Before they arrived, I met with Dr Cecilia Lee to woodshed some passages that are elusive for me; Dr Lee is a wonderfully insightful pianist and plays from the full score which always give me purposeful nudges in my perceptions that slowly build a more secure interpretation. And she is patient as hell, hammering out the syncopated section of RV 480 until I let go and catch the Italianate groove. Dr Lee also suggested that we set up the recorder — recording is such a valuable way to examine my efforts and it is amazing to have a colleague who is organized enough to have the equipment handy.
Yesterday, I met my some of my students at the end of the day. I had asked them to come to Rm 120 at the University of Toronto to make me nervous while I played through two of my upcoming concerti, RV 480 and Hummel, which I will be playing with the Prince George Symphony in November. Though I know these works very well and have recorded both of them, it is always important to build towards each performance in a way that gives it new life.
I had asked the students to meet me on this night partly because of the uncomfortable scheduling… I had a busy day of teaching and preparing to leave on an extended series of concerts with Violons du Roy and Orchestra London (as a section member) and recital. I had a lot of work to get the house ready for the house sitters, pay all the bills, pack etc etc… all of the life stuff that gets in the way of our art! But this is always the reality of having a place in society, and whenever I tour to play recitals or concert, the scheduling is always uncomfortable. So this is why we met late last night when I knew that I had to be up and running by 5 a.m. this morning to catch my plane to Quebec City… it is a chance to replicate the conditions the precede any solo touring event. And it is always useful to sharpen awareness of all the elements that surround any artistic endeavour.
I had brought a full score of the Hummel in the edition that I had asked my copyist to prepare from the photo facsimile after the recordings in 2007 (we had rented the Musica Rara edition for those sessions and it cost almost as much as the recording engineer!)… I had just realized that I had not proofed the computer files…part of me always thought that it couldn’t be that hard to make a few corrections and I would eventually get around to it. Well, I hadn’t and now and I wanted them to circle any glaring errors in the music. It turned out that there were several, which means I have to hurry to correct the edition before performing it in in November with the Prince George Symphony… exactly the kind of thing that causes me to lecture my students. I should have done this long ago, but it slipped my mind as I hustled to perform and record over a dozen other concerti and countless recitals. However, it will get done now and will be ready for any of my students to easily use. Christopher Kostyshyn and Bianca made notes in the scores that help me fix the edition and my own memory! I couldn’t find my extra copies of the Vivaldi, so they read from my good copy of the facsimile, which caused some confusion over Vivaldi’s dashing shorthand notations.
I told them that my goal was to keep going even if I had a memory slip and I succeeded. When it was over, they were totally supportive and animated. Bianca pointed out a very interesting ossia in the Hummel that I should consider adding. My not-too-concealed wish is to ignite their own ambitions since some of them have already memorized all or part of their Vivaldi concerti for this season — I want them to feel that they can not only do this, but do it better than I can. And I know for an absolute fact that if they memorize the music and practise the presentations, this experience will create a foundation for their entire lives. Instead of waiting to become perfect, they can harvest the incredible energy of their youth. I LOVE it when I see this energy kick in… it benefits me to hear them!
One of the most interesting comments came from Neil Chen. He said that he has listened to my recording of the Hummel countless times and that this performance in our cramped classroom was different. When I pressed him, he said it was more vibrant. I told him that I agreed. Then Eric Mohr said, “Live Music!”
The evening ended with trying a new Leitzinger straight bend bocal for Eric Macarios’ new Yamaha, with me finding a few baroque reeds for Jeff Clements that could double as contra reeds until we have time to make more contra reeds, with Neil Bishop fixing some keys on the contra and me signing a few forms since I am going to be away for several days. Kevin Sleno has some reed insights (I am making all of them learn my freehand shaping/profiling methods). I sometimes feel that I don’t have enough time to spend with my students (that is true) but I value every chaotic, energetic second that we get together.