What's the best muscial experience you've ever had?

August 8, 2019, 8:46 AM · Hi everyone,

I know I'm starting too many discussions lately, but I just couldn't resist --

What was your most moving or best in general (meaningful) musical experience of your lifetime?

Mine was when I snuck a laptop into bed and *god forbid* listened to music when I was supposed to be sleeping :) I think I listened until one or something in the morning (and yes, that is very late for me).

Clicking song after song with the anticipation of listening for hours into the night, having hours of ecstasy (I'll stop soon), and no restraint thrilled me. It was the comfort that I could always come back to music that made me so happy.

Luckily some common sense stopped me or I would have collapsed some time the next day.

What about you?


Replies (32)

August 8, 2019, 9:23 AM · Hard to pick one, but relevant to this website:
Seeing Stephane Grapelli live.
Sharing a pizza with Richard Tognetti ( I was trailing along with a relative of one of the ACO cellists )
They were taking too long to attend to us so Richard whipped out his violin and started playing something quite lively . Unfortunately, that worked .
August 8, 2019, 9:24 AM · That's really hard for me to quantify seeing as how every time I listen to really good music I get goosebumps regardless if I am listening on my headphones or a live concert. There have been so many amazing experiences in my life with music I don't know where to start. Music is incredibly enchanting to me just as much now if not more than when I was younger as well. That's a really hard question haha.
Edited: August 8, 2019, 12:24 PM · Even though I'm just an amateur player, I'm going to say that one of my fondest musical experiences was creating a CD album of jazz with four of my friends -- we are called the Highlands Jazz Quintet and our album is called "Two Degrees East, Three Degrees West." It was just so rewarding to work on the material, to go to the studio (owned by another friend and true-blue fan of our group), to play the best we could (which I'm going to say was pretty good), and see the process unfold. The cover art for the album was an original oil painting by Virginia artist Mario Thames. To commemorate our accomplishment I bought the painting and it now hangs in my living room, right next to my piano.

This fall I'll be performing the Beethoven Op. 40 Romance with a community orchestra. I'm hoping this too will be among my greatest musical experiences.

Listening is great ... but doing, even at an amateur level, is just so much greater.

As far as concerts I have seen, I'd have to mention Yo-Yo Ma and the Maria Schneider Orchestra. I also have to mention a local professional chamber group that performed the Dohnanyi Piano Quintet in C Major -- it blew me away, I was a total wreck at the end. Oh yes .. and a cello recital by Tom Shaw -- wow.

August 8, 2019, 12:54 PM · When I was studying violin in elementary school (eons ago), the Detroit Symphony performed summer symphonies at the Bandshell on Belle Isle. My family packed a picnic and we drove out to enjoy the concerts. I still remember lying on my back looking up at the sky (or closing my eyes), listening to the orchestra play as my mind wandered freely from one fantastical thought/image to another.

The fact that I still remember this so fondly sixty some years later indicates to me how special it was.

August 8, 2019, 1:58 PM · Playing duets with a friend who is such a great player that by his playing he dragged me upwards way beyond a level I could ever play on my own.
Edited: August 8, 2019, 2:46 PM · For most of us here it's a tough, if not impossible decision. And there are many moments I wouldn't want to cancel from my memory.
The most influential live performance for me was in London when the Antipodes Duo (brilliant Bryony Gibson-Cornish - viola, Gamal Khamis - piano) performed outstanding Schumann's Maerchenbilder and a bit of Brahms and Prokofiev at a free lunchtime recital in St. James Piccadilly on March 24, 2017 I stumbled into almost by accident. Made me wish to start with viola. What I actually did a bit more than a year later.
August 8, 2019, 2:48 PM · Performing the Carmina Burana with our community orchestra, four decent soloist singers, and a huge choir of volunteers.
Edited: August 8, 2019, 3:27 PM · If “best” means anything in this context it must be “memorable”, such as when I had a cello lesson from Christopher Bunting, a pupil of Casals.
August 8, 2019, 3:24 PM · I have a lot of great moments, spanning musical styles, venues/locations, and participation (audience/listener, performer). Too many to list, and it would not be fair to rank them.

