Posts Tagged ‘symphony’

A Constant Career Companion

Thursday, September 5th, 2013

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There has been one concerto that has been there since the beginning – through the good and bad, the great and the ugly. In fact, we have had a relationship for fifteen years at this point. This piece tolerates eccentricities, different venues, extreme climates, particular conductors. Since its premiere in 1845, this stalwart has been a mainstay of the repertoire, and Arthur Grumiaux’s recording was my preferred to blast on my archaic CD player while I followed along with the score. What piece am I referring to?

In 1838, Felix Mendelssohn wrote to his violin virtuoso friend, Ferdinand David: “I should like to write for you a violin concerto this winter. The beginning of one in e minor runs constantly through my thoughts, leaving me no peace.” The beginning has certainly left me busy the last fifteen years. I auditioned for the concertmaster chair of my former youth orchestra with it – a seat I would have for four years (and had quite the learning experience in the process). I auditioned at 15 to study at the Cleveland Institute of Music and the ENCORE School – with the Mendelssohn. Around 17 or 18, I realized just how difficult Op. 64 is, and put it away until 2008. At that point, I had not intended to return to the Mendelssohn, but no less than 3 conductors had asked for it that season – non-negotiable – so I was out of luck. Following stints in California, Texas and Ohio, I decided – not a bad piece, nor a bad idea. Audiences seemed to enjoy it, and (naively) we never needed more than one rehearsal. I told my manager that the 09-10 season should feature the Mendelssohn, and we quickly arranged 15-20 different orchestras with it; the last Mendelssohn of the season was with my dear friend Robert Franz. At the first rehearsal of the season, my brain had a panic attack and started sending messages to my left hand fingers…messages like, “You don’t know how to play in e minor!” “This piece is much more nuanced than you thought!” “How dare you play the Beethoven concerto but abuse ole Felix like this?!” It was at that rehearsal when I began to comprehend the depth, sophistication and architecture of this legendary opus. Fast forward to 2013 – I’m at a more centered, mature place in my life (adulthood, perhaps), appearances with over 120 orchestras under my belt, and yet, when I begin on the second position ‘B’, my pulse raises and I experience tremors. I’m beginning to think that one never “conquers” the Mendelssohn, yet it can certainly reveal and expose flaws, inspiration, and extremes of the same artist at different points in their development. Earlier today, I experienced the same excitement that I felt twenty years ago when hearing the bariolage transition out of the cadenza. This season, I return to the Mendelssohn with a number of different orchestras and conductors, and I can’t wait! Delving into sonatas by Elgar and Ysaye in the same key certainly solidifies violinistic concepts, but it is now Schubert and Chopin that seem to be beckoning musically, whereas before, Mendelssohn seemed to immediately preface the Romantic blockbuster concerti of the 1880’s.

I may feel different in another decade, but for now – come to the concerts and decide for yourselves!

Dancing…with courage!

Wednesday, May 15th, 2013
Noting a recital flier on the Caribbean island of St. Maarten

Noting a recital flier on the Caribbean island of St. Maarten

Walking onstage to play Brahms concerto in front of a full auditorium? Replacing a soloist on a recital series on one day’s notice? Having a string break in concert? All sound nightmarish–and indeed, the above are the subject of my nightmares. Having endured each, I thought I had been through it all. Enter this month’s dance competition…and a concert horror doesn’t register on the Richter scale.

Earlier in May, I danced in a charity competition called “Dancing With The Celebrities of Pittsburgh”, a regional spinoff of the ABC hit show “Dancing With The Stars”. Each week this spring, I performed a different concerto, recital program, or chamber music – and each paled next to preparing a 3 minute “Paso Doble” routine: a traditional Spanish Toreador (bullfighter) double step. When I met my partner, Sandra, things weren’t looking good. My busy tour schedule, possessing two left feet, and the difficulty of the routine paralyzed me with fear during each of the rehearsals. I don’t have stage fright when it comes to the Franck sonata or Tchaikovsky concerto, but a myriad of fears consumed me: will I look goofy? Will I let Sandra down? Could a dancing injury sideline my concerts? Fast forward to May. Several grueling rehearsals, a spray tan, and one paisley vest later, it was time for the competition. Faced with opening the competition (a position I dreaded), I commenced the routine with a bit of Hubay’s “Carmen Fantasie”, and then settled into the Zorro-type rhythms. After the exciting choreography, and overwhelmed with gratitude for the beautiful Sandra, I realized I had run towards something that had once terrified me…and didn’t fall flat on my face. Who knows – maybe the routine could one day be on the ABC network…but besides that pipe dream, I have a feeling of accomplishment – a feeling that is remarkably different from preparing a concerto.

On a different note, the 12/13 concert season is winding down, and I’m looking forward to this summer’s plans. Concerts this spring in Mississippi, New York City, DC, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, St. Maarten, San Jose, Los Angeles, and others give way to summer festival in PA (The Renova Festival), the Fairbanks Music Festival, the Lakes Area Chamber Music Festival, trips to Chicago and northern Ontario, and perhaps a couple of surprises. On an eclectic note, the new-age CD that I recorded with Sean Dockery (Oprah Winfrey Network music producer) will be available on amazon.com and iTunes by June 1st. Exciting!

Stay cool, attend local symphony concerts this summer, and don’t forget to practice!

Getting bronzed just before taking the stage.

Getting bronzed just before taking the stage.