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Pauline Lerner

Music That Won’t Let Go of Me

September 20, 2008 at 5:42 AM

It happened again. A rare and exciting experience that sometimes happens to me while I listen to classical music. Something in the music jumps out at me, holds on to me, and won’t let go. I must stop whatever I’m doing and listen with all my mind and heart.

A few days ago, I was working at my desk and listening to classical music on the radio. They were playing the Beethoven Violin Concerto, and when the soloist started the cadenza, it hit me. I’ve heard the commonly used cadenza many, many times, and this was so different. I could almost compare the two cadenzas note for note in my head. I was surprised that I remembered the standard cadenza so well. What I heard on the radio is hard to describe in words. It was soaring, with flights of fancy and pyrotechniques that almost blew me away. It was not only technical virtuosity, but also emotional virtuosity. The music endeared itself to me right from the start. As I listened, the soloist began playing more softly and slowly. I knew that at this point in the standard cadenza, the orchestra starts to play, but not in this recording. The violinist picked up speed and complexity as he continued the cadenza. Eventually, like a beautiful dream, the cadenza faded away, and then the full orchestra played again. I know of only one contemporary virtuoso violinist who writes and plays his own cadenzas fairly often: Joshua Bell. It just had to be. As I listened to the rest of the concerto, I focused on the soloist’s vibrato. He used vibrato sparingly, and when he did, he used it to great effect, note by note. He used vibrato to make each note say something special in its own way. It had to be Joshua Bell, and so it was. The radio announcer said so.

I must have that recording. I will go to the link at the bottom of each page of v.com that takes me to amazon.com and gives a little bit of the money I spend to v.com. Then I can listen to that cadenza over and over to my heart’s content.

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