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magic moment

I don’t know when I last had a turntable but suspect it has been a decade since I was able to hear my modest collection of vinyl albums. While my taste has moved rather strongly towards jazz and big band music, the ONE album I have been wanting to hear is Dvorak’s Cello Concerto in B minor.

I have some other truly wonderful stuff, like Papa John Creach, Bolero, Chariots of Fire by Earnie Watts and the original by Vangelis, Scherazade, Moody Blues, Chuck Mangione, Jefferson Airplane and Starship, Songs In The Key of Life and more. But the ONE that really had me hankering for a turntable was the 1970 cello performance by Jacqueline Dupre’.

In the back of my mind was the idea that an audiophile with great (misplaced) confidence in the economy would upgrade, enabling me to get an older premium sound system for pennies on the dollar. I’ve long lusted after a system that could truly reproduce sound at any volume, but never found them within reach. Well glory be, IT HAPPENED! I can hardly believe I waited this long. Harder still to imagine, I spent two weeks wrestling with the decision to buy it (during which time, their price dropped a bunch).

Thanks to Al Gore’s Internet and Craig’s List, I brought home a 400-watt Pioneer system, in a Pioneer cabinet for $90… tuner, amplifier, cd, dual-cassette, 4 mongo speakers, and of course the all important turntable with a stylus that probably cost $90 by itself.

As evidence my day was going well, the Fed-Ex-driver daughter and I were able to load it into the pickup without a hitch, I got through 17 miles of cross-town driving without damaging it and managed to outsmart the unloading challenge by myself, thanks to the Newfoundland ramp I made for loading and unloading our dog.

I bravely rearranged Missy’s furniture layout and set up the new stereo with optimal spread between the two speakers. I almost turned the “radio” on to test it, but realized this moment was special and should be treated with reverence. It was only 4:00, I had several things I wanted to do with the remaining daylight, but I gave the instance its full import.

Pour a glass of Merlot, put Dvorak Cello Concerto in B Minor on the turntable, set the volume at concert pitch and put my feet up in Dad’s leather recliner centered opposite the speakers.

Savor the moment.

In the intervening years I have heard recordings of widely acclaimed Yo Yo Ma performing this piece to perfection. But it didn’t live up to my memory of the recording I owned. How much of that was an idealized memory?

Almost a fairy tale, gifted musicians Daniel Barenboim and Jacqueline Du Pre’ wed and made beautiful music as conductor and soloist in performances around the world. In this recording he weds Jacqueline’s passionate cello to an inspired Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Of course the cello is the best part. One of Chicago Symphony cellists proclaimed, “That girl plays like you dream about but never quite pull off”. Flawless, for sure, but so much more feeling than the notes could have had without her interpretation.

What more can I say? It was perfect. The old record even had a few “pops” on it to add a nostalgic touch in this digital age. Powerful. Strong. Sweet. Romantic. Stirring.

I had goose bumps, chills, tears, grins. Yeah, the album is every bit as priceless as I remember. The stereo paid for itself with THAT MOMENT.

As the sun set over the neighbor’s freshly plowed 75 acres outside our picture window, I was still savoring the moment, the stereo and my rekindled love of classical music reproduced the way it should be.