Tuesday, October 23, 2007


Yesterday I went to perhaps the most intense concert of my life. The featured instrument was none other than the famous Russian bayan (also known as the "button accordion," but that sounds too wimpy).

I was looking forward to a relaxing evening of music. The musician (bayanist? bayan player?) came out and gave the customary speech about the program and the history and style of each piece. I think that Russians like to give speeches. The first piece, a Bach prelude, seemed promising. The next one, Vivaldi's "Winter" (1st movement) suddenly picked up speed. A whole orchestra seemed to explode out of the one instrument! A lady sitting in the front row started moving her hands as though playing along. That wasn't anything unusual, although I would probably save that kind of display for the privacy of my home. Then she began to move not only her hands, but her arms, her head, her whole body! I couldn't look at her anymore as it was making me nervous!

And so it went on for another hour. The musician played increasingly complex pieces, staggering to his feet after each one for a round of applause. As an audience member I was at times stunned and unable to breathe, at other times inspired, and at still other times a little confused (like when he began to chant something as he played).

And so, I got my evening of music. Relaxing? In a way. It made me forget about everything else for a few hours.

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