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Karen Allendoerfer

February Vacation Week, Part I

February 27, 2008 at 12:25 PM

Monday: Vacation week begins with Presidents' Day. I find out that my parents sold their house. They went to Tahiti and left the keys with the "real estate lady," expecting a long drawn-out process in this market. They come back <2 weeks later and the house is sold and the closing date is in April. Suddenly, I have to go there and rescue my stuff before the basement and attic holding it belong to someone else. I also have some other things to talk about with my parents.

Tuesday: I check my calendar for when I might be able to go to my parents' house, before April 10. The coming weekend looks pretty good, until I realize that I have an orchestra concert at 3:00 on Sunday. I check the other weekends. Husband's birthday. Visitors from Germany. Playing violin in church. Leading adult RE class. Second set of visitors from Germany. Talent show. Yikes. Okay, this weekend it is. Decide to give my stand partner music at Wednesday night's rehearsal in case I get back late for the concert warm-up. Tell boss.

Wednesday: Confirm with parents and brother that this weekend also works for them. Tell the kids that they are visiting the grandparents. Mention skiing. Kids are excited.

Go to orchestra rehearsal. Hear soloist, Pei-Wen Liao, play cadenza to Beethoven violin concerto 1st movement for the first time.


This girl is amazing. She has flown in from New York for a limited number of rehearsals. I'm new to the orchestra so I don't really know how she came to be playing with us. She won an award, a competition of some kind, last spring. She is by far the best violinist in the room. I had previously thought this competition was for local kids, maybe someone like my daughter who came up through the local public school program (but who practices more). I've accompanied concerto competition winners before, it's fun. But Pei-Wen is way above and beyond your "average" concerto competition winner. The person she reminds me of the most is David Kim, now concertmaster of the Philadelphia Orchestra. David Kim went to my high school, Williamsville North High School, back in the early 80's. He was a senior, concertmaster of the District Orchestra when I was a sophomore second violinist. He played for fun in the school orchestra during the week, in between commuting to New York on weekends for lessons with Dorothy Delay. One concert we played Vivaldi's Four Seasons, with him on the solo part. Like David, Pei-Wen has completely confident, sure fingers. (Mine tend toward fuzziness). They are shaped like they were meant to hold a violin, as if they are more comfortable held in that position than any other way. She has the same poise and confidence that come from knowing the music inside out. She's not nervous about making a mistake--she doesn't need to be. The music is so much part of her, she always knows what's coming next. She doesn't make mistakes. It would be like making a mistake walking or breathing.

When she plays the cadenza, at one point it's as if there are two violins playing. Double-stop trills, two soaring melody lines. And she has a little smile of concentration on her face, setting it all in motion. She's in the cockpit of a high-performance jet, or maybe the Starship Enterprise, flying.

When she is done playing, you can hear a pin drop. The orchestra manager speaks for all of us during the announcements before break. "She took my breath away."


Tell stand partner and conductor that I will be driving home on Sunday morning and might be "late for the concert warm-up." Apologize profusely. Hand over music (marked part with all the first violin section bowings). Pack suitcase.

From Tom Holzman
Posted on February 27, 2008 at 4:11 PM
You clearly know too many folks in Germany. Good luck cleaning out your stuff.
From Tom Holzman
Posted on February 27, 2008 at 4:12 PM
P.S. Your new picture is a great improvement.
From Karen Allendoerfer
Posted on February 27, 2008 at 4:37 PM
This picture is from the concert on Sunday, so at least it's current. The last one was from 1997! It was clearly past time to replace it but I didn't have anything better of me and a violin.

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