Saturday, August 14, 2010

August 14

Yesterday morning Rick slept in while I went to see a house that I liked very much.  He'll come with me on Tuesday to see it.  There's a web site with pictures, but I'll wait until it's more decided.

I took a walk yesterday morning and passed one of the doors San Miguel is famous for.  It's carved, then painted:

There's at least one book published on the doors of San Miguel.  Many are richly carved and then varnished.  This painted one is unusual.

Last evening was superb.  Unfortunately I've been sick for much of the International Chamber Music Festival, which has had paid concerts, free concerts by student classical musicians, and students practicing all over town.  You may remember that we heard a couple of them playing four-handed Grieg about a week ago.  Last night we heard the Miro String Quartet and they were spectacular.  They played two Beethoven quartets -- #4, which I didn't know, and #11, and a posthumous Schubert quintet, #163, of which I knew every note.  The adagio movement of the Schubert was so perfect, so tautly quiet, that it felt like several hundred people in the audience were not breathing, and I heard notes I'd never heard before.  For sure, if you have a chance to hear the Miro Quartet play, don't miss them!

The concert was in an odd theater, the Angela Peralta, where we'd been before.  It's narrow and deep -- I counted only 13 rows on the orchestra floor and only 15 to 20 seats per row, and boxes lining the sides, which you can see a bit above.  There are two horseshoe-shaped balconies (you can also see the end of the first balcony above), each of which has not seats but three levels of carpet-covered benches:  each is two feet high and two feet deep.  The top balcony was reserved for students at really cheap or free prices.  The top price on the orchestra floor was 450 pesos, about $39, but ours on the side of the first balcony cost only 75 pesos each, about $6.75.  Imagine, hearing such a concert for $6.75!  We brought cushions and I can't say it was super comfortable, but it was bearable.  Certainly worth it for people on a budget.

What was nearly unbearable was the heat and lack of ventilation in the theater.  I'm really very surprised that San Miguel, with its many cultural activities scheduled here, doesn't have a decent theater.  I saw people fanning themselves all over the hall, not just the balconies.  Maybe they feel that the wonderful acoustics are sufficient?  Someone told me today that the theater was just renovated a couple of years ago, so perhaps the ventilation system wasn't working.  It's a tribute to the quartet that we were able to love the music they played despite the phyical discomfort.

Before the quartet began playing, students were introduced who had won this year's competitions.  It seems that the chamber music festival is designed not only to showcase groups from various places in the world but also as a competition for Mexican student musicians.  Young people in trios and quartets were introduced who had won this year, and will be performing next year.  I love seeing people in their 20s who are devoting their careers to classical music!

After the concert we walked across the street to a restaurant named Tio Luca's (Uncle Luca's), a wildly overpriced steak restaurant we'd never go to but that had good jazz musicians.  We had a couple of drinks and talked with some people we knew who arrived after we did.  The funny thing is that while that superb concert cost us 150 pesos, the drinks at Tio Luca's cost 250 pesos!  We complained about how expensive that restaurant was and then laughed to realize we were complaining about an evening out for maybe $21.

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