The conductor stands still. A hundred people clear their throats and cough quietly into their collars as if to unobtrusively get your attention. This invariably happens between movements when convention dictates that thou shalt not clap. What happens, then, instead of the otherwise natural applause, is a collective, mass fidget. As if to say, “We want to clap, but we know it’s impolite.” I am more than willing to endure these brief moments of repressed applause for the sake of the prevailing moments of musical magic made possible by the mind-blowing manual dexterity and fervent devotion to practice and to the classical musical tradition of pianists who dare to take on Rachmaninoff and succeed.
I would have to say that watching a virtuosic performance of Rachmaninoff’s piano concerto in no other locale than the Viennese Concerthouse (in German that’s the Wiener Konzerthaus) for a paltry 13 euros has been one of the high points of my central European adventure (not that there have really been any low points, though, I guess, so really more of a higher point than the others).
Although no sooner have I said it than I recall a misadventure from earlier today–my failed attempt to find the section of famous classical composers’ graves among the nearly 330,000 graves and 3 million interments at Vienna’s Zentralfriedhof. Well, at least the misadventure wasn’t as bad as it could have been. At least there was no zombie attack; I’d have been far outnumbered and surrounded to boot.
Tomorrow I’m off to Bratislava. I’m expecting it to feel quite a bit different than Vienna.