Sunday, May 3, 2015

One Note is Almost Enough

One Hundred Best Days of My Life - Part II, Day 8

Diana Cohen Concert
May 2, 2015

Diana Cohen in The Celebration Series
Amir is the one who was on top of knowing the performance place and time, but it was Pouria and me who struck out to hear Diana Cohen last night at the Celebration Series of The School of Creative and Performing Arts.

The concert was mainly Bach, Beethoven and Brahms, but there was “Tre Pessi” by Gyorgy Kurtag as part of the programme.

Cohen explained in the first half that she had been going through all of the programmes of the Marlboro Music Festival (Marlboro, Vermont) and had come across an interesting note. There was a time when a new work was played, that it was done twice so that the audience could get acquainted with it. She said that was her intention last night. So Akiko Tominaga (the pianist) and she played the Tre Pessi in the middle of the first half of the programme, and then again in the second half.

... an image of Kurtag from rthe essay ...
“One note is almost enough,” Kurtag has been known to say.

Read more about him in the Central Europe Review, in the article entitled “The Mind is a Free Creature”.  Reading the interview will take about as long as it took to play the piece: three short vignettes, over before they had hardly started.

When the last note was finished, I whispered to Pouria, “The violin sounded like a flute , so breathy, so much wind.” He nodded.

The music was divine. I laugh now when I heard someone say about music or about food or about art, “That was the best ever.”

But yes. That is how the concert felt, only underlining the truth that there is nothing like the concert hall for sound.

As well, an irrelevant note, mostly about living in Calgary. Before we left for the concert, I remarked to Pouria that this audience will be well-dressed and casually dressed. Some of the patrons are music students who have been in their jeans and t-shirts all day and don’t bother to change, but just head out to the concert. Some of us are retired and this is the only place we go where we can get dressed up a bit. But I was interested in the  fasion statement of the couple sitting ahead of me. He had on his Flames hockey jersey and a white Stetson which he did not take off during the concert.  The hat was banded with feathers and a small ornamental whisk broom, it seemed, though I couldn't really tell its iconic purpose.

“How do you think she got him to this concert,” I whispered to Pouria.

But who am I to say?

It might have been him who got her to attend.



  1. Your link to the essay about Kurtag (The Mind is a Free Creature by Willson) led me to listen to "Duo Márta et György Kurtág, Bach / Kurtág" on youtube. What a privilege to sit by the window overlooking the Shuswap and listen to these musicians in their 8th decade of life. If you watch it, you will get to see exquisite close-ups of their hands and faces.

    I thought I would just take a quick listen, but 85 minutes later I am still wishing for "one more note". On youtube I am used to reading some odd things when my eyes stray to the comments section ... but those who love Kurtag appear to be a different breed of listeners making comments such as "the music ... makes me kneel down on the inside" and "interesting, intriguing and attractive music ... for those who love the unusual".

    I cannot fathom growing up in a place and time where the music of some composers was banned. In these times of ease of access to written, visual and auditory information, I feel blessed.

  2. Loving the unusual is a good phrase to describe the short piece of Kurtag's that we heard at the concert. A billiant move by Cohen to have us listen to it twice and to give some background on the piece. A casual listener might have thought they were listening to a new violin student practising. So it was good to hear it twice and to think about the deep depression that Kurtag felt at one time in his life, as well as the repressive regime he grew up in. I forget how much we are influence by our cultural beginnings.