Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Another Mahler success for NYRO

I should have turned down that second glass of wine at dinner on Saturday evening. Kate and I met her parents, my mother, and my mother's friend Dave for dinner before the concert. The first meeting of the parents went extremely well, and I was having a good time so I had that extra wine. I thought I would be OK since I had plenty of water and ate a healthy amount of pasta and bread. But when I left the restaurant to get to the church for the concert, I realized I was just a little bit drunk. I hoped the slight inebriation would make me more relaxed for the concert, and for the most part it did. I played my part for the Britten violin concerto as well as I had in rehearsal and most importantly, I didn't play in the rests. By the intermission, I felt like I had sobered up, which left me nervous for the Mahler symphony in the second half.

Our performance of Mahler's Symphony No. 1 was as lyrical and bombastic as I had hoped it would be. From where I sat the piece sounded incredible, though my friends told me that the sound was muddled in the back of the church. We knew that would happen, given the cathedral-like architecture of the church. Still, it was exciting to see the winds with their bells up in the second movement, and I risked a quick glance at the horns when they stood up in the final moments of the symphony. I think we captured a little of the magic we had two years ago when we played Mahler's 3rd Symphony in another majestic Manhattan church. I hope we have another Mahler symphony on a future NYRO program. I vote for Symphony No. 5.

During this concert, I realized that while I enjoy playing Mahler, I would rather listen to it than perform it. Mahler's music is not the most difficult I've ever encountered, but it requires a level of concentration that I'm not used to in performance. By the time I play a symphony in concert, I've practiced and rehearsed it enough that I can play some of it on a form of "auto-pilot." My mind wanders a bit even though my fingers, eyes, and ears are fully engaged in the performance. Maybe I'm not the violist I used to be, but even though I know Mahler's 1st Symphony intimately, on Saturday night I found that when my mind wandered I stopped counting or had to scramble to get ready for my next entrance instead of being prepared. I had to concentrate more on what I was doing than with nearly everything else I've played recently. It was a useful lesson for me to learn that I should avoid those lapses in concentration and focus on the performance. I'm up there playing because I enjoy it, but also because I want to give the best performance possible so that my friends and family enjoy the music as well.

Now NYRO takes a short break, but we'll be back in January preparing for our next concert on February 14. I know that's Valentine's Day, but what's more romantic than an evening of classical music?

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