Monday, October 10, 2016

On Missing the Encore

Anyone reading Joshua Kosman’s account of Mahan Esfahani’s harpsichord recital in this morning’s San Francisco Chronicle who tried to compare it with the piece I wrote yesterday morning will probably quickly notice that I said nothing about Esfahani taking an encore. The fact is that I was not there! As I wrote in my final paragraph, I had expected a 75-minute program that would be followed by a Q&A session with the audience. Instead the program ran about two hours, after which I was so saturated with thoughts about what Esfahani had done that I was already worrying about how I would cram them into my account of the concert. As a rule I tend not to report on what arises during a Q&A, so I afforded myself the luxury of an early and hasty exit.

From Kosman’s article I gather that Esfahani took me to task in absentia in what Kosman described as “a move that’s far less charming than he seemed to think.” According to the friend that joined me for the concert and remained, I seem to have missed “the only known music for harpsichord by Benjamin Britten” (quoting from the electronic mail my friend sent), preceded by Esfahani’s explanation of how this music crossed his path. This sort of agreed with Kosman’s description of “a newly discovered snippet from the Britten archive, an arrangement of a work by the English Renaissance composer William Lawes” (taking it for granted that anything from the Britten archive would have been by Britten).

Do I regret missing this? I certainly do, primarily because I have tended to enjoy the thoroughness of my knowledge of Britten’s compositions. I even played the piano accompaniment for a few of his arrangements of songs by Henry Purcell back when a baritone colleague and I would set aside one lunch hour a week to explore the art song repertoire. Most likely I would also have been interested in any backstory for this piece, even though Kosman concluded with the observation that the performance “took less time to play than to introduce.” On the other hand, I suspect that what I did write was already testing the patience of many of my readers; and the last thing I needed after going on at such length was an afterthought on a topic for which I was not that well prepared!

Thus, while I do regret missing the encore, I am not taking it very hard. The bottom line is that, now that I have put my thoughts in order and documented them, my only curiosity involves whether or not Esfahani reacted to them, rather than to my “temerity to slip out quietly,” as Kosman put it. Esfahani is one of those performers whose work can set the mind going off on all sorts of tangents. My guess is that he has one or two tangents of his own. Perhaps I shall even learn about them one of these days and take them as an opportunity to “compare and contrast.” Meanwhile, nothing that has happened today has blunted the enthusiasm that I tried to document yesterday morning!

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