I'm writing because I want to share with you the story of an extraordinary concert by Joshua Bell and Jeremy Denk at the Wharton Center on the campus of Michigan State University in East Lansing, MI, on January 27.
Not only was the music beyond description, Joshua Bell's great good humor was plainly in evidence. (Having read a bit of Jeremy Denk's blog, I'm sure he would write a wonderfully witty, entertaining account of this day!)
Here is how it looked from East Lansing:
At about 4:00 on the afternoon of the concert, The Wharton sent out a TICKET HOLDER ALERT announcing that a winter storm in Lexington, KY, was causing delays and cancellations at the airport, so Joshua Bell would be driving to East Lansing! The concert would be delayed until about 8:00.
The Wharton must have been sold out and the crowd waited patiently until about 8:10, when Joshua Bell came on stage, to thunderous applause. He tuned up with his pianist, Jeremy Denk, and was about to start playing, then decided to say a few words. He walked over to the mike, tapped it, and discovered it was dead. He smiles and says, "Well, that is not the first thing that has gone wrong today!" He started then to describe how his day had gone and stopped himself, saying he would rather just play and fill us in after the intermission.
The first half featured Janacek's Sonata for Violin and Piano and Brahms' Violin Sonata No. 3 in D minor. If either of the artists was feeling exhausted after a stressful day, there was no hint of it in the music.
The intermission followed the Brahms, and then we were treated to the incredible story of their trek to East Lansing. Joshua Bell and Jeremy Denk sat in Lexington airport watching as one after another flight was cancelled due to a severe winter storm. Their flight was the last to be cancelled. They checked out flights from Cincinnati to East Lansing, found one they could possibly make in time, and ran out to the cab stand.
They asked the first cabby if he would be willing to drive them to Cincinnati to catch a plane. He said he would so they loaded their baggage in the cab. And then discovered that the battery was dead. The cabby apologized and suggested they ask the next one in line. They repeated their story to the next guy, who said, "you know, that first cabby is the best there is. I'll give him a jump start and then he can drive you on to Cincinnati." So that's what they did. (Probably that second cabby thought, heck, I'm not driving to Cincinnati in this weather--let the first guy take it! If he'd only known!)
They reached Cincinnati airport, only to discover that the storm had also reached Cincinnati and canceled their flight. Joshua Bell turned to the cabby and said, "so, what do you say to driving to East Lansing?" The cabby said sure, he could do that. And so he did, arriving at the Wharton at around 7:30, giving the musicians just enough time to change clothes and warm up their instruments before going on to perform.
The whole series of misfortunes was relayed with great humor and Bell ended his tale by introducing us to the cabby, who was sitting down in the first few rows. He also noted that if the tempo seemed a little faster than usual, it's because the meter was still running! What a great story.
The second half, they played Ysaye's Sonata No. 2 for Solo Violin followed by the wonderful Franck Violin Sonata, and even by an Encore, Massenet's Meditation. An absolutely thrilling evening from beginning to end, with a concert that could easily, reasonably, have been canceled. With huge thanks to Joshua Bell and Jeremy Denk!
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