Saturday, October 22, 2011

9.30 A Garden of Song: Saul’s Recital

It’s cold in Cincinnati in the last days of September. Anne and I fly in on a Thursday and rendezvous with Saul at the motel (a Holiday Inn off the interstate we remember from our previous visit), where he gives us his annotated maps with directions to the recital, the university, his new apartment, and several parks and other sights of interest. Then we go to an authentic Cincinnati chili house where they serve chili – over spaghetti – with lots of cheese and few interesting additions such as onions. I get “chili five ways” and the waitress laughs at me when I add, “over spaghetti,” because of course “chili five ways” means over spaghetti. I mean, don’t you speak Cincinnati?
The restaurant includes a collection of characters, black and white, the like of whom you are unlikely to find anywhere in Greater Boston. Traveling is so broadening.
The next morning we are off to one the aforementioned annotated park options (not Eden Park, can’t remember its name). The park’s parking lot brings you right up to a great overlook over the river and a piece of the city, and the air is fresh and full of a great, gray, windy faceful of autumn breeze prompting Anne to exult “Isn’t it wonderful!” just as I burst out with “God, it’s freezing! Why didn’t I bring my winter coat?”
We walk all around the place looking for a woodland trail and never finding one, though we go up and down a side road through a woodsy neighborhood long enough to tire us out.
Then we practice driving back and forth from the motel to the University of Cincinnati parking lot that’s nearest to the recital hall where Saul will perform his master’s solo recital this evening. If you’re not in the habit of driving back and forth from a motel to a parking lot, you may not realize how entertaining this can be, but just take my word for it.
The next plane-party of guests arrives in early afternoon – daughter Sonya and Anne’s parents, Marion and Jack – and we go out to lunch (not to the authentic Cincinnati chili place) before resting up for the recital. Some time in the late afternoon the last party of long-range guests, Walter and his father who lives in Yellow Springs, Ohio, arrive and we arrange to meet at the concert hall before stage time. The complete roster of long-distance travelers is as follows: three people from Massachusetts, two from New York City, one from elsewhere in Ohio, and one from Lebanon. Sonya, whose place of residence has a view of the Mediterranean, wins the “came farthest” award.
Our son dresses in a black tuxedo. In addition to his personal fan club, the audience is swelled with the members of the College Conservatory of Music guitar program, some other students and friends, including an incredible singer and a soon to be incredible lawyer, and a family of young guitar students consisting of two parents, two young boys Saul gives guitar lessons too and a friend of similar age they have borrowed for the occasion. It’s a superbly attentive and excitable audience.
Saul performs each of his four pieces – a Romantic Spanish work by Tarrega, a Bach lute piece, a moody 20th century piece by Ernst Brouwer, and a grand climactic classical statement by Fernando Sor – flawlessly, bowing at the end of each to a great burst of sincere and enthusiastic applause, and walking briefly off stage before returning for the following work. With true professional sang froid, he does not speak a single word to the audience at any point in the recital (though he smiles a lot). The guitar does all the talking. It says all that needs to be said, it sings its part, orates, struts upon the stage, assumes the voice of each of its characters, expands each composer’s vision of the instrument, interprets his musical statement, enchants its audience.
Afterwards, there is a great and long-lasting pizza party at a favorite local haunt (Cincinnati pizza, we’re happy to report, is much like pizza in Massachusetts or New York), where an overtaxed oven made us wait for dinner but kept the beer and the appetizers flowing. A range of interests coalesced: Saul’s guitar professor Claire, the Phd. program opera singer, the third-year law student, building master Walter and his nonagenarian chemistry professor father, our New York and Massachusetts contingents, our resident internationalist – experts everywhere! At the end Claire said, “This is a party that wants to get together again.”
By all means let’s do Cincinnati again. But there can only be one master’s solo recital by Saul Meyerson-Knox. And we were there – and it was wonderful.