Tonight three of my studio classmates and I went out for dinner and the conversation quickly took a turn towards chamber music. I'm sure everyone has had their fair share of bad experiences with chamber music, but it never fails to amuse me when I hear stories of how rude people can be during rehearsals!
I have the utmost respect for professional chamber ensembles. The fact that three or more people can spend hours together on a daily basis, and can be sincerely open to critiquing from the other members blows my mind away. Whenever I'm in a quartet or trio rehearsal, I feel like I'm walking on eggshells so as to make sure I don't rub my fellow musicians the wrong way. And I'm sure it's not all butterflies and daisies for the professional groups; one of my best friends is first violinist of the Aeolus Quartet and he's told me of the difficulties they (and every other quartet!) face during rehearsals. (And by the way, you should definitely check out their quartet - they are absolutely STUNNING!!!)
How do they do it?? I love playing chamber music, but feel that my full enjoyment is hindered by my constant worry that I'm doing something the other members don't like. Maybe I'm just silly and paranoid..
What are your chamber music experiences?
I know I'm not the first person to find that the expectation of a lousy performance often brings about the opposite result. I remember the first time that happened to me - I was in Riga, Latvia and had to perform Sarasate's Introduction and Tarantella with the flu. I knew nothing good could come of the performance - I was exhausted and could barely even hear because of congestion. But I remember playing on stage and being amazed at how well everything was going. I was hitting notes that were usually "iffy" and didn't even feel the slightest bit nervous.
Our minds play ridiculous games with us as performers, I'm learning this more and more every day. Tonight I had a performance of the Beethoven Violin Concerto in my studio's recital in Duncan Hall. For the past few days my left hand has been feeling.. strange. "Twitchy", you might say. Today it was horrible, I couldn't do anything without my hand shaking and my thumb involuntarily twitching every so often. I thought, "there's no way I'm going to be able to get through this 40 minute concerto tonight." But I knew I needed to do it, so I practiced a little in the afternoon, being careful not to overplay, and pulled myself together for the performance.
Even though I was worried about my hand, I wasn't nervous. There was a sort of paradox going on with my thoughts. I would think that worrying about my hand not feeling normal during a performance would make me more nervous. Instead my focus shifted from "I have to give a perfect performance!" to, "my hand isn't feeling right, I can't expect a lot, so I'll just go out and do the best that I can."
The performance went wonderfully! It wasn't perfect, it never is, but I had no major problems and was really happy with how it all went. During the first movement, I felt slightly like I was having to control the shaking of my hand. It's really strange when a part of you is shaking and it's not from nervousness. As the piece went on though, I felt more control over it and more at ease. I still felt really shaky for about 20 minutes after I was finished, but now I'm typing and my hand feels almost normal. It's certainly much better than it was over the past few days.
So what does that mean - it's all in my head? I'm not sure. Part of me hopes so (though that would be annoying), but most of me thinks it's some sort of small issue that's exacerbated by adrenaline preparing me for a performance. My hand hasn't done that before though, so I need to go get it checked out in case there's a problem. I can say for sure, I'm definitely taking a break from violin in the morning.
Who else has a story about strange physical phenomena before or during a performance?
I'm entering the Shepherd School concerto competition next week and the hair on my Voirin bow is completely shot. Since I still haven't found a good place to get a rehair in Houston, I've been driving to Dallas for the maintenance. Which is what I did this morning. Keep in mind that there was an ice storm in Dallas yesterday.. but after living in Cleveland for four years, I know how to deal with winter weather, right?
Maybe I do, but the rest of Texas doesn't, that's for sure. The roads were just wet for the most part until 50 miles outside of downtown Dallas. Snow, ice and slush built up on the shoulders and then moved their way onto the road. You would think that the 25 or so spun-out cars on the side of the highway would have been some sort of clue to the people speeding down the road at 70 miles an hour. Or maybe the terrifying way their cars/trucks/SUVs started to skid around in the muck when they ran into it or tried to change lanes. I think most of the people driving today had selective blindness.. and.. awareness.... I on the other hand, kept at a steady 40 mph and didn't run into any life-threatening circumstances. It was scary as heck, and I clung to my steering wheel, praying for dear life, but I got to Jay's repair shop in one piece! I'll be glad to have my bow back with fresh hair in a few days :D
David Kim is concertmaster of the Philadelphia Orchestra, but he's acting as guest concertmaster with the Dallas Symphony this week and was gracious enough to give me a almost an hour of his time before the concert tonight. We worked on a few sections of the Beethoven concerto and he gave me absolutely wonderful advice and insight. It was great to play for him and I'm glad I video-taped it so I can study everything later.
The DSO finally got to play their concert tonight! Thursday and Friday nights were cancelled because of the weather and almost all of their rehearsals were cancelled as well. They had a double service on Wednesday and then nothing until 4 this afternoon when they got together for an emergency rehearsal. The first half was the premiere of a percussion concert piece by Stewart Copeland. It was amazing! Here's a sort of sneak peak at it - incredible. The second half was Mendelssohn's Scottish Symphony - which was also amazing, especially when you think about how little time they had to prepare it! What I couldn't get over tonight was the audience! They went absolutely WILD after both pieces!!! It was really refreshing. I'm proud to say that I attended the DSO's "Concert That Wouldn't DIE" (as coined by DSO's Vice-President of Artistic Operations, Mark Melson)
I think I'm all "music'd" out for one day..... nah.. who am I kidding.
People often wonder why I have such a strong dislike for the winter months. It's because my hands will get so cold and will take so long to warm up, that playing violin becomes really difficult! If I've been outside for more than five minutes, even with heavy gloves on, it will take a good thirty minutes for my hands to feel normal again and not like cardboard.
Thank goodness for hot water though. I can speed up the warming process by running my hands and forearms under hot water for a few minutes. When I go to a school or a building where I have to perform and they only have automatic faucets in the bathrooms I get very annoyed. Thankfully we don't have that problem at Rice University :)
I'm practicing in my apartment today. It's 25 degrees outside, but I'm warm in my apartment with Beethoven concerto, my puppy Himiko and a wintry scented Yankee Candle Co. candle. In about an hour I'm going to go teach a lesson at Rice and then maybe see a movie with a friend later. I'm hoping the road conditions in Dallas clear up overnight so I can drive home in the morning. I'm playing Beethoven for David Kim before the Dallas Symphony concert tomorrow night! He's a great musician, I'm really excited!
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