Strauss, Mozart, Rachmaninoff…& Martin Smith – Naomi Yoran

As I am writing, a memorial service for Martin Smith, is being held in Heinz Hall.

Attending the concert, last Saturday night and not seeing Martin
take his seat at the Horn section, was so very sad. His sudden death
shocked me. Just a week earlier, on Friday the 23rd, at the conclusion
of the program, he performed gloriously in Carmina burana.   

To know now, that this was his fare-well to life is hurting &
mysterious at the same time. I wonder: Is this the way Martin would
have chosen to leave this earth? For sure: he was too young &
vigorous for departure…and his family… and his orchestra… How was
the orchestra able to play at all last Saturday?…  I was out of town
on that weekend and when I came back, I read about Martin’s death on
Bob Lauver’s blog. His account & raw  feelings, so close in time to
this tragedy startled me. They were a group within a group: the horn
players. I wrote a short comment in which the "biological image" of an
orchestra as an "organism", an image I carry for many years, surfaced
again. I still ask myself: What happen when this "organism", the
orchestra, is cut? Bruised? a part of it gives way & dies?

I must believe that a Strong organism has the capacity to heal
itself. And if my image has any validity, it’s purpose on earth is
producing music. And we need this music not only to uplift our spirits
& give us joy but to heal our wounds when ever we are hurt &
bruised. This is the power of music. This is why I can’t imagine my
live without it.

Is it a wander that this concert was colored for me with the sadness of Martin’s death?

At first, going through the program, I paid special attention to the
life spans of the composers & in what point in their life they
composed their masterpieces. Richard Strauss had a long & happy
life. Not so Mozart, who died so young & not so Rachmaninoff who
lived in exile & longed all his life to  what he had to leave
behind in Russia… The interesting fact: The three composers were very
young when composing these masterpieces. For Strauss it was a beginning
of a new musical language  (& he lived long enough to perfect it!)
Mozart, at 19teen  was already at his prime & Rachmaninoff (in my
perception) was already singing about his lost world.

Emotionally I was in tune that evening with Rachmaninoff. It was
Martin’s death & my own longing for a country I grew up in (&
miss more as the years go by) which captured my ear & soul.

Rachmaninoff, in comparison with Strauss, does not tell specific
"stories". I like that. I always prefer music which  allow me to
imagine & hear & combine my own emotions, feelings & images
of the moment or memories the music invokes while listening. Did
everyone felt sadness at the start of the first movement of his second
symphony? I did… I also imagined the vast Russian landscapes &
the composers longings for a life & language & friends he left
behind at the start of the 3rd movement. And what about the unexpected
pause as though cut with a sharp knife?  Sometimes, silent is as strong
as vibrant notes…

Rachmaninoff’s musical style is considered "romantic". I know that
some love him for it & others can’t stand it. Too much sweeping
emotions… Not for me. Definitely not at this concert. But beyond it
all, comes the magic of art: There is plenty of optimism in this E
minor symphony. The human spirit heals and looks forward. Art takes
from the past (the sorrow & the joy) & convert it to an eternal
gift. Tomorrow or next year I will hear the same symphony in a
different way. I will be different. I guess we all do that in our own
way. That the orchestra is this wonderful vehicle to present me with a
new gift time & again is the greatest magic.

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