Last night, I left my airy Art-Deco apartment in Los Angeles’s Miracle Mile for the half-mile stroll to LACMA, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. LACMA hosts music and film as well as painting, photography, and sculpture, and on Sunday nights it has, for the past twenty-five years, presented classical music concerts in its Bing Theater, free to all and streamed over radio and (now) Internet.
The sun had just set, and the evening was a clear and luminous dark lavender in the west, silhouetting the jumble of mismatched buildings lining Wilshire Boulevard, where the streetlamps and lighted windows had just begun to glimmer under the deepening sky. I walked first past the neon buzz of restaurants, then the freshness of a large park, whose trees glowed with the light of the low yellow lamps that watch over the winding paths, and then arrived at the museum to join the long line waiting to hear the music. Young people and old, of every color, chatting quietly, with Russian voices heavily represented as always when there was a piano concert scheduled. In due time we were let in.
The pianist this time was Abbey Simon, a short, stooped, eternally smiling fellow still concertizing at the age of ninety-three. I’d been a little disappointed in his last performance here, as I’d thought it a bit perfunctory, but this time he played with tremendous nuance and depth–and had, I must admit, chosen pieces more to my liking: a late Beethoven sonata, Brahms, and a challenging Ravel, finishing with a Chopin ballade, the latter among my favorite bits of the classical repertoire. He inevitably received a standing ovation–which he deserved, not just because of his age but for the way he played, which honored and fulfilled the scores. He did condescend to a bit of flash for his encore, but overall it was a magnificent evening of music.
The night was full when we shuffled out of the hall, and a partial moon stared down from the transparent blackness of the universe. On the way home I entered into the fluorescent aisles of a local grocery for a bag of rice and some cash-back to spend at this morning’s farmer’s market a short bike ride away.
Another few hours in the heart of the city I call home….