#5: Final Blog Post–Conclusion of the Festival, Beethoven, and Bewilderment

Unusually somber light on the last day

Unusually somber light on the last day

The Wrong Side of Bed

One of my favorite books, set here in Ticino--the weather today was fitting too

One of my favorite books, set here in Ticino–the weather today was apt too

I woke up to this somber, half-luminous scene—the light over the lake was almost primordial, and then I suddenly remembered a book I had read years ago by Max Frisch. It was a reflection of my mood, which did not want the end of this festival of music in paradise. My hotel, after all, is in the aptly-named part of town called Paradiso. A taxi conveyed me to the hall and cost a fortune. I noted that people here drive like maniacs. It’s a small town. Why go so fast?

Max Frisch’s “Man in the Holocene” was a story of fate, acceptance of mortality, and one man’s struggle against nature in solitude. Incessant rains and waiting for the instability and landslide in the valley had the unsettled mood of uncertain doom. It was set in Ticino, the region which cradles Lugano. That suddenly struck me as I looked out the window. Sometimes, artists trying to define their work’s role in the world are also in their own Holocene.

Popularity Contests

The hall had lots of media and hoopla and self-important people with ridiculous demeanors. I found it all tiring and insufferable, just like the boring dead Swiss audiences who wouldn’t know the difference between their own funerals and trying to clap for a concert. Nobody here can compare to the enthusiasm, passion, and sincere excitement for the love of music from American or Dutch audiences, as one example. I downed an espresso and joined my teacher for the concert.

Everybody was excited to look important, just like at high school prom

Everybody was excited to look important, just like at a high school prom

An Incredible Beethoven First

Martha Argerich gave one of the most beautiful, miraculously fresh, and daring performances of the Beethoven First Concerto. She eclipsed the orchestra, which played in a soporific and stodgy monochrome the entire evening–only slightly better when they accompanied her. The players were too comfortable in their seats and did a run-of-the-mill reading of the music at hand. What a crime! Argerich, on the other hand, was a balance of instinct, perfection of craft, and intellect, mixed with delicacy, reflection, and fullest speaking range.

A miraculous performance of Beethoven First from Martha Argerich

A miraculous performance of Beethoven First from Martha Argerich

Backstage Undesirables

Backstage was a crush of people trying to meet the legend, and as they were waiting in line, many people tried to outdo each other with how and why they needed to meet her. It reminded me of a middle school popularity contest. I wanted to get away. Amazing how some people behave in the midst of a star—they want to bask in the light, and do not want to waste their breath to be interested in anybody else…it was most amusing to observe.

After the performance

After the performance

Last Dinner of the Summer with the Artist

Afterwards a few of us along with the performer went as we had every evening to a modest Italian restaurant up the mountain for an extended dinner that lasted until 3am as always. It was a mix of people of great warmth and charm, and conversely disinterested important people. The kindest, shyest, and most interesting of all was Martha herself, because she was so quiet. The quieter one is, the more one is noticed by her. I was amused when at one point I quietly introduced myself to some gentleman as “Zsolt” and Martha came over and corrected me: “You are Zoltán.”

I was amazed at how we had so much to say about the loneliness of the traveling performing artist’s life, and the need for chamber music with one’s friends.

This week is one I cannot possibly forget. It was once-in-a-lifetime enjoyment, beauty, and music. I was surrounded by some of my closest friends from around the world and shared with gratitude the most unbelievable experiences. I was up close behind the scenes to see the inner workings of the great artists and came to know them as fascinating human beings rather than hagiographic legends. The learning in a period of one week, musically and humanly, is beyond quantifiable measure. I am deeply grateful to all those who made this possible for me, and to my many friends who were generous to me from the heart.

Early dawn for a farewell

Early dawn for a farewell

13 comments


  • Margaret Evans

    Zsolt,
    Thank you for your beautiful writing which brought us all into the very heart of this marvelous experience. Such sensitivity of perception and observance, as well as discretion (an all too rare quality) . . . you are truly gifted.
    Hugs, and wishes for a safe trip home!
    ~Margaret

    July 04, 2013
    • Zsolt

      Thanks so much for he beautiful feedback, Margaret–sending all my best wishes and hope your summer is going well!

      July 25, 2013
  • Marc

    Dearest Z- I am so happy that you had this great experience and look fwd to your return!!!

    XXO MG

    July 04, 2013
    • Zsolt

      Thanks so much for his feedback, Marc! Hopefully this time when I get back to Cleveland, I’ll actually get to see you. All my best for now!

      July 25, 2013
  • Alan

    excellent!!

    July 04, 2013
    • Zsolt

      Thank you so much for the feedback, Alan!

      July 25, 2013
  • Margreet

    Loved reading your blog. I use to follow the Martha Argerich projects every year from close by and I liked to receive more insight in the backstages of the festival. I hope you will continue writing about music. Do you have a newsletter or do you send out a link to aficionados when you update your blog? Thanks! Margreet, Lugano, Switzerland

    August 26, 2013
  • Ola

    ohh..i’m so jealous… 😛 i so much wish i could be there, it must have been an amazing experience. if you don’t mind, how much did that all cost?

    September 07, 2013
    • Zsolt

      By cost, do you mean the tickets to hear the concerts?

      September 07, 2013
  • Donald Wright

    What a thrilling set of articles, so beautifully written and documented with photographs of such artistry! The accounts of the backstage and offstage adventures had me musically salivating and hungering for more. And I experienced stage fright by proxy as I read of the anticipation of page-turning for such masters!

    December 01, 2013
    • Zsolt

      Thanks for reading, Donald, and for the great feedback! I can tell some more stories to you privately by email or facebook message about that summer! All best wishes.

      December 01, 2013
  • Donald Wright

    Dear Zsolt, What an incredibly kind reply! I’ve now read all of your blog entries, and I’m trying to decide which one caused me to salivate more–those gorgeous photos from your window in a villa in the Loire valley? The 10-foot Fazioli in Klaus’s home (not to mention the Ferrari)? Dinner with MA and not only being on a first-name basis with her, but even already having been accorded a nickname? Living downstairs from Daniil Trifonov? I can’t decide. The only antidote will be, I believe, to hear and see more! And to that end, I shall send you a private FB note with my email address, hoping that you have the time to reply.

    You are a “triple threat”–pianist, superb writer, and brilliant photographer. But I’d better stop before I sound excessively complimentary!

    –Don W.

    December 04, 2013
    • Zsolt

      I’m glad you enjoyed these so enthusiastically! I had a lot of fun with writing them and doing the photos–it is a very different activity from being at the piano, which can be refreshing. Check your fb messages for my reply!

      December 05, 2013

Leave a comment


Name*

Email(will not be published)*

Website

Your comment*

Submit Comment

© Copyright 2017 Zsolt Bognar