Starting the weekend with some exercise and music

by Rob Tiller

Late Friday afternoon I returned some phone calls, cleaned out my e-mail queue, checked my to-do list one last time, jammed some weekend work in my book bag, and did the short drive home. Sally had left for a tennis tournament, but had first fed the animals, so they were sleepy. I played the piano for a few minutes and moved to a different mind zone — a Chopin nocturne (D flat major), a Debussy prelude (La cathedrale engloutie), Liszt’s Sonneto del Petrarca 47. I also played J. Strauss’s Blue Danube waltzes in honor of the poor Danube, currently under assault by toxic sludge. I filled a small plate with some leftover pepper casserole and brown rice, warmed it in the microwave, poured a glass of pinot gris, and had a quiet, delicious dinner.

Then I walked over to hear the N.C. Symphony do the first fall concert of our series. It was a lovely fall evening, mild and clear, and I savored the walk. This is one of the pleasant things about living in downtown Raleigh. There were two new buildings going up along the way, and people on Fayetteville Street eating dinner at sidewalk tables or walking about.

I had an unusually strong sense of physical well being. It was a good week for exercising — no travel or serious time crunches at work — so I’d gotten up at 5:30 a.m. every day to either swim a freestyle mile (2x), do a yoga class, or take a spinning class (2x). Spinning is still new to me, and I’m still enthusiastic — it’s an amazing aerobic workout. The basic idea of stationary bike plus music, rhythmic movement, group activity, and a cheerleading coach previously struck me as not at all my style, but it is remarkably effective in (a) raising my heartrate, (b) making me sweat, and (c) leaving me feeling pleasantly endorphinized.

With fall in the air, I’m looking forward to winter, and skiing in Colorado, and I’m using ski thoughts for extra workout motivation. Last year the hour-long climb in the snow at over 12,000 feet up the narrow ridge to Highlands Bowl at Aspen Highlands taught my body a brutal lesson it won’t soon forget. I was, in truth, too whipped to attack the long double black diamond run from the top, but there was no alternative way down. I survived, but next year I hope to do more than merely survive such situations — to exult! That may be too much to hope for. It will always be difficult to go from a few hundred feet above sea level one day to vigorous activity at several thousand feet the next, but I’m looking to be in better shape next season and bettering my odds.

At a leisurely pace, it took 23 minutes to walk to the concert hall. (Afterwards I picked up the pace and got home in under 20.) I was interested to hear Rachmaninoff’s first piano concerto. The composer was still a student when he made it, but it has the seeds of the more familiar and almost too gorgeous second concerto. It is certainly a virtuoso showpiece, and Jean-Philippe Collard played it with power and authority. I was mainly interested in the second half of the concert, a performance of Sibelius’s Fifth Symphony, a piece I was not familiar with. It was strange and beautiful, with novel and varied textures, and diverging moods. It approached the richness of Mahler. There were good loud places, where the brass expressed themselves fully, and a fine solo for the bassoon. I plan to get a recording and listen to it some more.