photo by panoramia.com Rachmaninoff Statue, Knoxville TN
This month I have combined and updated two blog posts from 2013.
Knoxville Tennnessee doesn’t have many claims to fame but it does have a few notable events in its history, the 1982 World’s Fair, the moonshine running roots of Nascar, the home town of a few celebrities and authors. There is one event that has always been important to me, the great Russian composer and pianist Sergei Rachmaninoff played his final concert at the University of Tennessee Alumni Gym 76 years ago. He died a few weeks later in California.
I helped my friend Jane, a fellow music lover, organize a concert to commemorate this great composer on the same stage and date of his final concert. February 17, Evgheny Brakhman an award-winning pianist from Russia played an all Rachmaninoff concert in the Cox Auditorium. I went to the 50th anniversary concert in 1993 before the new auditorium was built. In the audience were a dozen or so people who had attended that final concert 50 years before.
Rachmaninoff and his beautiful music have been a part of my life since I was a little girl. My piano teacher saw Rachmaninoff play in Chattanooga and would tell me stories of that experience. When I got accomplished enough I was required to learn the famous Prelude in C# minor, a devilishly difficult piece that took months to learn and required my long fingers to play large, complicated chords. I can still play the first few measures by memory.
The Friday after 9/11 I had symphony tickets to hear Rachmaninoff’s masterpiece the 2nd Piano Concerto. The Russian pianist Alexander Toradze drove down to play the concert since there were no planes allowed to fly. It was a somber audience that night. The orchestra first played Barber’s Adagio for Strings in memory of the tragedy. During the spectacularly beautiful second movement of the 2nd piano concerto I felt my personal sorrow healed. I will never forget that evening and the healing music gifted to me by the great composer and pianist.
It is popular to say in spiritual circles “we all are intuitive”. Yes, that is true, but that is like saying we can all play the piano. Everyone can play chopsticks, some can play hymns, others can play sonatas but only a very few gifted individuals can play Rachmaninoff. When you come across the teachers and intuitives who are “Rachmaninoffs” your world is changed forever by the mastery and beauty they bring to your life.
The concert to mark the 70th anniversary of his final concert was an outstanding success. The auditorium which holds 1000 was overflowing and many had to stand in the back. The excitement of this historic event was palpable and the pianist, Evgeny Brakhman, played with enormous talent and deep love and understanding of his idol’s music. The room was electric with the immense beauty and appreciation for art at its highest level.
My father-in-law, John, was a patron of the concert, but unfortunately he died the day before the concert from pneumonia after emergency surgery. At the concert he was honored and it made the evening all the more poignant for his family and friends. Once again Rachmaninoff’s music brought healing and solace for me during this sad time.
Beauty was everywhere in John’s life. Raised on a small farm in southern Mississippi during the depression, survival was what life was about, but education was important to the family and he worked hard and went to Medical school. He was a typical Taurus and loved land and home. Although he had a wonderful career, his home and farm were his deepest love. He nurtured his place on earth for 60 years, restoring his home and tending the land. He said to me just last fall, “I can’t believe I get to live in a place this beautiful.”
John and my mother-in-law Dusty had a deep appreciation for all things beautiful, fine books, well made clothes, beautiful music and wonderful food. They lived a beautiful life and they passed this love to all who were part of their lives, introducing them to fine art and music and gracious southern living.
Dusty can no longer remember her beautiful life after many years of dementia but her family is making sure the she still lives with the grace of a “Southern Belle”. A coal-miner’s daughter from Kentucky, she also improved her station in life through education and an appreciation of beauty. She was very social and found an outlet for her enthusiasm at the Knoxville Opera and it is through her influence that I have become a great opera lover. Dusty brought beauty into the lives of her granddaughters by gifting them violin and ballet lessons.
Beauty is the greatest way to raise your vibration and level of spiritual development. The great composers, artists, architects, writers and poets knew how to touch the Divine and bring it to the human level. The beauty of our planet is stunning; mountains, oceans, lakes, trees, flowers and animals. Beauty is all around. Everyday find something of beauty and let it bring you closer to “Heaven on Earth”.