Friday, October 4, 2013

Another chance to excel

My husband went through a phase when he joked around in the morning before he left for work, saying, "Another day, another chance to excel!!!" (yes, with at least three exclamation points).

Today I had another chance to excel. A friend is playing a concerto with another amateur orchestra in a few weeks and came up with the idea of us playing for each other -- two cellists of a certain age reclaiming some youthful vigor by putting ourselves out there in front of an orchestra. So I went over to his apartment and listened to him play through his concerto, and then he listened to the Schumann. We kept the criticisms to a minimum, offering just a few constructive ones, wished each other luck, and called it a day. It was very much worthwhile.

But I got rather nervous, even in these relaxed circumstances. I had to will my leg not to shake -- not sure what that's about. I had a few places where I slipped (though my friend said my recovery was great), but overall, everything was there and in place.

Since my lesson this past Monday I have been more conscious of a lack of nuance and have been working on it. I think it's a bit better. Musing on this, after I got home I searched around and came across a video of Bernard Greenhouse teaching this piece in a master class. He was in his 90s at the time, I believe -- amazing, actually. Anyway, he emphasizes here how there are numerous ways to be expressive by shading and shaping the sound with vibrato, choice of fingering, and bow but that ultimately it has to come from inside, and it has to be controlled by the demands of the piece. My favorite thing that he said was,
You have to learn to control your emotions when you play the instrument according to the dictates of the music you're playing. You can't just get on stage and be full of energy and play everything with the same energy. It doesn't make music. You have to learn how to control that hand of yours and control the emotions which go with it.

It's between 4:00 and 6:00 on the video:

Maybe it will help to think of each note, gesture, phrase as a "another chance to excel" (vs. "another chance to screw up" :)).

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