Reporter's Notebook


April 13, 2001

I swear I had a really good time at the Pacific Symphony Orchestra

performance Wednesday night.

Yeah, the music was good -- and that's a generous statement coming

from someone who far prefers the work of Shaggy over Stravinsky -- but

what got me were the bows at the end of the Richard Strauss tone-poem

interpretation of "Don Quixote" at the Orange County Performing Arts



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

viola bow.

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:

Ordinary people.

* YOUNG CHANG is the Pilot's features reporter.

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