Noteworthy Performances of All Kinds

How is watching basketball on television like listening to a string quartet in rehearsal?  In each instance, presuming you’re not a high-order expert in either basketball or string quartets, you will hear things said about what’s going on that you simply don’t see or hear.

I think about things like this frequently, in large part because I watch too much basketball; an excess leavened, however, by how I’m always impressed by color commentators who see things such as changing defenses and other strategies I’m probably oblivious to.

I also think about things like this because I still routinely recall watching the Guarneri Quartet – “one of the world’s preeminent chamber groups,” according to the Washington Post – rehearse in the lounge of my dorm in the late 1960s in what is now Binghamton University.  Seemingly, every few seconds violist Michael Tree and his colleagues would stop to discuss and/or debate how a passage should be played.  And in each instance, I had only the slimmest notion of what they were talking about as virtually every variation of timing or whatever it might have been was lost on my non-musical ear.

As I write it’s late Monday afternoon and I don’t know who will be the color analysts for tonight’s Villanova-Michigan Final Four championship game.  But whoever they are I have no doubt they will see things in slow motion that I will miss regardless of speed.

And as I write, I’m saddened by news that Michael Tree, the Guarneri’s viola player from the group’s creation in 1964 to its disbanding in 2009, died a few days ago, at 84, of Parkinson’s disease.  I know a bit more about classical music now than I did fifty years ago, yet still not enough, I trust, to have caught what Arnold Steinhardt, John Dalley, David Soyer, and Michael fought about but never came to blows over in Champlain Hall.  What a remarkable, liberal arts treat.

But more precisely, what has gotten me thinking about the Guarneri and March Madness in tandem?  More all the time I have the greatest respect and appreciation for people who really know their jobs, whatever their line of work may be.  Think of noteworthy performances of all kinds.