Listening…we don’t. 

                                    The inner conversation never stops.

                                    It’s a constant racket

                                                                        – Philip Glass



Almost breathless I sat down in my balcony mid-center seat

just as Pinchas Zukerman   assured yet with halting steps

approached the podium


What did I expect?  Nineteenth Century classics

so familiar no need to read Program Notes   How explain

what began with Beethoven’s brooding sostenuto

not the context – a timely expression

of Egmont’s fatal protest against a tyrant –

but the sustained perfection contained like a fist in poise

every performer   every instrument   every pause

held by the conductor’s restraint and his hands’ explosive power

The composer’s nerve-jarring passion came full

and all the hall felt one


Then I curved my hands around my face

alone on a high-cliff   an ocelot’s eye

watching the brass in a blazing arc tier above tier

each instrument   each motion

even the lean first violinist’s wrist

the concerto Mozart’s fifth   the performers

listening each to each with impeccable ear

Zukerman magically turning with his violin

becoming the strings   bowing with such verve and precision

it seemed he improvised

then the adagio’s resonance of cellos and double-basses

a passage that struck heart’s minor chord


struck again when Tchaikovsky’s 5th Symphony – his last

but one before his suicide – began

somber bassoons and clarinets sounding steps heavy with time

a prolonged andante andante andante

Midway the drummer danced between his drums

then the final drumroll


As if to explain the profundity of consonance

that night reading the last page of Psyche und Tod

a woman’s dreams during the war   tortured and dark

then she beheld a time-faded gift from one of

Deutschland’s esteemed conductors   an etching

[on the bottom left a scene of cruelty

on the right souls rising up out of the earth

rising to Death the Fiddler]

its signature:  Tchaikovsky’s 5th