I played lots of notes this week. (I missed quite a few, too) The Symphony No. 2 by Dvorak is a very powerful piece of music, a composition which, in all my years (48 in orchestra) I have never performed until tonight. Compositions like this are why we practice scales and arpeggios. Problem with this music is that it doesn’t lay well under the fingers of the left hand, even after practicing it for hours. We were all hacking at the same passages over and over backstage and it still felt like a panic attack when we saw them coming at us in the performance. The audience loved it, however, so we must have done enough of it well to be pleasing to the ears.
As much as I love playing symphonic music, I’m having doubts about how long I will be able to play first violin parts. All the reaching for high notes and the shifting to high positions is aggravating my joints—especially the right hand, wrist, shoulder and both shoulder blades. I was feeling my age this afternoon after the 4 hours of rehearsal, morning and afternoon. I hit the sack with a hot pack on the shoulder, after spraying it with pain killer and taking more Advil. Muffin dragged me out of bed, cooked an omelet and poured a big Diet Coke to lure me into getting dressed and out the door.
Our first item of performance was the Bolero, by Ravel. Our conductor had “choreographed” the orchestra so that only a few musicians were on stage to begin—led by the snare drummer. Gradually, we added soloists and sections until shortly after the trombone solo, all personnel were onstage and playing. It was very effective in showcasing the soloists and drawing attention to each of them. We followed along backstage in the darkness on an orchestral score on a music stand with a light. Following the Ravel, we performed with a famous saxophonist, Dr. Eugene Rousseau, who played an incredibly difficult concerto by Tomasi. I can’t believe I heard such beautiful tone and interpretation, fully memorized.
I enjoy each week of teaching my students, and I always enjoy providing music for weddings, receptions, and other special events. But, symphonic music is what inspires me. The music of Beethoven, the sound of the orchestra, is what drew me as a very young child, to study violin. It is the overtures to opera, the driving rhythms of 20th century music, the dissonances that resolve to rich harmonies, the subtle timbres of rich symphonic works which drew me to choose to major in violin, rather than piano, which I began to study when I was four years old.
One of these days I will need to retire from playing with the orchestra and I will miss that fabulous sound, the experience of playing from the center of the sound on stage in a violin section and knowing that the audience is hearing it full on—impossible to experience any other way that LIVE in a concert hall.
But I will not miss the joint pain, the adrenaline drop-out, the soreness the following morning (moving into several days as I age), and the moments of terror, wondering if I have practiced enough to truly perform my best. Even the youngsters were complaining of aches and pains tonight. It was truly vindicating!
McCousins at Thanksgiving
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