Yesterday night, Seda played a short concert with Schubert’s Sonate in a-moll D. 784 and Brahm’s Sechs Klavierstücke op. 118 in the Lowell House library at Harvard University. I love this pensive program. It is full of deep emotions, thorough thinking, and rhythmic complexities.Seda played on the piano that once belonged to David Lewin, the legendary American music theorist and composer who was a graduate of the class of 1954 and a Professor of music at Harvard since 1985. It was a strange sensation, but half-way through the program I realized that I wasn’t listening to Seda’s playing or Schubert’s music only. No, I was experiencing Schubert’s music through Seda’s interpretation which in turn was affected by the acoustics of the room, the general mood of the audience but also by the character of David Lewin’s piano. Obviously, Seda’s playing had to happen within the boundaries of what was possible on that particular instrument. An instrument that was for years played by Lewin. An instrument that had adapted to his way of playing, his way of thinking about the music. An instrument that even bears the marks of his smoking while playing habits (there are quite a few burn marks on the keyboard).
In this respect, instruments are much like old books: they contain traces of former envolvement (annotations), passion (extensive commenting in the margins), sometimes even aggression (ripped-out pages) and you cannot play on them without engaging with the spirit of their former owners. If you disregard the instrument’s personality you are doomed to fail and the ghosts of their previous owners will haunt you.
At yesterday’s concert, David Lewin’s spirit was a welcome guest, observing and listening, at times making a witty comment, but always with an unmistakenly friendly smile on his face. And what else could he have been with such a talented and serious musician bringing his piano back to life?