Thursday, June 3, 2010

My Cello Year

What's not to love about the cello? Sexy design. Polished finish that brings every wooden fiber to brilliant life. A to-die-for "voice." 

Twice in recent months, this instrument has caught me by surprise and thrust itself upon my consciousness. First, in the PBS documentary, "Joan Baez: How Sweet the Sound," that chronicles Baez's life, including her 1993 visit to the destroyed and terrorized city of Sarajevo, Bosnia. In a December 26, 2009 blog entry, I described her moving encounter with Sarajevo Opera cellist Vedran Smajlovic

"Unable to stop the madness that had ripped apart the former Yugoslavia, Smajlovic honored the memory of his friends and defied their killers by doing the only thing he was good at. Placing his chair in the middle of the street, he took out cello and bow—musician and instrument melding into a single defiant force. Eyes closed to the surrounding destruction, he rendered the mournful Adagio in G minor by Tomaso Giovanni Albinoni."

That experience sent me to Google and beyond to learn more about Smajlovic, the man. I found and read Steven Galloway's best-selling novel, The Cellist of Sarajevo. According to an article in Wikipedia, "Although he only appears as a peripheral character in the novel, Smajlović has publicly expressed his outrage over the publication of the book, demanding financial compensation from the author. " Copyright attorneys I looked up have been quoted as saying that he has little chance of winning that legal battle.

More recently, my wife and I squeezed into our busy spring lives a 29th wedding anniversary date that started with Sunday Mass at our local parish, Christ the King, in Pleasant Hill (CA). Then we enjoyed a terrific seafood brunch at Scott's Restaurant in Walnut Creek, followed by a rare matinee visit to the Diablo Symphony at the Lesher Center for the Performing Arts (thank you, Goldstar).

The first half of the program was pleasant but uninspiring. The post-intermission program promised a guest appearance by a cellist, whose name meant nothing to me, but I do love the instrument. David Requiro, a tall, slender twenty-something, came on stage wearing dark slacks and a loose-fitting white shirt. He carried his instrument and bow. From the first note, I knew I was in the presence of a unique artist. What captivated me, beyond his exquisite rendition of Antonin Dvorak's Cello Concerto in B minor, was the mirage he created, making himself and his cello disappear as separate entities and reappear as a single, inseparable unit. 

This is an artist's supreme achievement, be it a musician, actor, painter, or writer: to become one with the work. I think of Michelangelo on the scaffolds of the Sistine Chapel, Antoni Gaudi living the last years of his life in the construction site of Barcelona's (still-unfinished) Sagrada Familia. I think of Victor Hugo becoming one with his idealized man, Jean Valjean, and Stieg Larsson losing himself in the personae of Mikael Blomkvist and Lisbeth Salander in the Girl With the Dragon Tattoo trilogy.

The great gift of artists is that they do not hoard their transcendent experience, but allow us less-skilled humans an opportunity to be transported in spirit to a higher realm of contemplative unity, be it ever so brief. That's a lofty and sacred calling.

(c) 2010 by Alfred J. Garrotto
All rights reserved

Alfred J. Garrotto is the author of the suspense novel,

1 comment:

  1. I love hearing an artist's work called "a lofty and sacred calling." This is inspiring, as always. Thanks for sharing this, Al.

    Author of You Want Me to Do WHAT? Journaling for Caregivers