I love my job. I am a bassoonist and I am constantly thinking of ways to bring solo repertoire to life in recitals and in concerto concerts and recordings.

And sometimes I get to revisit my old life, from the beginning of my career, when I got to play in orchestras and immerse myself in the greater glory.

Tonight was wonderful.

I played second bassoon to Samuel Banks. He is normally the second bassoonist of the TSO and moves up from time to time. He is the soul of calmness and has a lovely lyric tone that is true and responsive. He cultivates an atmosphere of calm in the section which allows room to grow.  Wonderful.

The conductor was Sir Andrew Davis, who is absolutely dedicated to collegiality while demonstrating incredibly high standards of music-making.  I am a little out of touch with reading the gestures of conductors of massive orchestras, but the Toronto Symphony knows and loves him so well that they follow easily and I catch on through osmosis.

And the soloist tonight was Evgeny Kissen. I have never heard him before (preoccupied as I am with my own concerti and reeds, don’t laugh) so this experience was a full-force, had-no-idea of the glory that awaited me.  He was onstage before the first rehearsal of the Grieg, practising full out. Musicians mostly listened, some of us played quietly, and none of it bothered him. Both rehearsals were full performances, especially the dress rehearsal this morning when he played all the great cadenzas.  After the rehearsal, when I packed up, I went back to the stage, just to consider playing a bit more, but Evgeny was settling down to an afternoon of practising, so I bowed and left.  Tonight, the performance was as grand as the rehearsals, except that 2,000 people got to feel the electrical charge of this incredibly connected performer.  And I am pretty certain that he will be practising all day tomorrow.

Of course, his tone is great, and his phrasing is powerful, but there is also such a deep rhythmic connection.  He is powerful without banging, the phrases are both surprising and inevitable, the tender slow sections still pulsed with a rhythm that sustained life without imposing anything frenetic. The encore (some glorious thing that I don’t know) was transporting and I thought the audience was not going to let him leave.

Yeah, he is in a league of his own but he makes me want to practise too.