“Hello! I attended the Kazinik concert on May 15th. Below is something that I wrote about the wonderful experience. I hope that by reading it, everyone can get a better feel for the nature of the event. I also hope you enjoy!”
- Rachel Barton
Honestly, I think the language barrier made the music more important. I sat in the back of a synagogue full of Russians. Most of them were tiny ladies with big coats and some of them tried to speak to me, but we didn’t get very far. So, I sat in the back and traced my eyes over the memorial plaques and made up meanings for the Hebrew characters that I had never seen before.
Mikhail Kazinik spoke first. He was a medium sized man with tousled gray curls and he looked thrilled to be there. He spoke, of course, in Russian. The crowd loved him. They laughed at his jokes and hung on his every word. I, however, hung onto his translator’s every word. Elvira was young and beautiful. Every now and then she would get stuck on a word, like “artificial hair.” The makeshift congregation would lean forward as one and exhale “wig.” Together, they got through it.
Kazinik told stories about composers as if they were his closest friends. He broke up these speech based passages with music. First, there was Mozart. Kazinik revealed that Mozart became a Mason in his lifetime and that transition could be seen in his music. Then, he hopped on the piano and played for us the first use of three beats in a four beat measure. In this way, Mozart imbedded holiness in his music. This was the first time Kazinik showed us what music could do.
The real lesson occurred when Vyacheslav Zubkov started playing. I had spoken with Zubkov before the audience. He had been very down to earth, although a little quiet. When I asked him if he needed a ticket, he gave me a warm smile and said, “I hope not.” Then, I recognized him as the guy on the poster. I thought of our little meeting as he took his seat at the piano.
“It didn’t matter if I spoke Russian or not. All that mattered was Zubkov’s fingers on the keys and the way we all leaned forward with our heads turned slightly to the side...”
As his fingers moved across the piano, Zubkov’s face was relaxed. He seemed to know every turn of the music. Occasionally, his eyebrows would raise in anticipation of a particular note before falling gently upon its arrival. The piece started slow. The lights dimmed. At this moment, water began to seep gently from the piano. As Zubkov played, these waves grew fuller and fuller. The swept past the first couple rows, rising and falling gently. I tried to keep my head up, tried to watch his hands move across the keys as the waves crashed over me, all the way in the back row. Then, the waves began to recede ever so slowly. However, it was too late. We were all caught in the undertow. Zubkov kept playing, pulling us each deeper and deeper into his music, drowning us with his song. It didn’t matter if I spoke Russian or not. All that mattered was Zubkov’s fingers on the keys and the way we all leaned forward with our heads turned slightly to the side like dogs trying to understand their master.
I didn’t snap out of it until Elvira started speaking again, the English words easing me out of the current. Kazinik was telling another story, this time about Chopin. From Kazinik, I learned that Chopin had been a very handsome young man and rather popular with the ladies. Unfortunately, he had a lot of problems breathing. Chopin had to learn to breathe and speak at the same time since there was no oxygen to spare. His struggle with breathing kept him from dancing with all those girls that loved him. Despite or because of this, Chopin wrote a lot of waltzes. Before Zubkov began to play a couple of them, Kazinik informed us that Chopin was dying from tuberculosis when he wrote them.
You could feel it. You could feel his desperation and the rush of his words as he tried to use every last breath. And you could even dance. Step by step, I danced a dance I had never known in a grand ballroom I had never seen. We kept dancing. Turning and turning. Chopin had created an eternal dance, a way for him to dance endlessly. I once read a story about fairies that trapped mortals in a dancing circle and forced them to dance until they died. It was sort of like that. Even though none of us moved from our seats, we danced and danced. We would have kept dancing if Zubkov and Chopin hadn’t mercifully set us free.
That, it seems, is the magic of music. Music transcends the limitations of language. It has the ability to affect all those who hear it, regardless of race, gender, or culture. In those moments, it has complete power over us to make us feel, to make us be, to make us live other lives. As Kazinik said, music has the power to free us, to let us live forever, and to make us feel the purest love.