Part 5: Conclusion of the Festival, Beethoven, and Bewilderment
The Wrong Side of Bed
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.