A Glorious Day

Update: A letter arrived today from an examiner at the state Department of Banking indicating that she had received my letter and will be making an inquiry on my behalf.

I went to NYC on Saturday to listen to my dear friend Leslie Spotz perform works of Chopin in honor of his two hundredth birthday celebration. Except for the train ride to the city, which was packed and featured three drunken young women in the front of the car where I was sitting, the day was beyond compare.

Tomorrow’s blog will describe my visit to the Morgan library to view the Jane Austen exhibition, but today I devote to Leslie and her virtuoso performance. She combined expressive imagination, impeccable precision, and a command of her material. Her talent and brilliance created a performance that left me wishing for oh, so much more.

Leslie performed In Celebration of Chopin’s Bicentennial under the auspices of the Leschetizky Association at a venue in the West Village. I learned from the program that she is the most recent in a musical apostolic succession. The association is named for Theodor Leschetizky, who taught in his native Poland, in Vienna, and in Russia, where he gave instruction to royalty. Among his pupils was Mieczyslaw Horszowski, who was Leslie’s teacher at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia. She had recently graduated when we met. With that connection, Leslie joined illustrious company, as one of Leschetizky’s teachers was Carl Czerny. I can still see the yellow-covered sheet music of piano exercises with “Czerny” in big black letters on the front. One of Czerny’s teachers was none other than Ludwig van Beethoven. Extending the musical ties, Leslie acknowledged what a privilege it was to be performing on the Steinway concert grand that had been belonged to Leschetizky.

I fell in love with Leslie’s playing years ago when she knocked on the door of my apartment on Forty-Seventh Street in West Philadelphia. She lived next door and explained that she was a classical pianist. She hoped her practicing wouldn’t bother me. I had already heard her, and I didn’t consider her playing as anything that could remotely be called practicing. I felt I was getting full musical performances with an occasional repetition. Whenever I needed inspiration in warm weather, I’d open my windows. It all sounded wonderful. My mother fell in love with the playing, too, and sat, mesmerized, at the table in my tiny kitchen for an entire afternoon. I had no idea until I heard Leslie on Saturday how much she’d improved in technique and in emotion and most of all in confidence.

My favorite piece in Saturday’s concert was “Mazurka in C major, Op. 24, No. 2.” The mazurkas are dances, and according to the program notes, Chopin used his dances to recreate images of his Polish homeland, which he had left just before a protracted conflict with Russia broke out.

Leslie demonstrated such passion and artistry and command that I cried when she was done. I glanced around, and the beautiful young woman next to me was crying, too. I found out after the concert that she was Leslie’s daughter, whom I had last seen as a little girl at my wedding in 2004!

As usual, Leslie transported me into other worlds – in this case the enchanted forests and glens of rural Poland during the nineteenth century. Each time I thought she had reached the epitome of lyricism – or speed – or depth – she soared.

During the second part of the program Leslie played four gorgeous pieces. She said that after she had put the program together she discovered that the first three had a thematic connection, so she played them through without a break. Sure enough, even my untrained ear could hear echoes threading their way through “Nocturne in C minor, Op. 48 No. 1,” “Ballade No. 3 in A flat major, Op. 47,” and “Fantasie – Impromptu, Op. 66.”

After the concert ended, I was wishing I could hear her play these pieces again and again. Thankfully she has cut a CD and I can at least hear the “Nocturne in C minor” and the “Fantasie-Impromptu,” along with works by Beethoven and Debussy (another of my favorites), among others. It’s going on my iPod and will be first up.

Now I just have to work on getting a copy of the poster. There were a couple left when I came in, but by the time I went back they were all gone. I copied it off the web site but not on heavy stock paper.

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