The five pounds we needed to pay as students for a classical concert were a wonderful offer. It was no wonder we tried to use this chance as often as we could. This time, they played Tchaikovsky and an almost unbearable Henze cello piece for us. We had ourselves some moshing bassists and old blokes banging the timbals, and after a waltzy Strauss evergreen, the principal timpanist, reigning lord of drums and thunder, was officially and with all honours sent into well-deserved retirement after bloody 41 years in the Philharmony to share the rest of his days in calm with his “long-suffering wife”. The auditorium exploded into applause, and I wanted to a) hug the old man and b) take over his instrument. For the glowing final of a brutal apocalyptic Stravinsky, he, for one last time, walloped his friends to the rhythm of the hyperborean conductor making love to his conductor´s stick, and I was just one step away from stage diving.
This is part of the ongoing A Big Plate of Sideorders series, an Erasmus memory.
“Oh, Vashily!” exclaimed Giorgis after the concert. “çe´sh danching on stage! What grashe! What poetry in motion! Conducting turned art!”
I paused full freeze-frame style before asking: “Do you really like him?”
But Giorgis looked surprised. “You don´t? çe´sh fantashtic! Xe really is – something else!”
“To me he looks as if he constantly wants to touch himself”, I said and imitated the handsome conductor. Urte laughed. I added, “I think he masturbates to his own photo.”
Giorgis´ jaw dropped. “Paul!”
“What?” I said, shrugging. “I think that´s what he does!”
But my friend shook his head. “Nah, mate, the computer saysh no. I´m sorry, no chanche.”
“He does, look, he…”
Just that moment an older couple approached us from the side, a friendly smile on their faces, and asked whether I wasn´t the young gentleman who played the German song at Ken´s dinner. I immediately forgot about mocking Vasily Petrenko. They meant me. Now make no mistake. Urte was not supposed to behold me as a ghastly show-off.
“Ah, well, I presume that was me, yes.”
“It was marvelous indeed”, the man stated, shaking my hand.
“Oh, it was nothing”, I replied. “I am, I´m afraid it was hardly the kind of entertainment the dinner and the company would have deserved.”
“Humbug.” The gentleman winked at me. “There is absolutely no reason for understatement, young man. Don´t be so British. It was, I say it again, a real pleasure.”
“Well, thank you very much.”
I smiled, shrugged, and, on the inside, felt like a star. With real groupies and fans, regardless of which age.
“Speaking of entertainment, how do you find Mr. Petrenko?” The lady pressed her hands to her heart and sighed. “Is he not simply wonderful?”
“My wordsh, Madam, my wordsh.” Giorgis nodded vehemently.
“Yes, splendid. Isn´t he? And isn´t it fantastic to see that all generations react to him in such similar fashion?” asked the lady. “He is such an outstanding stroke of luck for us all, isn´t he? Not just the classic lovers like ourselves but for the whole city.”
Urte smiled at me, Giorgis gave me a triumphant look, and I kept my mouth shut.
Apparently, Vasily was indeed a real star, not just with the older ladies and Giorgis but among the broad public. He had only just been appointed Principal Conductor but attendance had risen significantly since his first appearance in Liverpool, and nothing would ever be the same in one of the oldest Philharmonic orchestras of the world without the poster boy who revolutionized and vitalized the classic repertoire of the Merseyside.
And he for sure was a salient part of the Liverpool experience. Even I needed to agree with that.
After the Philharmony, Agnes, Giorgis and I went to the Django´s one more time and then tried to follow the rest of the bunch into the Cavern. The bouncers, though, did not give us permission to enter. Gigs were rolling and about to finish. But we knew the rest was partying in the depths of the club as we had met Rick with his entourage earlier that evening. Rick had introduced me to a pretty French girl he was obviously going ballistic about. She told me in flawless German that she only spoke like that when she was outrageously drunk. Rick had smiled the smile of a man full of pleasant anticipation.
We sat down underneath Liverpool´s wall of fame outside the Cavern, where they had put up all the gold records local artists had ever received, testimony to the Pool´s powerhouse status in the biz, and waited.
We waited a good deal, actually. Until the crowd started leaving the place. Until the band left. Until they closed the door from the outside. Until the street was so effing empty even the John Lennon statue was about to troll off. Apparently, the others had been too drunk and too tired to stay around for long. The three of us laughed. What else was there to do? If things were not going as expected, you just needed to be flexible enough to still enjoy your time. Which may depend on the people around you.
Giorgis, Agnes and I went off into the night. Laughing.