Ok, feeling a little irreverent here. I’ve been fixated on ways to describe our upcoming program in concrete, tactile (and drinkable) terms. This Saturday evening (January 21st–a few tickets still available) at First Church in Cambridge, Cantata Singers is performing Alfred Schnittke’s Concerto for Mixed Chorus and Arvo Pärt’s Berliner Mass.
The Pärt is the easy one. Vodka martini very cold. Normally, I’m a gin girl, but this requires the crystalline cleanliness of vodka. I’m thinking it’s a twist, and not an olive this time. Although then the mind starts to wander… it has a softness too, so now I’m thinking cozy furs (the vodka is cold, but there’s a warmth inside) and a sleigh–taking us on a journey through a vast, spare and snowy landscape. Destination? Perhaps we’re headed to one of those super cool ice hotels! The music is svelte, smart and sophisticated–think Bond girl with a PhD, but with a spiritual side–alone in a cool dark monastery (with her furs and her cocktail, naturally) surrounded by the warm light of many candles burning. Another colleague of mine said it made him think of a cold spring pond. He specifically mentioned an Estonian pond, but since I’ve never been there, my mind immediately went to happy hours spent on the far side of Walden Pond, enjoying a solitary swim in tranquil refreshing waters.
The Schnittke is a murkier issue–in many ways it’s just a deep feather bed of delicious harmony, spread out over several octaves–rich, deep, often favoring the sonority of the lowest basses. So a rich velvety red wine comes to mind, one of those wonderful stinky french ones where you’re constantly seeking out the elements of the terroir (funky tastes like dirt and brussel sprouts and wait, is that a hint of licorice–or is it canteloupe?) I love wines like that (especially with an equally “stinky” cheese or divinely grilled piece of meat). I love waiting for them to open up as they interact with the air, the food you’re enjoying it with, and as your palate comes into acquaintance with each flavor it expands to help you recognize a new element. Complex, deep, nuanced. But I think wine is not quite the right analogy. Soft velvety manhattan with a liquor soaked cherry at the end? Hmmm.
There’s a yeastiness to this music–a bubbling changeability as it weaves its way mercurially through major and minor with explosions of brilliant brightness. Sourdough starter–dough expanding to the limits, and punched down to rise again. So I’m heading in the direction of a gorgeous Belgian beer– but maybe with a gloriously astringent Negroni cocktail on the side?
My friend Majie also said it’s like being in an enormous Gothic cathedral with lots of voices all around you having their own conversations, and then all of sudden the sounds coalesce into a single coherent sound, and then wander again off into individual chatter. Sometimes I feel like it’s the best shampoo you’ve ever had in a salon. Lather, rinse, repeat. (With a soft angelic pillowy Amen at the end.) Aaah. Note to self–Book the spa day now.
My happiest hours are the time I spend living and breathing remarkable and challenging music. I love the way this music sparks my imagination and speaks to my soul–what sort of a journey is it for you?