On Sunday, I pulled out the Bach E major concerto and began picking at it, starting with the 32nd notes in the third movement, slowly migrating to the floating lyrical phrases of the second movement, and then settling upon the memorization of the first. Drat the fingerings of E major! It has to be one of the most unfriendly keys to a violinist. Not able to let the intonation slide this time, I began to pick at it.
Hours passed. I picked at a measure slowly. I sped it up. I assembled a phrase. I practiced a shift. I double-stopped the string crossings. I played the entirety of it in a loop. I found a recording and played along. I played with my accompanist. Still not satisfied, I set the metronome for meticulous drilling, slowly bringing it back up to speed, then cutting the speed in half and listening again. I played each evening until I was in a dazed stupor, then went to bed and slept on it. Each day, I awoke with an edge in my voice and an eye on my watch, urgent to get back to the studio and continue the Bach binge. The process seemed not unlike weeding the dandelions out of a forty-acre horse pasture; I couldn’t find a stopping point. At no instance could I listen to the sound of it moving out of my fingers and say that it was finished.
Shoulders now aching and fingers weary, Bach’s E major concerto blares throughout my thoughts in a confused yellow traffic jam. My ears are provoking me for a smoothly polished perfection that eludes my grasp. It’s still not there! I have to stop! What next, repetitive hand washing, late night floor scrubbing with a toothbrush?
“George... I think I am obsessive compulsive.”
“Phst, ya think!?! Wow! What a revelation!”
I had a teacher who said he had to see the Grand Canyon before he could play some piece. I think you need to watch Slaughterhouse Five before you can play the piece you mention, or Brandenburg 4. Hey, why restrict indispensable inspiration to the natural world? Especially tourist attractions :)
This entry has been archived and is no longer accepting comments.
Violinist.com is made possible by...
Discover the best of Violinist.com in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews.