On a brisk Saturday, friends of Tomoko and music, gather at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music in anticipation of a unique concert experience. Families, students, long-time friends all walk into the bas-relief auditorium, chatting quietly and checking their phones. Flower bouquets set in the front side seats, ready to be bestowed. As the lights dim, the audience holds their breath in anticipation. They stow away any distractions. The performance begins!
For the first piece, Schubert’s Piano Quintet in A Major (Opus 114, D. 607) Tomoko has gathered four experienced musicians who have never played all together. They have rehearsed together only three times, but the audience would never know. The quintet (violin, viola, cello, double bass, piano instruments) are simultaneously alert and relaxed. Their personalities shine as they use the entire bow length for a legato measure or sharply tap staccato notes. Especially when a section plays two musicians off each other, the feeling of a connected conversation is apparent.
No wonder intermission is a time for thanks, congratulations, joy. And it is a time to set up the logistics, the myriad details, to ensure a successful second half and parter thereafter. The time goes too fast.
Three sets of piano duets grace the audience after intermission: Chabrier’s Trois Valses Romantiques, Debussy’s En Blanc et Noir, and Rachmaninoff’s Suite No. 2, Opus 17. These pieces are generally romantic, but have depth and complexity that showcase the piantists’mastery and sensitivity. Even though the duos are seated across from each other across the two grand pianos, they listen closely to synchronize their efforts seamlessly. Sometimes it sounds more like one very complex piano than two piano voices. The performances reflected the joy of Tomoko’s friendship with her pianist partners.
Joanne Ahn and her committee prepare a tasty reception to honor the performers, and to give them a chance to mingle with the appreciative audience. The food is varied in flavor as the conversation. Many of the audience are musicians themselves, certainly music lovers, and the camaraderie between them and the performers underscores the feeling of community and shared values.
More now than ever we need these times to focus on beauty, to have a shared esthetic experience. And this experience will linger in each person’s mind and heart. We have Tomoko to thank for creating and orchestrating this special time to start the new year.