I just joined an amateur orchestra. This is now the second thing I said I was not interested in doing since returning to the violin almost 3 years ago, the first being hosting/performing a recital. So we'll see how that goes since my recital was a good experience despite my terrible, terrible nerves. I had a blast in the lead-up to it, and loved the rehearsals with my pianist so much I still work with the same pianist on current repertoire just because.

I saw Philippe Graffin perform this June, and his Enescu 3rd Sonata was ravishing. I was completely enthralled by his and the pianist's performance, and feel very lucky to have been in attendance.

Congratulations Paul!!! And good luck! I am sure you will do a tremendous job with it.

August 8, 2019, 3:26 PM · As a listener: My first live hearing of the Mendelssohn Octet played by top soloists in Carnegie Hall. I soared with the music!

As a violinist: my first ever rehearsal with the community orchestra I played with for decades. It was Schubert's "unfinished" and while my abilities were nowhere near where they are now, simply being one of the seconds thrilled me beyond measure - it was a rush that convinced me that I wanted to do this forever. I did till a job change made it impossible to continue.

As a teacher: Watching my students "get it" as they develop their skills and take on harder and harder material.

August 8, 2019, 4:02 PM · Playing 2nd oboe in the British Premier of Prokofiev's Duenna under Howard Williams of the ENO.
August 8, 2019, 6:36 PM · I think my favorite of all the live concerts I've attended was the opening concert of the first-ever Mellon Music Festival in Davis, California. It was in a small independent art gallery, so it was the closest I've ever been to the performers as a member of the audience, and there were memorable performances of the Dvorak Terzetto and Shostakovich String Quartet No. 8. The most influential concert would be the first one I ever attended, hearing the Walton viola concerto and Beethoven's 3rd Symphony when I was 12 and deciding the same night that I wanted to learn a string instrument.

But like Paul Deck, I believe playing tends to be more meaningful than listening. I have a few experiences that stick out in my mind: sight-reading Shostakovich string quartets with two professional players in the quartet who elevated my sight-reading ability far above its usual level for one night; playing Schubert's 9th in a top-tier community orchestra and getting so much of a rush from it that the finale was still bouncing around my head until 3am that night; playing the Bruch Romanze for viola and orchestra with a local community orchestra, where the process of collaborating with a conductor in rehearsals was different from anything else I've ever experienced.

August 8, 2019, 7:30 PM · A time when I was in love though alone, and heard a performance of Messiaen's 'Quatuor pour la fin du temps' and also felt what he wrote of as "It is all love" in the music.
August 8, 2019, 7:51 PM · Probably the first time I went to a Pinchas Zukerman concert. That was sensational.
August 8, 2019, 10:32 PM · Good for you, Paul -- are you nervous?
Good luck and tell us how it goes.
Edited: August 8, 2019, 11:11 PM · One of the most illuminating musical experiences for me personally was when I was a young Bluegrass mandolinist, probably in the mid 1970's.
Kenny Baker, Bill Monroe's wonderful fiddler was a hero of mine and was jamming at late night, 3 hour jam session, at a Bluegrass Festival in Kentucky. I accompanied him, chopping mandolin chords for him, along with 3 or 4 other musicians, where he played one fiddle tune after another, variation after variation.
Apart from being able to observe him at a very close range, the most memorable part was when someone asked for Beaumont Rag and Kenny replied, "would you like it played in the key of C, Bb, or F?" And yes, he could play it in all of those keys. He played in the moment and always differently. It was my inspiration to switch and concentrate on fiddle.

August 9, 2019, 12:51 AM · As a player: when my beginners orchestra is all in time, and I’m in time with them!
August 9, 2019, 2:09 AM · For sheer musical elation, not Grapelli at the 1973 Cambridge Folk Festival (pace Rosemary), not Dylan on tour in 1966, not even getting conducted by Benjamin Britten at Aldwych in 1971, but an amateur production of "Annie" in Catford Town Hall
August 9, 2019, 3:05 AM · Kurt Sanderling conducting (in the nineties) the Minnesota Orchestra in Schubert 9 and, a couple years later, the Rotterdam Philharmonic in Prokofiev 6.
August 9, 2019, 4:31 AM · As a player - easy. When I was a teenager (still at school) I played in the local amateur symphony orchestra. For one programme we had the Emperor concerto, to be played by a little-known pianist called Stephen Bishop. I was in the middle of the second violins, so by some quirk of fate I was actually sitting near the keyboard. Well, outside of the tuttis I don't know if I played a note - I was absolutely mesmerised. I can't really put it into words - it was like playing from another dimension, as if the music was coming direct from the source (whatever that is). And within a very few years he made a famous recording of the Diabelli variation which is still a top recommendation today, as well as recording the Emperor (with the LSO and Colin Davis) - a wonderful performance which has always had an honoured place in my collection. He then became Stephen Kovacevich. The rest, as they say, is history.

