The first thing, unfortunately, is formality. Formality has always been something I highly disapproved of, especially in music, because the way a person dresses has literally nothing to do with the music they produce on their instrument. But in this world where you have to get famous first and deviate afterwards, I unfortunately can’t do anything about any part of it, including my parents’ rants a few minutes onto the road noting I left my concert shoes at home. Thankfully, we were close enough to go back to get it.
The performance was set in a “magnificent estate” in Atherton. I would have thought that meant a mansion, but it wasn’t as big of a mansion as I expected (but still something I would call a mansion). It had a beautiful backyard, and the pillars and pavement had a really neat pattern of minute holes in them, in what is in reductionist viewpoint fairly random spacing but holistically clearly arranged in stripes—very natural and nice. I guess the main part of the “mansion” air is the format of the neighborhood (for example, the very interesting street signs). We arrived early so I could try the piano plentifully. At the front, we got name tags. I’ve always thought name tags were dumb, especially because at that point I really needed to go to the bathroom and thus my mom was writing my name tag for me, which meant that (1) it was in her rigidly neat handwriting and (2) the name that went on was going to be my legal name. At least the name tags were pretty neat—they had a magnetic mechanism that makes it so we don’t have to use those mark-leaving and potentially dangerous pins.
Back to piano. I was surprised that given the fact that the piano was in a mansion it was only a Baldwin baby grand. Oh well, at least it was one of the better Baldwins (one I would call a piano, as opposed to most Yamahas)—there was some juice in the music it outputted.
Then I saw the program. Apparently I was playing first (which I actually don’t mind that much) and the program dictated that I was playing Liszt before Beethoven. That was pretty unfortunate, because I was planning to play Beethoven before Liszt so I wouldn’t be sweaty while I played Beethoven. Fortunately, the piano was loud, so I didn’t have to be as loud on the Liszt as I normally was. Maybe it was actually great that it was a Baldwin.
Apparently, this is one of those rare occasions where reception came before performance, so we went to get a bite (or in most cases, multiple bites, but not in mine, as I will explain later) to eat. Unfortunately, all the food they had was either stuff I was allergic to or stuff I was “allergic” to. I just took two cups of lemonade. Meanwhile, the other performer practiced on the piano, much more diligently than I did—oh well. I’m quite sure there must have been some food there that he was neither allergic nor “allergic” to, so that made me slightly guilty. The social atmosphere in reception was terrifying. First, a lady greeted me, having apparently met me before, but whom I absolutely do not remember from where. Apparently I forgot to say hi to my piano teacher for her from her request last time we met—I’ll try to remember this time. Then, a person of the Beethoven foundation came and had a chat with me about music and asked for what else I like to do—when I mentioned mathematics, he asked if I did abacus and mentioned a half-Filipino half-Japanese girl who was internationally ranked in both abacus and golf as the reason he asked. He said that he couldn’t play instruments or even hum the way other do. I was glad he mentioned that, because that allowed me to say something other than “thanks”—something I have been trying to get rid of—and tell him that it’s perfectly fine to not do anything the way others do. (I didn’t get to saying that being different is better, since that is something for some reason people consider weird.) And then came the moment I regretted my name tag—an Asian lady came over and pointed out from my name tag that I have an Asian last name (evidently, her ability to conclude from faces about anything is even worse than mine), and said right there that all the winners of music competitions tend to be Asian (for your information, the other guy I was talking to at the moment was White). I decided to criticize about half as much as I wanted to about this ridiculous Asian pride mentality. Anyway, reception finally was over, and thus we could settle down and perform.
The Liszt piece I played, Transcendental Etude No. 6, was always a piece I enjoyed. It’s a piece full of zyxyvy that follows the extraordinary evolution of a slow, dark theme in the low registers of the piano through variations to a barrage of resonance leaping in arpeggios everywhere, calming down slightly to marvel at the wonderful musicscape produced over the course of the piece before drumrolling to a final magnificent climax. I actually played it without any noticeable mistakes, to my definite delight. Then came the Beethoven Sonata (Op. 90). I’m sure I played it musically, albeit with a couple slips. It’s the Beethoven Sonata that miraculously manages to end on an open octave, of all endings. Apparently I was supposed to bow twice after. Whoops. Formality. Grra.
The other performer played really wonderfully, played an excerpt from Albinez’s Iberia and Beethoven’s Op. 78 Sonata. I liked his style in ending pieces, swooping his hand over the ending phrase in both pieces.
The most notable thing that happened during that was a lady in the audience fainting near the start of his playing the Sonata and a temporary pause being called to call 911 and send the lady to the hospital. I liked how he continued playing a bit even after someone called for a stop, looking for a nice place to leave off like a true musician. During the break, I had a pretty enjoyable conversation (surprise!) with the founder of the Beethoven competition on her favorite subject, philosophy. It was pretty funny because due to her soft voice I had to listen very carefully and when another lady came to join our conversation the first thing she asked was if I understood English.
Afterwards, a group of singers and two pianists from the Beethoven center played a really nice Schumann song. I’m not sure whether the contrast between the two sections of the song is more stunningly beautiful or more drastically abrupt. I’m leaning towards the former, possibly due to the supporting oxymoronic lyrics that comprise of eighty percent of the song.
After the performance was over and we left we went to eat at a Sichuan restaurant. It was one of those Sichuan restaurants that could have saved ink by using a “Not Hot & Spicy” symbol instead of a “Hot & Spicy” symbol. There was a surprising lack of Chinglish on the menu, but there was still some, so at least there was hope that it was a good Chinese restaurant—actually, I really like the food.
Anyway, we went home afterwards.