Picture three men, all tuxed up, hair wilder than when they first
stepped on stage thanks to an hour of fervent playing and conducting,
each deflecting the glory onto one another and away from themselves.
Three men -- each of whom could be described as either world-renowned
or Juilliard graduates -- who played beautiful, beautiful music and then
stood up in recently rumpled suits to take their bows like awkward
teenagers suddenly spotlighted in the middle of the prom-dance floor.
Now, that's cool.
I just love when artists don't act like artists. No matter how amazing
their talent, regardless of how moving their product, the slightest hint
of arrogance will turn me off of their so-called art faster than you
could say "puh-leese."
But conductor Carl St. Clair, cellist Timothy Landauer and viola-ist
Robert Becker did me in. St. Clair, after 10 variations of passionately
conducting the Strauss piece -- coat tails swaying every which way, arms
flailing -- took a bow. It was a fun bow played on a genuinely thrilled
smile that might not have been the most sophisticated expression, but was
definitely an honest one.
Then he gestured to Landauer, the cellist who had just spent an hour
on stage looking from St. Clair to the neck of his cello and every so
often at the musical score on his stand while his left hand trembled
violently in the temperament of his vibratos and his right hand did a
dance gripping a long, graceful bow.
Landauer stood, suddenly so much more ordinary looking than a minute
ago when he was the master-cellist, and bowed deeply but quickly, wanting
the applause to go back to his conductor.
St. Clair then motioned to Becker to get up. Becker shook his head
while still sitting and insisted by waving his hands that he really
shouldn't share the glory. St. Clair persisted in telling him to stand.
Becker did, bowing awkwardly and shyly for about three seconds before
sitting down and becoming the third-grade boy who bangs on his desk to
communicate joy. Becker, instead, drummed his stand with the tip of his
Finally, St. Clair -- like a father motioning for all the reluctant
kids to squeeze into the family photo -- threw both his arms in the air
and directed the entire orchestra to stand and receive praise.
That moment, at least in my head, is snapped as clear as Kodak.
I'm sure I'll forget the music over time -- my favorite part where 28
violins seemed to soar and plunge together. I may even forget what show
it was that I saw.
But I won't forget the faces of the three solo musicians who went from
being artists lost in the fervor of their music to gracious men who
reminded the audience that when they're not in action, they're just like
you and me:
* YOUNG CHANG is the Pilot's features reporter.