I was looking forward with anxiety (not anxiously looking forward) to the actual concert, after our Japan premiere the previous afternoon in Tokyo had been disappointing (at least to me). Not everyone had quite escaped the illusion of a summer vacation in the big city, translating into a general lack of commitment and more concretely, in mastro Suzuki's words, "a few catastrophes." Tonight was different. The energy was high, the ensemble tight. I sensed much more intensity from all directions, including the front. It felt like a meaningful performance – a seemingly redundant statement when the program consists of the b minor mass, especially in a beautiful and full hall.
A deeper meaning is revealed to us at the reception. Sendai is indeed in the the hardest struck area of the earthquake and tsunami of March 11, 2011. The university president and faculty members give their accounts of what said catastrophe has meant for the area, and what a concert like ours tonight can mean to many people. We are reminded that Bach Collegium Japan around maestro Suzuki were able to leave miraculously for their scheduled US tour (including a concert at Yale) on the one day that week on which Narita airport (Tokyo) was functional. Their program: Bach's B minor mass. (We all suspect this piece must have a special place in Suzuki san's heart, but he has never elaborated.) Most moving is one professor's account of the role of music. He is a self-proclaimed "poor organist" and "poor conductor" who leads a church choir. After the earthquake, he says, the question had arisen whether it is appropriate to continue musical activities during such difficult times. "For many of us, singing is equal to living. If we can't sing now, when do we start again?"