Actually, the concert yesterday went extremely well, minor blemishes and all. With a community orchestra, it's unrealistic to expect perfection, and it's not really the point. The upside is that the orchestra and the audience both seemed to have a good time, and we got through the Romero _Fuga con Pajarillo_ unscathed. The Mozart went as well as the orchestra has ever played it, and there were parts (the second movement in particular) that were beautiful.
The funny thing is, the piece that most impressed my conducting teacher was the Beethoven concerto, but to me, it was the one that suffered the most. I think the length of the first movement got to the orchestra a little bit, because the concentration level definitely waned in the second. We picked it back up again for the Rondo, and ended in fine fashion, but in that second movement there were several slips, including one notable missed cue by yours truly. There was also a horribly missed cue from my concertmaster, who forgot to come in completely and as a result, took out 2/3 of the violins with him. The violas missed their entrance because they didn't hear the violins play, and the cellos fortunately saved the day by actually coming in when they were supposed to. But for a few agonizing moments there I was wondering if we were heading for a train wreck.
But in the end George Marriner Maull (my teacher) said that it was emotionally moving, that I kept the orchestra right on top of Evelyn's rubato and that the dynamic contrasts were excellent, so something must have gone right. Evelyn Estava, our soloist (and my fiancee, by the way), was of course excellent. I could tell that she was nervous from the beginning (although I doubt that the audience could), but about halfway through the first movement she settled down and really opened up. Her playing always surprises me in its fearlessness, and the color changes that she can draw out with her bow that I can't. Almost every color change I can make comes from my left hand -- it's very difficult for me to do careful nuances with the bow. Maybe it's the whole left-handed thing, or maybe not.
Anyway, being on the podium was much more fun than I thought it would be. And if I do say so myself, I might have some potential there. If I had the means, I might have considered trying to become a conductor on a more permanent basis, but unfortunately, I don't have that luxury. With a soon-to-be wife and stepson to support, I can't exactly be living the life of a young conductor, i.e. a life with no income. And it's not like Jersey Symphony is going to hire me as an assistant anytime soon. So without formal training from a recognized teacher like Mueller or Meier or Kiesler, I guess I'll just have to see what develops with the Central Jersey Symphony.
I have one more concert that I get to conduct, in May. I'm going to make the most of it, with a program that's even more ambitious than this one was -- Rachmaninoff Second Piano Concerto and Brahms 2. The Rachmaninoff the orchestra will be able to handle without too much trouble, although the fugato in the third movement will give them fits. But the Brahms will be a real challenge. But I challenged them this time with the Romero and they were up to the task in the end, so we'll see how things progress. I wish I had another couple of concerts to do with them, because I think we could really build something, but after May, it's back to the concertmaster's chair. I'll still be able to help build the orchestra and the organization, and keep it moving in the right direction, and in a strange way I'd have more control over that as concertmaster, because I'll be a voting member of the board again (the music director is an advisory member, without a vote). But Roger Briscoe has been making noises about retiring in a few years, so you never know how things may turn out.
I'll keep you posted as the next concert approaches. And we still need more volunteers, especially violas and cellos. If you're available in March for rehearsals on Tuesday nights, drop me a line. We'd be happy to see you.
It's amazing to me how stressful this is becoming for me. I don't think I've ever been as skittish about going onstage and performing as I am about this concert on Sunday. To be honest, I thought that not having to play an instrument would be an advantage. Now I'm truly beginning to appreciate that the conductor "plays the orchestra". If I don't give the right cues, if I don't plan for the right phrases and dynamics, if I don't give all the energy that I have to bring sound out of the group, then it could all come crashing down. I'm essentially responsible for everyone playing well. Yikes...
So for what it's worth, our concert is Sunday, Dec. 12 at 3 pm in Bridgewater, NJ. If anyone's in the area and isn't busy, come on down and check out the show. You can show up and make me even more nervous than I already am!
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