As a listener - another vote for Kurt Sanderling - this time in Shostakovich 10, conducting the Scottish National Orchestra and bringing the audience to its feet. Or the Smetana Quartet playing Beethoven's Op127 (probably about 1968).

August 9, 2019, 5:50 AM · Playing Beethoven's Romance #1 with a full (community) orchestra in a large church.....
Edited: August 12, 2019, 1:08 PM · 1)Playing Sibelius 2nd Symphony at the Pierre Monteux School in Hancock Maine in 1990.Charles Bruck, the assistant to Pierre Monteux conducted.The hall is in a beautiful pine forest with the rocky coast nearby.Bird chirps and wind in the pines gave additional embellishment to the music.Bruck was magnificent.
1b)Using the original first edition parts of Debussy, Stravinsky and Ravel at the Monteux School.A classic dialogue was Bruck asking a conducting student about certain details in a piece by Debussy .He would ask" and how do I know these notes should be longer( or shorter)? Because Monteux told me and Debussy told Monteux." There would be a quiet "oooooooo" from the orchestra....
This was especially poignant when we were allowed to use the original parts from Stavinsky's Rite of Spring.
2) Sitting with Menahem Pressler at the piano in 2015 having him play excerpts from the Brahms Piano Quartets, signing my vinyl lp cover of the Beaux Arts Trio from 1974 playing the above said pieces( with Walter Tramplerer on viola) and then an hour later play the Beethoven Triple Concerto with his new Beaux Arts Trio.What an evening...
C)Playing second violin with Steven Staryk in Shostakovitch's 10th quartet.VERY intense rehearsals.He had the ex Barrere Strad back then and me with my Johannes Cuypers...he kept telling me to dig in more.."Im barely firing on one cylinder here Peter".Tough going but Ill never forget working with him.
Edited: August 12, 2019, 6:33 PM · Best playing experience; Playing amplified violin on tour with the Don Ellis band, every night standing next to and hearing musicians like pianist Milcho Leviev, drummer Ralph Humphreys, saxophones Gary Herbig and Vince Denham, and all the others...
Best live performance, being in the audience; Don Giovanni and Puccini's Girl of the West, at the Vienna Statsoper. The orchestra got more applause than the cast. The quality of sound was in another league from anyone else.
Best recording; The first time I heard Carlos Kleiber's version of Beethoven 5, I thought "That's the way to do it".
Best teaching moment; Having one of my students beat me at the audition for section leader spot with our local orchestra.
Edited: August 12, 2019, 7:56 PM · Hands down the time my old music school invited me back to play at their spring recital. I didn't want to, but the owner has some connections with music professors overseas and I figured it would be good to do them a favour. My old teacher still works for that school, too.

I was slated to perform my arrangement of a patriotic classical folk tune and None but the Lonely Heart by Tchaikovski. The school wanted me to play with one of their pianists, who cancelled literally the day before because he had a falling-out with the owner. So I played with the owner herself, who was fresh out of wrist surgery and half deaf, and also not very willing to rehearse.

When I walked onstage they kept playing me a Bb to tune with, so that was fun. Then they said they would play me an intro, even though I said specifically that I didn't want one.
I think she got one chord right---the opening Bb major---and from then on it evolved into a very wonderful, contemporary, A-tonal arrangement. I tried my best and pulled all the way through to the end of the piece, but dang. Playing from memory becomes perilous when your accompanist is testing every chord in the key to try and find you. (We dropped the second piece by the way). The parents were so bewildered they almost forgot to clap. Definitely my most hilarious performance and favourite "musical" experience.

On a more serious note, I'd say it has to be the first time I saw live opera. The Magic Flute at the Glenn Gould school in Toronto. Wonderful performance, and I got a seat so close I could basically reach out and rub the conductor's head (don't worry, I didn't).

