I doubt anyone in Eastman Theater’s Kodak Hall last Thursday evening for Mozart’s Requiem was thinking about Count Franz von Walsegg – the man who commissioned the work – or his mysterious employer, or the mysterious employer’s deceased wife, for whom the work was purportedly dedicated. You can’t listen to Mozart without thinking about the artist, the brilliance of his spirit and the tragedy of his short life. His music is a window into his soul; it brings him to life in us two centuries after his death.
Everyone should be so remembered.
My father and mother, for instance, who instilled in me a love of classical music. They had listened to Requiem, somewhere, at some time. They might have played the LP on Dad’s tube stereo that occupied the corner of the living room at 84 Hillcrest Drive. Or earlier, at the house in Burnt Hills, through the Tannoy duel cone speaker in the “folded horn enclosure” Dad had painstakingly cut and assembled from plywood. He loved classical music all his life, right up until his long decline, when he became preoccupied with the end of things rushing at him, like an upwind wildfire on the horizon. That makes a mesmerizing sound, too.
And my sister. I have some of her albums in my collection, rescued from the converted barn on the property she loved in Italy Valley, New York. The place is too cold and isolated in the winter and the deer flies are murder in summer, but three or four months of the year it’s heaven; in spring, the air perfumed by the ancient lilac looming over the smoke house, by the sweet smell of cut grass and hay in autumn, the view of the valley from the berm of the pond on the hill. After she took the job at the library, she lived in Brighton, but she never moved out the the barn. When she’d escape to the farm on summer weekends, her collection of vinyl was always waiting for her. The mice are feasting on what albums remain on the shelf. They like the cardboard, for some reason.
I thought about them, and others who’ve gone ahead, as Mozart’s Requiem brought the audience to tears and ecstasy. A thousand people, transfixed, channeling their grief into this one shared experience, this moment, a stranger 200 years gone, before applauding and zipping up their coats and venturing out into the chill, alone with their dead.
I went to Salinger’s instead to drink some beers with the living for a while.