The first Schubert sonata, No. 14 in A minor, expressed the composer’s torment when first diagnosed with syphilis, a terminal diagnosis at the time. Being Schubert, he could not help but offset the disruptive quality of the music with gorgeous melodies woven throughout all three movements, as if he was calling to him the beauty of life before he would leave it. This is most present in the third movement, where the melodies are interrupted again and again with disturbances in both tempo and tone.
The Scriabin set spanned much of the composer’s artistic life. The pieces moved from the wandering dissonance of "Etude Opus 65, No. 1," to the jazzy, rhythmic flavor of "Etude Opus 8, No. 10." "Prelude, Opus 59, No. 2," marked “Savage, Belligerent,” lived up to its name. The painterly dreaminess of "Poème, Opus 32, No.1," was followed by the hair-raising ride of Sonata No. 5, Opus 53, which closed the set and left the audience ebullient in their appreciation of Mr. Ohlsson. Schubert’s last Sonata, No. 20, filled the second half, showcasing in four varied movements Schubert’s talents for lyricism, structure, harmonies, and counterpoint, as well as foretelling the direction toward modernism he would have taken if he had lived. Three curtain calls brought us three encores of short Scriabin etudes.
I closed my eyes--I wasn’t always serving as muse, after all--and sank into the music. Infusions of sound and vibration entered my body at what felt like the cellular level. A thought crystallized in my mind: things fall way. I wasn’t thinking about Schubert at that moment. I wasn’t actually thinking about anything. I experienced a sense of release, as if locked-in patterns of emotional imprisonment were dropping. The image of four walls collapsing outward, as in a magic act, rose in my mind. This brought a deep, mysterious healing, one I cannot articulate or grasp the effect of, and left me with the sensation of being filled up, and lighter.
I remember my piano teacher Maria Cizyk telling me about an audience member who sought her out after a performance to thank her. The woman said, “As I listened to you play, something inside me healed, something I didn’t know needed healing.” In Ozawa Hall, I understood what she meant.
A Distant Shore
That night in Ozawa Hall we were passengers on a journey, guided by our trusted captain. Our price of admission was the willingness to be transported to an unknown place, to lose sight of recognized lands, and to allow unneeded things to fall away. Under the sure hand of Mr. Ohlsson, we arrived at the unseen shore, different people than when we set out.