Lloyd Schwartz

The Rehearsal
June 24, 2021 Schwartz Lloyd


(From John Harbison’s What Do We Make of Bach?)


“At our first duo rehearsal—Bach’s B-
Minor Sonata was what we played—I already knew
This young woman interested me.


We borrowed a room (where was it?)
With a harpsichord (whose?)
And with few words began the sonata.


As this unfolded—recognition, confirmation,
Accord, consternation. Above all,
The marking of a common center.


She had told me Bach was her favorite composer,
Her home site, but by the end of the first movement,
I knew that in her case, this was not just


Devotion to the music, its spirit, its
Generosity, but a trust in it,
A willingness to let it speak.


What I heard at the same time, in that
First movement, is the loneliness that often inhabits
The undertone of a great master’s work—


The habitation of a realm so rarely visited,
With so little company, to find that secret
In music, the performer needs an inner life,


A kind of solitary experience. I sensed a person


For whom art costs too much, for whom
The sharing of that intense experience
With others is often painful and risky.


I knew what that might be like!


I sensed joy, possibility, danger,
Complication. Inextricability.
A fulcrum. A magnet. A talisman…


We began the second movement.”

Lloyd Schwartz is the Frederick S. Troy Professor of English Emeritus at the University of Massachusetts Boston and the poet laureate of Somerville, Massachusetts, for which he has just been awarded a 2021 Academy of American Poets Poet Laureate fellowship. His poems have been selected for the Pushcart Prize, The Best American Poetry, and The Best of the Best American Poetry. In 2019, he was awarded a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship in poetry. A noted editor of the works of Elizabeth Bishop, he is also the longtime classical music critic for NPR’s Fresh Air and was the classical music editor of The Boston Phoenix, for which he was awarded the 1994 Pulitzer Prize for criticism. His latest book is Who’s on First? New and Selected Poems (University of Chicago Press).