Monday, May 07, 2012

Episode 10: Richter

"I don't play for the audience, I play for myself, and if I derive any satisfaction from it, then the audience, too, is content."
- Sviatoslav Richter

After reading Bruno Monsaingeon's biography (courtesy of Luda), and the documentary (courtesy of Br. Aelred), it was Sviatoslav Richter's character, life, work, and of course his music that brought me to a higher sphere of understanding. Richter, a very private man, graciously allowed Monsaingeon, a filmmaker, to interview him in the last years of his life. His music recorded only serves as a time portal to his art. How I wished I could see him in concert. And I had the opportunity to hear his legacy live in Hong Kong.

He has become my favorite pianist. The Borodin Quartet, graduates of the Moscow Conservatory, had the honor of collaborating with Shostakovich on his String Quartets. The quartet and Richter were frequent collaborators. The original founding cellist, Valentin Berlinsky, had a daughter by the name of Ludmila Berlinskaya, an accomplished pianist in her own right. Berlinskaya met Richter, kickstarted her career and often playing duets together.

Ludmila Berlinskaya
I was to see the Borodin Quartet's Tchaikovsky Quartet No. 2 and later joined by her for the Shostakovich Quintet. On a Wednesday, this presented itself with many challenges. The main variable was the fact that I was travelling by bicycle. Now when travelling exclusively by bicycle is an adventure, I can't make miracles and cycle on water! With Maia my bicycle, I left immediately after school and travelled via ferry.


A stop at Times Square on the other side of town to pick up the tickets and getting to Hong Kong City Hall within the timespan of 4 hours was the most of my problems. I have an affectionate nickname in the family that describes me: "Zoom zoom Gussy." So as per usual, I left later than expected and set foot, or should I say wheel, in Hong Kong an hour before the performance. Studying the directions was almost a lost cause because of obscure roads that traveled under expressways which ended up in who knows where. The woes of representing 3D environments on 2D maps.

A desparate taxi ride became my reluctant sanctuary from the unknown urbanity. Except in my haste, I dropped my keys and were lying in the street as I piled my bike into the taxi cab. I exited the cab devastated and fate decided what I was to do tomorrow. Up and back down the Times Square mall, after a grueling level of concentration and emotions of excitement, despair, and fear, the tickets were in hand and emerged partially victorious. But it was 8:30. Half an hour late. Gross. Next stop Hong Kong City Hall.

My final destination was tremendously easier to find. I locked up my bicycle and entered right when intermission was ending. It was serendipity at its best. Sitting in my seat was the greatest relief. Shostakovich's intellect is an enigma to me. On the surface, his music is like a modern day Bach, denouncing the lavish Romanticism. It sounds sterile and suppressed, a barren landscape of sound. Though it wasn't what I needed at the time, I sat at ease knowing the music was in their hands, as well as in their blood. They ended up playing 4 encores that night.

Exploring Tsuen Wan and the New Territories was a great escape from what most people would regard as Hong Kong. Despite an Amber Warning, the typhoon never came and the rain never got more than unpleasant during riding, though lightning struck, thunder crackled, and rain dumped through the nights.

I searched far and wide for my keys but in the end, I left Hong Kong without them. The excitement of bringing a bicycle along...

Until next time.

No comments: