MOZART AND THE SPACES IN-BETWEEN

By Nadia Essop

 Tonight was concert night, our performance ended hours ago. The music had been rehearsed and performed, the scores and instruments have been packed away, and soon the warm applause from the audience will fade into warm memory. I remember exactly how our musical director revealed the latest challenge to the choir: ‘This is it, this is perfection!’ We would be performing Mozart’s Mass in C Minor. During the weeks of preparation that followed, our choir master used (what would become) a ubiquitous vocabulary of words and phrases, such as: out of this world, simple yet powerful, one long line, must flow, like elastic, the heartbeat, on one breath, the pulse, purity, and don’t breathe! Of these, my favourite became the spaces, space.  Pencil scribbles on my music score can attest to this. I’ve come to understand that space is not the same as pause, nor linger, dawdle or stop. Space –where required, and while never letting go of the rhythm- would elevate the piece, would make it breathe and live. It was this dance between space and rhythm that enthralled me. I visited Vienna many years ago, and while there I squashed as much as possible into my stay. I saw Lipizzaner horses perform, visited Schönbrun Palace and the Art Nouveau marvels of Otto Wagner, I walked along wide boulevards, and in the footsteps of Beethoven and Strauss. One of my rambles led me to the St. Marc Cemetery where Mozart was presumably buried, unceremoniously as it were, in a mass grave. As luck would have it, I arrived just as a busload of tourists was making their way to Mozart’s grave. I resigned myself to a bench, and waited online casino my turn. The group converged around the grave, a rectangle of green grass with potted flowers, a few candles, at one end a pillar with an angel leaning against it. The tourists laughed, posed for photographs, and returned to their coach. But two figures lingered, a young woman and her child. The woman picked a flower from a nearby shrub. She drew her son close and explained something to him; I wasn’t close enough to hear. They stood quietly for a few minutes.  She handed him the flower. He laid it on the grave. That was 17 years ago. Of all the wondrous sights, sounds and rhythms of Vienna, this is the memory that endures in vivid detail – one small gesture, a small space. (And yes, they were still on time for the bus!) In the small of night, I take inventory of what remains after our performance of the Mozart Mass. Choir, soloists, orchestra and conductor created space in which to feel, space in which to lose oneself, space in which to wander freely outside the confines of ourselves, our lives, our cultures. Together we created space in which to traverse the spaces which separate us from one another, in which to connect with our communality – our humanity. All the ubiquitous words our choir master used were significant: one long line flows, a heartbeat, a pulse out of this world, powerful, yet so simple, don’t breathe. Don’t breathe! This is it! A pure heartbeat flows, on one long breath, out of this world. *The performance of Mozart’s Mass in C by the Symphony Choir of Cape Town, was dedicated to the life and memory of Maike, daughter of our fellow chorister, Carine Fortsch*   13 October 2012
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