Emily Dickinson said you’ll know it’s poetry if it knocks your socks off, or words to that effect, and that was how Mary and I felt as we were watching the documentary “Viva Maestro” at the Sag Harbor Cinema the other day.
It is already gone, which is a pity. The documentary was about the young Venezuelan conductor Gustavo Dudamel. As a youth he was inspired by Jose Antonio Abreu, the late Venezuelan conductor, composer, and economist, who was dedicated, through El Sistema, to improving children’s lives through classical music. It merited a long, long run — especially in these days when giving up on mankind comes rather easily.
The transporting music and Dudamel’s enthusiastic love for it, for his maestro, and for the many children and adults whom he conducts often had us tearing up, thinking what is possible in this world.
On receiving one of his many awards, Abreu spoke of the sublime right children had to music, “in whose bosom shines Beingness in its splendor and its ineffable mystery.”
“Let us reveal to our children the beauty of music and music shall reveal to our children the beauty of life,” he, a believer in music’s transformative power, said.
I was speaking in tongues afterward, urging one and all to go see “Viva Maestro,” my heightened state perhaps owing to the fact that I’m a late convert to classical music. Not as dramatic as Saul being struck down on the road to Damascus, but in the ballpark.
A Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals judge, a high school classmate of mine, with whom we correspond, started us on this road some months ago. After receiving a despondent missive from Mary, brought lower than normal by the news of the world, he emailed a Rachmaninoff piano concerto that lifted our spirits, and for which we thanked him. Beethoven’s Ninth came next, I think.
When he said he and his wife would see Dudamel conducting Beethoven’s Ninth “in L.A., in May,” I, a homebody, immediately thought of going out, for when Dudamel is conducting, his orchestras, be they made up of youthful or mature musicians, hit it out of the park.
Truth and beauty, though they’re not always allied, are met in a genius like him, and give us hope.