August 13, 2019, 9:02 AM · I'll add to my previous post this memorable gem, broadcast on the BBC Proms last weekend - the BBC National Orchestra and Chorus of Wales, conducted by Nathalie Stutzmann, with Fatma Said, Kathryn Rudge, Sunnyboy Dladla and David Shipley in Mozart's Requiem.

I have never seen or heard a live performance of the Requiem with such energy and commitment from all concerned. The Chorus was immense, difficult to count on screen, but three rows extending the whole width of the Albert Hall platform indicates well over 100. Not only did the solo singers perform entirely from memory (in Latin of course), but so did the Chorus, a first on the Proms and perhaps elsewhere.

The performance can be viewed again on the BBC iPlayer - but only if you have a current TV licence in the UK :(. However, I would expect that this outstanding performance will turn up eventually on YouTube.

August 15, 2019, 4:23 AM · When I was around 5, a teacher at our school made us listen to Smetana’s Moldau. I loved it and the music almost brought me to tears. Unfortunately, I didn’t remember which music was it, so I couldn’t listen at it again at home, although I tried to explain it to my parents the best I could. Around 15 years later, I randomly found it in a new music CD, and as I heard it, I found myself again at the same classroom, with that teacher and almost brought to tears again.
August 15, 2019, 6:34 AM · My story maybe isn't nearly as glorious as some of the others on here, however it was quite touching and inspiring for me.

I work as an activity coordinator at a residential home and as such it's my job to come up with things for the residents to be doing. I'll never forget the first time I took my violin with me to play a few pieces for everyone. They all loved it, but the really special part was when I found out one of the residents who is 99 has played the violin her whole life.

When I began to play a piece for her (I forget which piece) she began to cry tears of joy at hearing the sound of the violin again! We went on to have an hour long conversation with her telling me to never give up making music and that I'm a joy to listen to! If there were ever any doubts about me wanting to continue playing violin they're defintely gone after her inspiring words!

August 15, 2019, 12:46 PM · Two years as a (treble) choral scholar under Martindale Sidwell.
Then starting viola when my voice broke..
Edited: August 15, 2019, 6:17 PM · In 1980 I went to New York City to make it big as an actor and director. (That's a story for another time. ) I decided to go to the Metropolitan Opera and see Beethoven's "Fidelio". I wasn't much of an opera fan, but I figured if I went to the Met, I might change my mind. Well, standing room tickets were $5, so I got one and stood in the back of the main floor, where they had thee rows of slots for people to stand and watch the opera. Frankly, I wasn't impressed with the first act. Of course, having the stage so far away didn't help. Then, during intermission a man walked up to me and offered his ticket to me. "I'm a doctor, and I have an emergency so I have to leave." I said, "thank you," and looked at the ticket. It was fifth row center. Hence, sitting in the fifth row for the remainder of the play was like going from looking at stars without a telescope, to looking through the Hubble. It was amazing. Ever since then, if I have to leave a venue during intermission, I always go to the back rows and give my ticket(s) to someone sitting or standing there.
August 15, 2019, 7:12 PM · Adrian, do you remember the parody, "I saw a Maiden fall off a bus" (No, I never met Martindale Sidwell, but my brother sang in his choir and told me about the parody and the incident that sparked it)?
Edited: August 15, 2019, 8:26 PM · No John, I've never heard of that.
I was only in Hampstead Parish Church Choir from 1961-63, and one very Great Moment for us was singing in the Matthew Passion under Klemperer.
At the time, I didn't appreciate the privilege of sharing a concert with Pears, Fischer-Dieskau, Schwarzkopf, Gedda, Ludwig, Berry..
I was the only treble to sit right through the second half, which made me a Bach fan for life!
August 15, 2019, 8:36 PM · I encouraged my son to play guitar since he could only crawl, the rest he taught him self and he made his way through a jazz course at tertiary level. In his mid 20's we formed a blues duo, him singing and playing guitar and me on the drum kit. We played local venues and recorded a CD. We only needed to be a duo because his guitar playing made it sound like there was also a bass player.

That will be the most memorable musical experience of my life. Second to that will be hearing the opening bars to Carmina Burana with my baby sister singing in the chorus, or, was it when I heard her on the radio singing in the chorus of Handel's Messiah...

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