With the completion of last week's performances in Detroit, I now officially have only two (non-consecutive) weeks left to play with the DSO, and I'm starting to think about a way to tie a bow on these past two years. As I transition from there to my appointment in Knoxville, I've been thinking about the obvious things like money, travel, time spent at home in Memphis, etc., and it, of course, is not easy to pick up and go somewhere else for an indefinite period of time that isn't home. The silver lining is that I'm closer to Memphis, and for that I'm grateful, but I'm not quite home yet. With that being said, I've applied the two pieces I played on last week to these ideas of coming so far, and feeling that there is so much further to go.
One Hand Behind My Back
The concerto on last week's concerts was Ravel's Piano Concerto for Left Hand. For those of you who are not familiar with this piece, yes, the performer only uses his left hand to play this piece. This actually wasn't my first exposure with this work, but I was happy to actually perform it this time. In Los Angeles I was with an orchestra that programmed the piece, but after the first rehearsal with the soloist, decided to program something else (SHADE). As I listened to last week's soloist perform, it was hard to imagine that I'd ever be able to play this with both of my hands, much less just one, and for actual pianists, I would guess that this may be the same thought that they have when introduced to the piece for the first time. As difficult as it may be, people do it, and I think this is a testament to challenging situations in life. The most adverse circumstance may seem like too much, but with the right attitude, you can overcome it - maybe even with one (proverbial) hand tied behind your back!
Push Through the Pain
First of all, I'm not going to acknowledge the obvious sexual innuendo some of you will attach to this beyond saying that yes, sure, what I'm saying can also apply to THAT. ;-)
So in the concerto there is a rather difficult passage for the bassoons - triplet sixteenth note runs in F# major arpeggios, a third apart. On bassoon, I'd say this is one of the more difficult techniques to really master, and I'd be lying if I said I am completely on top of playing from F# to A# rapidly. In my first attempt at this while practicing a few weeks ago, my mind immediately went to the YouTube video, "Shit Clarinet Players Say, pt. 1" by Ryan Glass, and this snippet in particular:
In short, when I simply pushed into the lick a little more instead of backing away from it, it became easier to play. When life pushes you, push back even harder until you've made it through that situation.
The big piece on last week's shows was Shostakovich's Symphony No. 10. As we all know, Shostakovich was a Russian composer living under the iron first of Joseph Stalin, with whom he fell in and out of favor constantly. This struggle between his freedom and his government can easily be heard in his music, as well as personal touches and musical messages that can be deciphered easily, if you know what you're listening for. The biggest example of this is his use of the DSCH motif (the notes D, Eb, C, and B), which represents his name (Dmitri SCHostakowitsch). He died in the 70s from lung cancer, but his ideas, personality, and message live forever through his music. For me, I connect this with understanding how finite or small the most seemingly huge situations actually are. I've accomplished more in my life than I would have ever thought, but the road isn't completely smooth for me just yet. The idea that comforts me through all of this is that the accolades I do hold will always be mine, and live eternally. If you're going through a time of trouble or uncertainty (especially if you're a musician), remember that you also have things that will shine and live in your favor forever.