Now that the always enterprising Anne Midgette has posted my blog objecting to live Bach cello suites imposed on visitors to the Corcoran Gallery, I’ve realized that I failed to indicate that this was not a museum concert. Rather, the cellist was offered as an embellishment to dining in the atrium. Johann Sebastian was enlisted to cheerfully accompany both Frederick Church’s “Niagara” and the consumption of soup, sandwiches, and pasta.
As it happens, the day after I attempted to ponder “Niagara” at the Corcoran I had lunch at DC’s University Club with my son Bernie and a friend. We were talking — arguing, actually — about Bach at the Corcoran when Bernie and I became aware of the Waltz from Rachmaninoff’s Suite No. 2 for two pianos. Our luncheon soundtrack — previously comprising anodyne Baroque selections — had suddenly obtruded. Both Bernie (who adores Vladimir Horowitz and hence the piano music of Rachmaninoff) and I found the excellent rendition of this two-piano showpiece, with its combination of virtuoso keyboard velocity and Slavic pathos, irresistibly compelling.
Is Rachmaninoff’s two-piano Waltz appropriate restaurant music? I am reasonably certain that Rachmaninoff (who was no snob; he admired Art Ttaum) would have said: no way.
And I would go further. I would say that the Club music menu, on this occasion, insidiously (if inadvertently) miscategorized Rachmaninoff (as many do) as a merely confectionary composer.