Monday, March 24, 2008

Something New Part 2: A Soulful Performance

My weekend trip to Seoul (3/8) was focused on a Sunday evening piano recital at the Seoul Arts Center, an impressive complex with a concert hall, a smaller recital hall, a theater and at least one small museum. I had casually looked at the concert schedule awhile back but never got around to booking tickets. After emailing a former student about Tanglewood, the summer home to the Boston Symphony Orchestra, I decided that one year without a classical concert was woefully too long. I’d go to any concert regardless of the program. Luckily I found a recital for duo piano works, which featured 4 sets of Korean pianists. The Gershwin seemed a little stiff, but the first half of the program was enjoyable enough. The real entertainment began with the last set of pianists. All of the women performers were dressed in elaborate evening gowns and were extremely elegant- except for one.

This pianist had a goofy smile and an awkward gait. As she made her way to the piano, I couldn’t help but notice her cleavage. Now, normally I wouldn’t think it appropriate to write about cleavage, but Korea rewrites the rules. Cleavage is rare in Korea- and not just because the women are generally very petite. Women generally wear high necklines; I’ve even seen women wear turtlenecks at clubs. And so, it was a particular surprise to see cleavage at a formal concert. This pianist happened to be a particularly animate player, but it was not her bounciness that attracted so much attention from the audience, and especially from the 7 teenage boys who sat in the row in front of me. The pianist’s repeated inhales were so loud and distracting that the boys were doubled over in their chairs or were hiding behind their programs. The boys’ just-barely-contained exuberance was so infectious that soon the 3 proper looking Korea women sitting next to the boys (and directly in front of us) started giggling as well.

Each sniff, seeming louder and longer than the previous one, sent another ripple of muted laughter and shaking shoulders down the row. In his effort not to laugh, Tedd covered his mouth and accidentally (?) nudged me with his arm, which he propped against the armrest. I was not immune to the spreading giggling and had to take a firm bite on my lip and a fixed gaze at the ceiling to stifle my urge to laugh. Worn down by the repeated SNIFFS, one of the Korean women actually laughed out loud!

Not only did the pianist sniff, but she also managed to pucker her lips and contort her mouth into such bizarre expressions that much of her musical performance was completely lost on me. The audience seemed relieved when the performance was finished and clapped especially loud for this pair of pianists. Bravo!


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