April 2007

Boy, am I lucky to live in New York or what?

April 16, 2007 14:03

Carter Brey, principle cellist of the New York Philharmonic, is sure a funny guy. He began the Saturday Matinée performance at the Avery Fischer Hall in Lincoln Center by coming out and introducing himself as, "the guy who does some of the cello playing around here." That day, he, along with Sheryl Staples, the principle associate concertmaster of the New York Philharmonic, and guest artist Jeremy Dank, pianist and many time collaborator with Violinist Joshua Bell, performed the Archduke Trio. I must say the performance was worth much more than the $24 my mother and I paid for student tickets.

Lisa Batiashvili soloed the Shostakovich No. 1 with the rest of the orchestra for the second half of the program. It was love at first sight. Not with Lisa, I mean with his concerto. Well, surely her playing had something to do with it too. The first movement sent chills down my spine; It was just so devilishly beautiful. That final note of the movement, oh gosh, how can I even begin to describe it! I was melting... until applause brought me back to life. GAH!!!

A post-concert discussion with the Staples, Brey, and Denk followed immediately afterwards. The audience was free to ask the three phenomenal musicians any question they desired.

Q: When did you decide to become professional musicians?
A(Brey): I didn't start private cello lessons until rather late, at age sixteen. I believe that (here he quoted someone whom I cannot remember) You don't chose music: Music chooses you.
A(Staples): I started the violin when I was five, but didn't get really serious about it until twelve or thirteen.

Q: How do you manage to play music for a career, and still have time for other passions?
A(Denk): My schedule usually consists of getting up, eating breakfast, and then practicing from about 10:30-2:00, and then eating lunch, followed by more practice until dinner, where I might go out with a friend or a concert. Those are the good days.
A(Staples): Well, I am a mother and I try to spend as many time with my kids as possible. I also enjoy gardening, when the weather is nicer. I try my best to balance things out. I don't take many private students because even just that one hour seems like a lot of time out of my schedule.

Q: How much did you guys rehearse before this performance?
A(Brey): Well, all together, about five hours. But you see, first we had to make coffee... That took about half an hour. And then we had to look for pencils that weren't broken. Let me just say, I does get easier when you get older because you've played the piece so many times... I must have performed this trio at least 100 times. Once we got together, we just had to work out minute details and get used to each others playing.

Q: How does your musicality change as you get older?
(To this Sheryl Staples answered something I cannot recall at the moment and Denk responded with a contradiction. ;))
A(Denk): Actually, I don't know if this might be the case with you guys but, the other day, I was watching a tape of me playing the Schumann concerto at fifteen, and I was like, "Wow. This sounds really good. Maybe I should go practice."
A(Brey): I get really angry at my students when they come in, and they play a piece exactly as -names some famous cellists- played it on such and such recording. I feel that interpretation should be an individual and unique. I mean, before rehearsing this trio with Sheryl and Jeremy, I went out and bought a new copy of it because my old one was all battered. But I didn't transfer any of my old pencil marking onto the score. I started fresh and it gave me an entirely new perception of the piece.

Q: And what edition do you use?
A(Brey): We use the best out there, the Bärenreiter Urtext.

And boy! Was Saturday one heck of a day! I spent forever in Barnes and Noble and quite some time in the Juilliard Bookstore, ate some lasagne and went for a second concert at 8:00. The stars of of that concert were the first and last performers. The former (Feng Ning) played Mendelssohn's 2nd violin concerto fabulously! His playing was superb, dead on, and what a tone!! The latter, Mengla Huang, demonstrated expert control with his Heifetz like stance, not moving or swaying while playing the Sibelius Concerto. Quite a different stage presence than the foot-stopping violinist before him, whose access movement took away from the tragic concerto he was playing. Huang's playing had no lost notes, no sloppy noises, nor did any sweat appear to drip down his face in the fiendishly difficult third movement. His inner rhythm was perfect, but what has to be complimented is his bow arm, which is unbelievable! I bet he sounds great on CD. If only the orchestra had been able to give both Ning and Huang the energy the two masterpieces needed. I do believe that at most, a few members of the first violin section were playing with half their bow.

Unfortunately, I didn't get to go meet the artists, as I had a train to catch at 11:20 and time was ticking.

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My mouth is hanging open and it won't close. Could this be heaven?

April 13, 2007 12:36

My legs feel like jelly and I don't think I'll make it past tomorrow night.

My violin teacher('s wife) just called: "I have sold-out tickets to a performance in Lincoln Center tomorrow. I'll pick you and your mom up. You can't miss this concert."

"Oh? Awesome," I say, "So what's the program and who's on it?"

I nearly fainted when she told me.

The Sibelius Violin Concerto.

Being quite possibly my favorite concerto, it would've have been enough to have me drop the phone.

But it wasn't just that.

She listed them.
"Well, there's the the Mendelssohn. You know, the one in E minor and the (highly-unlikely-to-be- heard-performed- live-for-a-while) Butterfly Lovers' concerto... performed by the winner of the Paganini..."

I stammer a response and rush online to look-up the concert. It's impossible. Three violin concerti in one night? And such delicious ones? Surely, it can't be all the movements...

But I think it is. And that's not all. Paganini's 'La Campenella' (Is that his second concerto? Or just the third movement of it?) and his 24th caprice is there too. Not to mention some Tchaikovsky. Ziggyiggyicantspellitafterayeariggy is there too.

This load would surely be too exhausting for just one violinist. That's why there are four. Four first-place winners of the International Paganini Violin Competition, including last year's winner and v.com member, Feng Ning.

I couldn't believe my eyes. Multiple violin concerti and showpieces. Four Paganini winners. All in one night. Maybe this deserves another round of saint shouting. That is, if I can get my mouth to move again.

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