A Musical Soirée with Widney Moore, Pianist

(Update:  on Friday, September 20, 2019, Widney Moore died.  Her legacy of beauty, grace, generosity, friendship and music live on forever in the hearts of those of us who knew and loved her. She will be sorely missed.)

Long ago, before concert hall and YouTube performances, piano music was presented much the same way that it is in this video:  at home and for friends. There's an intimacy and communication that more formal performances can't duplicate, and sometimes (as in the case of this performance), you get lucky and the magic is captured on film.

This short performance features Estonian composer Arvo Pärt's Für Alina  and Spiegel im Spiegel, along with two short Debussy selections. Für Alina, dedicated to a friend's daughter, was written as a consolation for Alina's mother when Alina left home to live in England with her father. Spiegel im Spiegel (mirror in a mirror) was originally written for piano and violin, although it has been arranged for many other instruments as well. Both pieces reflect Pärt's unique composition style known as "Holy Minimalism" or "Mystic Minimalism," and both require the pianist to settle into stillness, accept the beauty in simplicity, and play the space around the notes more than the notes themselves. When performing them (or listening to them), there's a sense of time both standing still and expanding simultaneously. I suppose that could be one of the reasons why the music of Pärt is so frequently requested as deathbed music.

The pianist, Widney Moore, had a long career as a gallery owner and an award-winning textile artist. Later in life, after reading Noah Adams' book Piano Lessons, she decided to learn to play the piano. Each year she prepared a program to take to Sonata--the Vermont piano camp for adults that Adams made famous in his book--and she played the pieces for Portland friends before she left. And while she would never described herself as a professional pianist, she was a true musician who played with tenderness, beauty, and peace. When she was diagnosed with advanced pancreatic cancer almost a year before this performance, we feared she'd not live to play another program.  Yet, miraculously, she did, and she played better than she ever had--with the simplicity and clarity and gratitude that only a life well lived can bring to music.

While I watched Widney play this program, I was struck by the power of Pärt's and Debussy's music in the hands of a pianist who has lived the depth of every note. This simplicity, this calm acceptance--this is the "holy grail" we all seek in our playing: true purity of heart.