"They are flawless, flawless, flawless players," he whispered in unabashed awe. "Every single note is there. There's not any nonsense. Of course, this is a world-renowned orchestra."
Yes, he said, he'd be delighted to meet the conductor. Esa-Pekka Salonen graciously accepted Nathaniel's compliments and gave him an autograph.
Nathaniel also chatted up Ben Hong, assistant principal cellist, on the genius of Beethoven and the physical and emotional challenges of the Third Symphony.
As it turned out, there had been no need for me to worry about how Nathaniel would handle the day or whether he would be troubled by the sight of people living a life that once seemed within his reach. He was gracious and self-assured, a perfect gentleman.
I now know, after several months of trying to coax him toward a safer and more productive life, that Nathaniel won't be saved any time soon.
The man who was back in his element at the concert hall on the hill is also comfortable sleeping on skid row, where he chases away rats with a stick on which he has scrawled Beethoven's name.
But Nathaniel has his own idea of salvation, and he removed it now from the violin case he had been carrying. He stood near the stage after the musicians had left and tuned his instrument.
Then Nathaniel Anthony Ayers, in the concert of his life, tucked the violin under his chin and played Disney Hall.
Reach the columnist at steve.lopez
@latimes.com and read previous columns at http://www.latimes.com .