Arrow-right Camera

Washington Voices

Vocal Point: Concert eases mind about interloper

My wife has been seeing another man for some time now. Behind my back.

We are well beyond the seven-year-itch. She talks about him. He makes her feel like a “more complete person.” Of course, he is a foreigner. He’s from Europe. A “continental gentleman.” The worst kind. I lived in Europe for a couple of years and came to know the reputation of these continental types. Sharp, suave and often seducers of women.

You can imagine my concern. One Sunday afternoon, my wife declares that she is going to the Spokane Symphony matinee at the restored Martin Woldson Theater at The Fox.

She knows that I am in several NFL pools and so I must remain at home on Sundays in front of the television, monitoring football games from coast to coast.

The symphony matinee doesn’t start until 3 p.m. but my spouse leaves the house two hours early (we live 10 minutes from where symphony plays).

“Why so early?” I ask in a calm voice that masks my suspicions.

“Mr. Preu is giving us background on the composer and the piece to be performed this afternoon.” Eckart Preu is the Spokane Symphony conductor.

“Before the symphony?”

“Yes, he does it every Sunday.”

“Can’t you get that information in a book? Online?” I confound her with my insight.

“Sure, but it’s better coming from him.”

“I bet everything is better coming from Eckart.” She is annoyed at me for using his first name.

“Ya wanna come along.”

“You know I’m stuck here! I’ve got simultaneous games, morning and afternoon.”

“Put your bottles in the trash and vacuum your chips off the carpet,” she says bidding me goodbye and then out the door to join Eckart at their Sunday afternoon tryst.

I vowed to take her up on her offer someday. And I did.

My wife led me into a conversation a couple of weeks ago, “You liked the movie ‘Scent of A Woman.’ ”

“I think so.”

“You said that you enjoyed the tango music.”

“I did?”

“The next symphony performance includes a piece with a tango subtheme.”

The only “sub” that I remember was Nemo’s Submarine Voyage at Disneyland.

“Want to come along?”

“Can I attend Eckert’s pre-symphony tête-à-tête?”

“ ‘Tête-à-tête’ is French. Conductor Preu is German. And there’ll be over 100 people listening to his remarks. So much more than a tête-à-tête.”

I regretted using a French word. Kids raised in Hillyard always do.

But I did not regret listening to Conductor Preu. He does cut a dashing figure. Husbands of Spokane, do not let your wife attend the symphony unaccompanied.

Most of this kind of classical music is written to indicate events, like a “merry gathering of country folk,” “thunderstorms” and “happy, grateful feelings after the storm.” The conductor’s background information is useful because the music played at these concerts has no words. Nothing to tell you who’s hurtin’ who, so tips on events portrayed by the music are welcome to those of us who were raised on Top 40 tunes.

Preu introduced the out-of-town guest violinist (Tim Fain) at the background meeting so that we could get a sample of his skill.

The guy poured notes out of his violin. Fain bends his knees and rips the bow across the strings like he is pumping the instrument for all it’s got. He probably wears out two or three violins a week.

Then came the actual symphonic performance.

Conductor Preu turns his back to the audience and does three or four jerking motions with his arms and the entire orchestra recognizes which of those jerks means to start playing because bingo, the strings and the horns all kick in at once.

The musicians’ faces are a worthy study as the concert heats up. Some remain stone. Others give a ferocious look when the music is building to a crescendo. Some alternate smiles with grimaces.

The concert master has the unlikely name of Mateusz Wolski. His face is the busiest on the stage. His eyebrows jump up and down, he reshapes his mouth with every musical mood change. He purses his lips and twists his body in order to saw his violin in just the way required for the part.

Some bow strands break but the cellists play on.

The bass players are fortunate to have something to lean against since they stand and stroke on those big instruments with a 20-pound bow for a couple of hours straight, only getting a break when they are plucking.

Every musician displays a tired smile at the end of the concert.

By the last note, Conductor Preu perspires and appears thoroughly exhausted. He has sweated his hair wet.

The women of Spokane are safe from Mr. Continental after the symphony. Eckart doesn’t have the energy to rendezvous with anyone’s wife for a candlelit dinner in some out-of-the-way cafe.