So tonight, thanks to extreme parental generosity, I got to see Nikolai Lugansky and the St. Petersburg Philharmonic play Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 2, which was, as might be expected, superb. But listening to it was somewhat double-edged: as happens often with pieces I remember/know very well, I cannot help but think of my father.
My father died when I was 12, and whether intentional or accidental, I have a great deal of difficulty consciously recalling anything of my life with him. There are snippets and scenes here and there, but I cannot remember anything specific or tangible or real about what he or I were like. The clearest memory I yet retain is some nondescript Sunday morning, with Dad lying in bed and watching the Niners play, while my brother and I ran pass patterns around his bedroom as he tossed a Nerf football to us. And even that seems indistinct and cloudy to me. Most of what I know of him is what others have told me about him, which is obviously not the best means of getting an accurate picture of someone who has passed away.
But when I hear something like the symphony tonight, which followed Rachmaninov with Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade, even though I haven’t listened to the second piece in what is probably decades, I recognize emotions in myself resonating. Nothing tangible, and so ephemeral that if I focus on them I feel they will effervesce away, but I know I’m feeling not just the passion of the music, but the pull of the past. At times it’s so melancholy and nostalgic that it’s almost unbearable, but it’s also when I feel closer to my father than I ever have.