Feb 18, 12
Read from January 31 to February 18, 2012
It is unseasonably warm for a February Saturday in Pittsburgh. I am on the fifth and final story in Ishiguro's Nocturnes, trying to understand what it all means. Some music would be appropriate to go with this book, subtitled Five Stories of Music and Nightfall.
"This is what we will hear tonight," I say, as the first barely audible notes of Sebelius' Violin Concerto fill the room like a Scandinavian wind.
"I got some blood oranges for a salad. Would you like one?"
"No, thank you," picking up the book, stretching my feet onto the ottoman, searching in the room for the Sebelius.
The peels of a blood orange whir away in the garbage disposal. Sheets tumble in a clothes washer. Sebelius is lost. I return somehow to the Italian piazza where Tibor, a young Hungarian cellist, is approached by an older American woman, Eloise McCormack. She tells him she is a virtuoso and that she knows what he needs to reach a similar height. He accepts her avuncular mentoring and finds his voice.
Sebelius yields, not reluctantly, to Tchaikovsky's Pathetique.
"Oh. There's the mailman. Can you run and get the mail?"
A book about an old map is in my mailbox, fortuitously, as Ishiguro is running out.
The shower starts. I raise the volume for the allegro con grazia. Who wouldn't?
Then why am I performing if not for an audience? Tibor asks. Eloise tells him, At this stage, what you're doing is waiting for that one person to come and hear you. And that one person might just as easily be in a room like that one on Thursday, in a crowd of just twenty people...
The phone rings. The blood oranges were good, I hear, and the sleep last night was the best in a week. Feeling better, yes.
"Can you help me with the sheets for a minute?"
"Oh. Are you writing a review?"
"Yes. But it's okay."
There aren't many like us, Tibor, and we recognize each other. The fact that I've not yet learned to play the cello doesn't really change anything. You have to understand, I am a virtuoso. But I'm one who's yet to be unwrapped. You too, you're still not entirely unwrapped, and that's what I've been doing these past few weeks. I've been trying to help you shed those layers. But I've never tried to deceive you. Ninety-nine per cent of cellists, there's nothing there under those layers, there's nothing to unwrap. So people like us, we have to help each other. When we see each other in a crowded square, wherever, we have to reach out for one another, because there are so few of us.
These five stories seem quotidian, the characters inchoate, on the cusp of something. They are linked with music and self-reflection. Eloise will marry Peter, an American businessman who sells golf equipment in the Pacific Northwest. I guess so. . . . I guess so. Tibor will join a quartet, playing for diners in a hotel who may not even hear the music.
Sebelius and Tchaikovsky tonight. A contrapuntal evening. Because the different melody lines entwine sometimes; the bramble and the rose. And music fills the air.