Bass Blog

Michael Hovnanian formerly played bass with an orchestra located in a large midwestern city.

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Thursday, April 19, 2012

Blog of the tour, part 02

Red Sauce over Moscow

(Sorry for another fast-food themed post - my last on this trip, I hope)

The first evening left time for little more than a quick jaunt over to Red Square before dark. I wanted to see if the Kremlin had been Disney-ified yet or not. The folks selling matryoshka dolls and other trinkets were at the Kremlin walls but had not breached the perimeter. Red square looked much as it had before, although now crowded with ice-cream cone eating lollygags and (religious?) fanatics screaming through bullhorns it had lost some of its solemnity. Lenin still lies in his tomb, the body of amazing 'peasant-under-glace' apparently immune to the passage of time. My wife will be glad to know they still deny access to anyone with a camera.

With darkness closing in fast, I hurried over to the eternal flame, memorial to the soldiers who died in the Great Patriotic War (aka WW II to us in the west), a moving, human-scaled remembrance, much more effective than the bloated, at once kitschy and sterile monstrosity of the Museum of the Great Patriotic War and Victory Park I was to visit the following day. As the light had failed utterly, I turned to head back to the hotel, whereupon I noticed a structure that had not drawn my attention earlier in my rush to get to the center of the old 'Evil Empire'. The low-slung building seemed to be the top level of some larger underground structure that looked suspiciously like a shopping mall. The businesses visible at street level were (of course) McDonald's, with its royalist sidekick the Burger King tagging along just around the corner, and then another nod to the patriarchy, Sushi King, which I think is a local place, and finally, the ultimate kick in the throat to any dreams of socialist utopia - Sbarro.

Now I have nothing against Sbarro, except that it is terrible. McDonald's, and to a slightly lesser extent, Burger King, one expects to see just about anywhere, especially places where the symbols of rabid consumerism and brand fetishism carry the extra weight of irony. When someday the golden arches rise above the Vatican, it will surprise me not a bit. After all, when one captures Iwo Jima, goes to the moon, or accomplishes some similar feat, it is right and proper to plant the flag, just as it might be expected that, having vanquished another foe, a gladiator would plant a heel squarely on the chest of his fallen victim while raising a fist in triumph. But after having only moments before turned away from the solemn war memorial, I couldn't help but think, 27 million dead, for Sbarro? That's difficult to swallow, no matter how you slice it.


Landau Curee said...

I guess sbarro is payback for Mongolian BBQ! :-) I have a question. Last night, I enjoyed one of the best performances I have ever had the witnessed, any venue, any genre. That includes The who's performance Live at Leeds. The show was Simon Trpceski Performs Ravel at Benaroya hall. I thought it ended weak but the gravamen of the performance was remarkable. Will he be coming to Chicago? Here is what may be a simple or silly question. In the show last night, the performers were arranged differently than I remember in other performances, for example, I was lucky enough to enjoy a performance by the CSO in Chicago a couple months ago. The bass section was on left of the stage while last night the bass section was on the right. Who decides where and organizes the stage sections? Is it different per conductor? Is it different in russia or other countries or is it determined by the composer? Finally, do the performers have a preference or does it matter at all? Thanks and please write more about your travels. I have enjoyed your comments! Did you try the sushi? Seems a little adventurous.

Landau Curee

Michael Hovnanian said...

I don't know if Trpceski will be in Chicago or not. The conductor decides the arrangement on stage - I'm not sure if one setup predominates in certain countries or not. Players tend to be pretty conservative, so the preference is usually for whatever has been done in the past. In our case that is stage left.

Thanks for reading.

MacroV said...

A friend of mine at Embassy Moscow (who worked on the visit) says the guys in Red Square with the bullhorns aren't religious fanatics; they're hawking tours. When I worked in Yerevan my Armenian staff always said they were wary of going to Moscow for fear of harassment, so the Armenia Hockey (not exactly the Blackhawks, is it?) could well draw the wrong kind of attention.

Michael Hovnanian said...

Thanks. I probably should have left that shirt at home.