Printer-friendly version
Emily Liz

July 31, 2004 at 3:05 AM

I received my textbooks for school today and was paging through the English one when I came across the short story "A Wagner Matinee", by Willa Cather. Rarely have I connected with a piece of literature so profoundly. It is a narrative by a man describing a concert he attended with his aunt, a woman who taught at the Boston Conservatory years ago but then sacrificed her position to marry a Midwestern farmer and move with him to Nebraska. When his aunt visits him in Boston, the nephew takes her to a concert of Wagnerian music, although he is afraid she will no longer appreciate the music after having lived the hard life of a prairie woman for so long. The two arrive at the concert hall, take their seats, and listen to the orchestra.

After the concert is done, the aunt stares down at the stage until the musicians have left and the audience has scattered. The two last paragraphs of the story beautifully summarize her emptiness.

"I spoke to my aunt. She burst into tears and sobbed pleadingly, 'I don't want to go, Clark, I don't want to go!'"

"I understood. For her, just outside the door of the concert hall, lay the black pond with the cattle-tracked bluffs; the tall, unpainted house with weather-curled boards; naked as a tower, the crook-backed ash seedlings where the dishcloths hung to dry; the gaunt, molting turkeys picking up refuse about the kitchen door."

For some reason, I really connected with that passage. Although generations separate myself from that hardworking woman of the plains, and our circumstances could hardly be more different, I still have her fear. Sometimes the joy of music seems too good to be true - and sometimes I'm so scared that someday I, too, might lose it.

This entry has been archived and is no longer accepting comments.

Facebook Twitter YouTube Instagram Email is made possible by...

Shar Music
Shar Music: Check out our selection of Celtic music

Pirastro Strings
Pirastro Strings

JR Judd Violins
JR Judd Violins

Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra
Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra

Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases
Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases Summer Music Programs Directory
Find a Summer Music Program Shopping Guide Shopping Guide

The Wallis Presents

Metzler Violin Shop

Southwest Strings

Bobelock Cases

Johnson String Instrument/Carriage House Violins

Jargar Strings

Bay Fine Strings Violin Shop


Los Angeles Violin Shop


String Masters

Nazareth Gevorkian Violins

Laurie's Books

Discover the best of in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews. Interviews Volume 1 Interviews Volume 1, with introduction by Hilary Hahn Interviews Volume 2 Interviews Volume 2, with introduction by Rachel Barton Pine