Sonya Belousova as a Spiritual Experience
Sunday I had the great privilege of hearing Sonya Belousova perform in Houston at Match. It was astounding, easily the most virtuoso performance I’ve ever witnessed. To clarify I’m not a music critic. My experience is of someone who was married to a classically trained musician/vocalist. My wife taught me to not feel guilty about any music I liked and to be open to possibilities. This led me to Ms. Belousova and her virtuosity.
Now about the spiritual stuff. This I know something about having at various times in my life been a believer, a skeptic and even for a short time a mystic. A long time ago I learned of William James’ Varieties of Religious Experience and that my temperament was better suited to the “educational variety”. No burning bushes but slow realizations for me. Indeed in 30 plus years of study and meditation my progress (if there is such a thing) has been marked by slow careful steps. This all changed on Sunday.
I do not claim that any lasting effect was achieved, it is too soon to tell, but there was definitely something up that afternoon. The other performers were very good, excellent musicians who had honed their art for years. The whole event was excellent, however, when Ms. Belousova took the stage something changed. It was as if the air had been replaced with pure oxygen or perhaps ozone as when lightning is immanent. Her approach to the piano was merciless. A great controlled power squeezed through the form of one small human. I thought the piano would come apart, that the harp would split in two. Indeed there must be rooms of sad pianos that are not quite the same after being played to such perfection. In that instant it became clear that I was witnessing one of those people who can do something no one else can. For a few timeless minutes nothing else existed, I was transported.
As for Ms. Belousova herself it would be insulting to claim that her gift was supernatural in any way. Neither a deal with the devil or the touch of divinity can take the place of what is obviously great talent combined with an iron will. People talk about artists being at the height of their powers, like athletes that train for the olympics. This is not a fair analogy. Athletes train for a brief period of their lives and then must diminish. Artists do not. This was well exemplified by the man I was sitting next to, Jorge Calendrelli, whose music was being played and celebrated. He is not a young man and yet the fiery vitality he displayed that night left no doubt he was still “in training”, still competing.
There is no end to such talent. It outlives you and takes everything from you while you live. That is the bargain: to be the best because you have no choice in the matter. Similarly one cannot help but be swept up in the glory of such a performance.