Jimi and Sergei

I call Dawn’s choral director in Mason City the Jimi Hendrix of choral music. He snickers. I was fortunate to attend a Jimi Hendrix concert in 1968 at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. That’s where the Oscars yawner occurs nowadays, I’m told. Jimi had a way with a guitar and amp that couldn’t be captured on a recording. I sat up high and in front of him that night. I was reminded of Hendrix as we listened to some other gifted musicians in Iowa City last week. The tickets were 27 times more expensive but the seats were in a similar relationship to the stage. It’s been since about that time 50 years ago, that I’ve craved the opportunity to hear Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto. My mom had it on LP with Jascha Heifetz on violin with the Chicago Symphony and I wore it out. It was rumored that the piece was once deemed unplayable because of its difficulty. Hendrix brought his own sound equipment to a venue that was privately built and owned. His performance was like being transported to another world, every note a distinct part of a united whole. The concert in Hancher Auditorium was imperfect in two ways, both of them of little consequence. Violin soloist, Lisa Batiashvili was under pitch on one note, according to my wife, Dawn. Maybe
that was on purpose so we didn’t think it was fake, because her incredible talent might make it seem so. Also, the sound was a little dead, with some of the soloist’s notes being lost in the orchestral accompaniment. The best part was after intermission with Rachmaninoff’s, “Symphonic Dances, Op. 45.” I never really got into the guy that much, maybe because the ’60s were such a rich musical time for contemporary music. I didn’t need to look further. We thought the Sergei Rachmaninoff piece surpassed the violin concerto. I’ve always thought that good music is like driving on a country road. Settle in and drive, or be driven. It goes somewhere. Rachmaninoff constantly surprises us. This is no over-regulated NASCAR oval track. To think I came for the violin concerto and was elevated even further. I’m so blessed. Hancher auditorium sent an email asking for comments, and that is how this column started. As I read the notes in the program, I found that Rachmaninoff had fled Russia and the Revolution of 1917 to the United States. Here we were in Iowa City where anyone would agree the predominant opinion would support the communists over the czars of 1917 and everyone is giving an enthusiastic standing ovation for the work of an artist who knew better. There has been a lot of negative rhetoric about “Russian influence” lately. I suggest we focus on the positive. The Russians, with Iran’s help, defeated ISIS. As a grand Christmas present to themselves they threw out the communists, who had murdered 90 million people just to make it fair on December 25, 1991. I wasn’t antagonistic to any of those leftists in Iowa City. And they were friendly to me, in spite of my “smash the state” t-shirt. As default position, we should peacefully share with other people of the world. We have a lot to offer each other