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In Gramercy Park

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I was invited recently to a musical evening, and I got dressed up (as the invitation bade me to do) in black tie and pumps. The address was close to Gramercy Park in New York, a brownstone house in the city where most of the denizens have taken to dwelling in stacked apartments. Henry James would have felt at ease. The curtained windows gave on a street where life still seemed to move quietly, as if a horse-drawn carriage might at any moment come rattling by. The high-ceilinged rooms were colorful with Oriental rugs and damasks. The guests, as they began to arrive, were evidently costumed in their best - the ladies in sweeping skirts and rich shawls.

It was an evening in late March and the weather had been passing through all the variations the season provides. ''We have everything but snow,'' I remarked; and just then a handsome figure entered and was introduced as Mr. Snow. So now we really were complete, I thought. After light refreshments - for it was evident we should be eating rather late - we were ushered upstairs, where small chairs were set out in rows, in a room that must have seen much of life passing within its walls: the joys and sorrows, the ceremonies and celebrations, of long generations. We were now to hear the music for which we had been invited.

The quartet was composed of four young musicians, all of them in their early twenties, precisely at the point where the student and apprentice passes over the line that separates them from the master-player. They were graciously introduced by our host; and then, through vibrant passages of Mozart, Beethoven, and Bartok, they led us upon those wings of enchantment which great music at its best ensures. I am not myself of an ear sufficiently discriminating to follow critically all the nuances of such a performance. I was confirmed in my judgment by those better qualified than I, however, that this was indeed musicianship of the highest quality, by skilled players at the top of their bent.


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