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Emily Grossman


October 2, 2013 at 8:23 PM

"This is the right time, and this is the right thing." – Sir Thomas Moore

The Brahms second piano concerto showed up in my Anchorage Symphony folder a few weeks ago in need of attention; we would be rounding out the program with it, alongside Symphonie Fantastique. Methodically, I checked the tempo markings and dutifully began counting and drilling the tricky sections. As the days passed and the performance date approached, I found myself slightly puzzled that this particular Brahms had not swept me off my feet yet. I didn't get it: Brahms usually is so deep and passionate, and these dotted rhythms in the last movement are just plain... silly. I'm disappointed, Brahms. But the themes and developments were not technically demanding, and I tucked them into my fingers in a tidy, orderly fashion, ready for the rehearsals.

Actually, I was completely detached all the way up until the pianist showed up. Most of my thoughts up until that point had been preoccupied with key changes, counting, and keeping my eye on the conductor. (Heaven forbid you fail to heed the conductor.) In any typical rehearsal, a hardworking violinist has plenty of mental topics to tend to, and "musical enrapture" gets shoved into the file cabinet, between "muses" and "magic." In fact, I'd been so utterly preoccupied with making music that I didn't even hear what was going on around me--that is, until the pianist came to rehearsal.

The finest recording cannot capture that living, breathing sound that occurs on the stage. Hearing the music being performed for the first time blindsided me with a sudden surge of emotion, and for a moment, I found it difficult to see the notes on the page. Briefly, I struggled to shut the floodgate of response that welled up at the summoning of Brahms. And then it occurred to me: this is it. This is the moment I live for, joining with others in creating an expression of deepest personal meaning, completely unspoiled by the past or the future. And if the music makes me cry, then so be it. It is emotion, and it is real, and I musn't be afraid of it, but embrace it fully and express it. Music tells my story, and the grief and sorrow that weave in and out of the joy and humor are just part of the universal expressions of mankind. Brahms would not be Brahms without it. (Thankfully, those silly dotted rhythms in the finale became a much needed happy ending, a bright conclusion for a passionate concerto.)

The leaves lingered green at length this fall, waiting for the frost to come and claim them. At last, the Artist took a brush to them, and they caught fire with a blaze of color. The concert is now a memory, but today's a perfect moment in and of itself. Fall found its audience awaiting with feasting eyes; I'm the wealthiest girl alive, surrounded by pots of gold that overflow and twirl their treasures at my feet like confetti. The past may be full of rain, and the future harbingers snow, but today is priceless. I'm mindful to take note.

And now, to live fully in each moment, to create the perfect expression at the perfect time for a ripened audience--this is the aim of every artist.

From Randy Walton
Posted on October 2, 2013 at 10:03 PM
You must be related to Henry David Thoreau.

Your pictures of nature and music, painted with keyboard strokes, are extraordinary.

From Christian Lesniak
Posted on October 3, 2013 at 3:43 AM
Love that movement! So many great themes, and the register and timbres of the piano set against the orchestra backing, and then reversed, are great. The mood is so mercurial, sometimes flitting about very lightly, then stopping to land on a flower, then sometimes getting bit and chewed-up and spit out, and then going on its way again in triumph. I guess what I'm saying is that this movement is like some sort of Monarch Butterfly?
From Emily Grossman
Posted on October 3, 2013 at 4:20 AM
Randy, you're so kind! Nature is so inspiring, though, isn't it?

Christian, I can totally see what your saying--love it! I was picturing a wandering traveler, exactly like the monarch you described. Beautiful!

From Laurie Niles
Posted on October 3, 2013 at 4:24 AM
I love these vistas!
From Francesca Rizzardi
Posted on October 3, 2013 at 5:20 AM
Stunning, Emily. Both visually and verbally.

Our Fall actually started coming early this year.
Then it was aborted by the late arrival of our usual Indian Summer.

From Tom Holzman
Posted on October 3, 2013 at 1:28 PM
What Francesca said. Your blogs and photos somehow put into words and visuals what most of us cannot. Thank you for being a v.commer.
From Christian Vachon
Posted on October 3, 2013 at 2:11 PM
Emily, you are so wonderfully eloquent and artistic in the best sense of the word! And, those photos are just stunning!


From Emily Grossman
Posted on October 3, 2013 at 6:14 PM
Thank you all for reading and sharing my experience with me!
From marjory lange
Posted on October 3, 2013 at 6:39 PM
Love your blog, as always.

Curiosity: what does "Soldotna" mean?

From Laurie Niles
Posted on October 3, 2013 at 9:59 PM
I just realized there's gold at the end of your rainbow there in the last picture. Takes me a while, but I get things eventually!
From Emily Grossman
Posted on October 3, 2013 at 9:56 PM
"Soldat" is Russian for soldier, so it's some kind of derivative of that word, most likely. You can still see some of the Russian influence around the peninsula today, and the oldest buildings were established by the Russian Orthodox and Native Alaskan community. Kenai, our neighboring town, boasts the oldest Russian Orthodox church in the state, whose materials were provided by the synod in St. Petersburg.

(My friend, Scott Moon, took this photo, and you should check out his other work! Scott Moon Photography)

From Emily Grossman
Posted on October 3, 2013 at 10:19 PM
You caught it, Laurie:)
From Karen Rile
Posted on October 3, 2013 at 11:50 PM
Terrific. Just echoing all the other praise for your writing and your photography.
From marjory lange
Posted on October 4, 2013 at 1:27 PM
Emily, that picture of Scott's is amazing; didn't realize at first it was photo, not painting.

The LIGHT you have in AK (when you have any, of course) is truly amazing.

I think your studio needs a higher ceiling--and a large picture window...

From Christina C.
Posted on October 4, 2013 at 3:36 PM
Love love *LOVE* Brahms 2nd piano concerto! (the 1st is quite lovely too) And when I think about it, you're absolutely right, the last movement is probably my least favorite part of it but given the intensity & beauty of the 3 movements that come before it, it actually works.

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