The Cleveland Orchestra opened its 2022 Blossom season with the Gulda Cello Concerto with Wind Orchestra. Because the concert was on July 2nd, it was only fitting that they would begin the season with something fun, whimsical, Sousa-esque. There were times I felt like I was at a rock concert, and the cello sounded like an electric guitar under the command of Mark Kosower. The final march definitely put us in the 4th of July mood, and everyone around me had a grand old time! It was also the first concert that Jeff would play after the ordeal he endured from his emergency vascular event. When the surgeon cleared Jeff to play the Blossom season, I imagined what it would like to hear him play live again… I knew it would be an emotional experience, and I wondered what piece I would hear him play. Never did it cross my mind that it would be this crazy and eccentric piece.
The thing about it, though, is that the selection of Gulda was a blessing in disguise. As rambunctious and fun and silly at time that piece was, I was in tears the whole time. I watched Jeff go through his stage routine, scraping on his reeds, visiting with his colleagues, and joyfully getting ready for his first concert back. And when I heard Jeff play, it was surreal. Is this really Jeff, playing? Am I so fortunate that I get to hear him play again? As the piece progressed, I thought about what it took for us to get here from that scary day on March 25th. From the shock upon hearing the news to relief and sheer giddiness of knowing that Jeff survived the surgery… and then the small steps we took in the ICU to the regular hospital floor, to the month-long brain fog from the anesthesia to the nosebleed episode in the middle of the night, etc. Somehow, it is 3 months later, and Jeff is playing a concert. The camera zoomed in on Jeff’s face during his solos, showing me the expression that I was so familiar with. It was something I didn’t know I would see again, and something I will never take for granted. I was in a joyous mood with everyone else at Blossom, but I was also probably the only one crying. And can you imagine what might have happened if the piece Jeff played was something sublime or transcendental? Beethoven, Brahms, Mahler, etc.? I would have been an absolute mess! So I am thankful that I got to smile and chuckle through the tears because this Gulda was just so… fun.
I will say one last thing for this post, this time not as a wife but as a singer. We singers focus on the breath. It is everything. It is what sustains life, of course, and the thing that brings life to a musical phrase. What we sing becomes an extension of our existence. And so it must be with woodwinds… That evening, the sound of the oboe and the breath that gave it life was all Jeff, his life spared, and the breath of God that sustains him.