Friday, January 21, 2011

Tanya Ell, Bach Cello Suite No. 4 (In my Living Room)

Bach: Cello Suite No. 4 in E-flat major, Bvw 1010
Tanya Ell, cello.
at My Living Room, Cleveland Heights.

In October, Heights Arts celebrated their 10th anniversary on 10/10/10. A silent auction offered a variety of local arts with the proceeds of the auction to benefit Heights Arts. Tanya Ell, a member of the Cleveland Orchestra, a fantastic cellist, and long one of my favorite musicians, offered herself playing one of Bach's Cello Suites in your home.

I couldn't resist the urge to start the bidding, knowing full well that I would not be the ultimate winner. As the auction progressed a mutual acquaintance snuck up behind me and asked "So, how high are you going to bid on Tanya?" "Like all great artists, the true value is higher than I can afford" was my answer at the time. Ultimately I was the second highest bidder; Ms. Ell was generous enough to offer a second performance. I wasn't passing that opportunity up.

That gets us to tonight: I've been interested in entertaining for a while but there's high inertia: When? Why? and most dauntingly: How?

With wine from my trip home over the holidays (and some supplemental bottles), food from Clyde's Bistro and Barroom just down the street (Thanks to Vivian, the general manager, for an excellent spread and advice that went far beyond catering), some chairs and serving wear borrowed from a friend, the conversation was easy and long lasting -- both before and after Ms. Ell's recital.

And what a recital. Tanya always has a beautiful sound. This was the first time I've heard her play solo and her sound was as intoxicating as any wine; as sweet as any desert. The vibrations resonated as soundly through the feet, up the legs and into the soul as they did off the walls and into the ear. Though Wikipedia notes that "Suite No. 4 is one of the most technically demanding of the suites since E-flat is an uncomfortable key to intonate on the cello and requires many extended left hand positions" one would not get this sense from Ms. Ell's effortless playing. The warm sound warmed the body on a blustery winter night, and in short, this was one of those rare performances that left me tingling.

Between movements and well after the music had finished Tanya shared a wealth of information about the music and fielded questions from the small audience displaying a wonderful knowledge not just of the music on the page but the theory behind the music. As an unexpected bonus, she also played a well-known movement from Bach's First Cello Suite, practically on demand and again seemingly without requiring any effort on her part.

And the true value was much higher than the my winning bid. It was, indeed, priceless.

I can honestly say that my living room has never sounded better.

I had feared that the group would scatter rapidly after the music had finished, but good conversation--matched with the balance of the food and wine--continued for quite a while after the music had stopped.

The words to aptly describe the evening are failing me at the moment, so I shall stop trying now.

I'd say my first foray into entertaining was a success, in no small part to Ms. Ell's generosity and the help and support of everyone who played a part in keeping me sane this week.

Anyone who wants to play a small recital in my living room... I'd be glad to have you!

(p.s. lest anyone have any ideas: As I told someone once, I never claim to be unbiased; I merely claim to be aware of my biases)

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