Going Punk Rock at Carnegie Hall: Bach & The Goldberg Variations

And so we begin the “B” composers, where we run immediately into the implacable wall of Bach.

Judging by volume, Bach was by far dad’s favorite composer. I count about 140 Bach CDs in the collection, and another half dozen or so by his sons. We are going to be with the Bachs-es-es for a while, as I write the 14 or so blog entries required per my rules, minus the one post I got out of the way earlier.

I start with the Goldberg Variations for one simple reason: they are the inspiration for this blog. Here’s the story:

My friend Peter had invited me to go to Carnegie Hall with him, as he occasionally does when he has an extra free ticket, to my delight. The performer was supposed to be a chap by the name of Maurizio Pollini, but he got sick, so on short notice we got pianist Jeremy Denk instead, performing Charles Ives and Bach.

Peter had box seats. Our box was full and we were in the back of it, with sight lines to the piano obscured. The box next to us was empty, and Peter was of a mind to infiltrate it. So as Denk walked out onto the stage, we snuck out of our box and attempted to sneak into the next one…which was locked. We attempted to go back to our own…which had locked behind us. The Soviet-style attendant was not feeling our pain, and forced us to watch the first 17 minutes of Ives’ Concord Sonata on a tiny TV screen at the Carnegie Hall snack bar. Oh, the ignominy.

During intermission, we didn’t leave our box, having been cowed by the attendant. But Peter was still eyeing the box next door covetously. “If no one comes in during intermission, I’m going over the wall,” he informed me. And so he did – Peter, the last person you’d ever think would go all punk rock on Carnegie Hall!  – clambering over the divider between boxes as the lights dimmed, me following in the role of dutiful apprentice.

As we lolled in our spacious, hijacked box, soothed by the Goldberg variations — written as a lullaby to a count, or so the mythology goes — my thoughts drifted to my father’s CDs, the reason I give a fig about classical music in the first place.

I wish I’d had time to listen to these pieces ahead of time, so I could appreciate them more. I bet dad has this on CD (in fact, he has three different recordings, one for harpsichord and two for piano). I really should get dad’s CDs…but they’ll just gather dust in my not-so-large Brooklyn apartment, where there isn’t much spare space for things that are just going to gather dust. These liner notes are rubbish…I could do a better job…wait a second.

The rest – or at least, the first month’s worth of posts on this blog – is history. So thank you, Peter, and I look forward to stage diving at Carnegie Hall next time.

2 thoughts on “Going Punk Rock at Carnegie Hall: Bach & The Goldberg Variations

  1. Got an extra big kick out of this one since I know Peter! But I didn’t know he was such a daredevil lol…