After going to Vienna, the world’s heart of classical music, I suddenly realised that music is a bigger part of me than I’d ever realized. Immediately upon returning I scanned through the great Parisian concert halls for performances I could attend before leaving, and though I found no more operas, which were my original target, I did find two concerts at the Salle Pleyel.The Salle Pleyel is a slightly smaller concert hall than the great opera houses, and is much more intended as a recital hall, almost built for piano performances. Not surprising given the homage of the name to a composer and the founder of a great piano company of the 19th century, the height of Romantic pianicism.The first concert I found was a concert with Emanuel Ax playing the Brahms second Piano Concerto with Bernard Haitink and the Chamber Orchestra of Europe in the first half and with the latter two performing the Fourth Brahms Symphony in the second half. I couldn’t find any cheaper tickets, and dropped 65 euros on this ticket, which also landed me in quite a nice seat
The concerto itself was quite a treat, since it is a piece I am terrifically fond of, but it felt a little bit stiff. It’s been a while since I’ve listened to a concerto live, and given synchronisation difficulties I wouldn’t be surprised if live performances are stiffer than studio ones to make synchronisation easier, but it was still a slightly disappointing performance in that respect. But of course, Emanuel Ax found sonorities and colors in the piano that simply cannot be heard on recordings, and I did like his muscular treatment of some of the louder sections.The Symphony was otherworldly, on the other hand. The smaller orchestra gave the Symphony a very warm lilt, which given the nature of the symphony was very suiting (for example, the first wouldn’t have nearly worked so well, being a much squarer symphony than such a flowing one as the fourth). I enjoyed each and every movement, gained a newfound respect for the Fourth Symphony. I hummed it for a whole week after the concert.The second concert was a Valentina Lisitsa piano recital, much more familiar territory. Valentina Lisitsa was a pianist who really made her fame through a DVD recording that was pirated onto Youtube, a real twist of fate. She has become controversial of late for her political opinions, but that didn’t stop her from giving a scincillating performance. I purchased a 35 euro seat but since the seats were not sold out the ushers actually told us to move farther forward, giving me abetter seat than the Ax performance
Always not quite organized, my desk is a constant, yet subtle reminder of why I ultimately chose Caltech: the people. (sigh… I bet you haven’t heard that one before!). It’s no secret that Caltech has a small undergraduate population but, in my experience, that doesn’t mean you won’t be able to find your people, it means you’ll be able to find them faster!
With the third term fast approaching and the status of COVID on campus pushing all major events to the spring quarter, students of the houses of Caltech were excited. The reason? Interhouse season had arrived. Interhouses, a longstanding tradition of the California Institute of Technology, are summarized as parties hosted by each respective house, usually with a theme, in which the entire undergraduate population is invited to attend. As every undergraduate house of Caltech has its own personality and characteristics, these interhouses too have their own flair depending on the house who hosts them.
Let’s face it: the US loves being just a little different from everyone else. The obvious example? Units of measurement. As an international student from Canada, even I have no clue what’s going on half the time when my friends talk to me and use these weird nonsensical units. And I’ve literally lived on the border between Canada and the States for all my life. After a year here, I’ve finally got a sense of how the two systems of measurement compare and how you can more easily get your bearings with these weird units.
About a dozen frosh sit and stand in a semicircle around a whiteboard. Various Lloyd-themed interhouse names sit on a list awaiting their fate. One by one, possibilities are discussed and voted on, until four remain.