Sunday, July 7, 2013

A Musical Send-Off

If our Australia experience were a story, last night would have been the climax--you know, the scene where everything comes together. The final turning point. The emotional apex.


Just like in a novel or a film, all the key characters were in place:  Mark, his mother Gloria, our new friends Beci and Natalie, and a rich mix of music lovers and the best musicians from the Queensland Orchestra.

And oh, what a place.  A home with a crystal staircase.  A home designed by classical music lovers Avon and Helen Phillips to share their passion with others--ergo, the music room that houses Victor Borge's grand piano, and space for 90 guests, and long windows that evoke a modern church framing an expanse of trees.

The evening was billed as "Opus 6:  Soiree on Sundays at the Phillips."

For the first piece Mark, at the piano, was joined by an oboe, clarinet, horn, and bassoon for Mozart's "Quintet in E Flat Major."  Listening to it felt like floating in champagne bubbles.

crystal staircase (photo by Beci)

The second half of the program, with the addition of a flute, featured the French composer Francis Poulenc (1899-1963)--whose music was described for us as "half priest, half clown."  Indeed, the instrumental mix elicited delight, creepiness, and the sublime.

This mix of reverence and irreverence reflects Poulenc's life as a devout Catholic and an out gay man.  He once said, "You know that I am as sincere in my faith...as I am in my Parisian sexuality."

The audience erupted in gasps and claps at the end of the first part of the Poulenc piece. Then we fastened our seat belts for the rest of it.

Afterward we enjoyed Helen's delectable hand-made sandwiches and sweets.  The baklava was almost as ethereal as the Mozart.


Mark said this piano is ideal
for playing Schubert and Liszt.
When most people had left, Mark sat at the piano and played a spontaneous private concert for our hosts, the architect of the house and his wife, Beci and Natalie, and Dave and me.

Mark flayed open Schubert with incredible passion. I saw through blurry eyes that I wasn't the only one deeply moved.

And now the denouement--the story's resolution, or literally the "untying of the knot."  We pack our bags in the room where every morning Mark's music drifted up to us as he practiced.  We leave here with a song--and a new expanse of joy--in our hearts.

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