Friday, February 17, 2012
A Classical Revolution
Play this clip to accompany your reading:
It was the early 1980s, and I had just purchased my first CD player. I had the future in my hands, however, I had no music on CD whatsoever. What would I get that would be worthy of such a new piece of technology? I had grabbed a copy of Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D Minor recorded in a church in Europe, but such a short piece only served to assure me that at full volume, my living room could be made to sound like a Gothic cathedral during an organ recital.
I had heard that the classical genre had the largest musical dynamic range and thus would best take advantage of the CD technology. So, I turned to a friend and performer, William Lee (aka Master Lee), whose mother I knew listened to classical music. My impatience knew no bounds.
When I met him soon thereafter passing through Washington Square Park, I asked what classical music recordings I should get as a neophyte. He replied, without hesitation, the Brandenburg Concertos by Bach. Hearing a plural, I asked how many concertos there were and which I should buy. Six, he answered, and it does not matter which. So, initially, I purchased the 1-3 and later 4-6. I am forever grateful for his recommendation - it is hard to imagine a better choice for the first-time listener to classical music.
My interest in classical music grew, and it became my total musical diet for some years. I even dabbled in playing instruments that I came to love, taking lessons in violin and cello. My German-made Pfretzschner cello still sits gathering dust in my closet, testimony to the daunting task of learning an unfretted classical stringed instrument.
As I write this, I am listening to Brandenburg Concerto #3, 3rd Movement, and all I can think is what a lively, engaging, absolutely sublime piece of music. My hair is standing on end in full-body goosebumps. So, you can imagine my surprise and elation last night when, walking into Think Coffee cafe, only to get out of the cold on a dreary, drizzly night, a friend and I encountered a string quartet in full swing. They played a Brahms sextet and, in a fortuitous and serendipitous twist of fate, an ensemble of nine players finished with none other than the first movement of Brandenburg Concerto #3.
I was to learn that this was not a spontaneous or whimsical event but rather the New York City chapter of a group known as Classical Revolution, an organization with 30 chapters worldwide. The organization was formed in 2006 at Revolution Cafe in San Francisco by violist Charith Premawardhana with a mission of presenting classical music in a casual atmosphere. The members are a collective of accomplished classically trained musicians. The performances are jam sessions, and any musician is welcome to join and play along with the core members. I love the concept of chamber music brought to casual venues.
Good things are even better when they come unplanned as a complete surprise. This was New York City at its best, where culture can be found lurking around any corner - another Pocket of Joy and nothing short of a Classical Revolution…
More on classical music: The Redeemer, Click of a Mouse, Acquired Taste, Free Lunch, Bad Hair Day, Sounds of Summer, Bargemusic, Not So Kleine, Music for 9 Basses and 1 Cello