seemed to enjoy the concert and stood up for the thunderous ovation at the end. One of his companions, a male, chewed gum for the duration of the proceedings. The Fifth is 75 minutes long.

Now, Mahler rocks. He is insane. He can also be devastatingly beautiful, as anybody who has ever heard the Adagietto (the music of Death in Venice) knows. I had never sat in the second row before at Carnegie Hall and it was a completely different experience from the nosebleed section where I'm usually perched. I could see the expresions in the musicians' faces and you can spend the entire concert fixating on how they react as they play. Also Maestro Chailly is warm and expressive and it was amazing to see how he communicated with the orchestra. But the sound is also very different from up close. I could hear the different sections, particularly the strings, very distinctly. And the percussion, which in this symphony is huge, was super loud, unbelievable.

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