Soloist's practicing and life
I have asked myself multiple questions:
What soloist do when they aren't touring?
How many months a year soloist aren't touring?
How much time are they practicing a day?
How many times do they rehearse with the orchestra and the conductor?
When do they take plane,train etc before concerto(ex:4 days before concert)?
When do they prepare concerts (ex:prepare for concert 3 months berfore )?
How hard are them with themselves?
Do they sighread all the pieces they play(reference to Heifetz's citation)?
What are the pieces that are always played
by them(probably know the answers)?
What soloist do when they aren't touring?
The lives of soloists who tour full-time and play 100+ concerts a year, are quite different from those who get a few engagements each month, and different from those who might do an engagement a month (or are not concertizing as actively in general) and usually primarily hold a professorship at a conservatory.
Full-time soloists typically select a small number of pieces to focus on and maintain at peak performance level for a concert season, or at least for a half-season. In order to ensure the best quality of performances, all or most of the concert engagements they schedule for that time are pieces from that short list, though they most likely have plenty of other pieces memorized or mostly-memorized that they would be capable of performing competently on short notice.
A few years ago I read in an article in The Strad about a concert cellist who had spent 3 months on tour in Europe playing concertos, giving recitals, interviews on radio and TV - you name it he was doing it. When he returned to England he realised his technique had gotten a bit ragged after those intensive 3 months with no respite for practice, so on his return he had to spend a while bringing everything back up to scratch.
Only 3 hours!
Achieving virtuosity and maintaining it are two things.
Lesser mortals may well take 4-5 hrs to do what the virtuoso does in 3, because the virtuoso knows exactly how to make the most efficient use of his practice time.
This may come as a surprise - but the routine that occurs when one does 10-20 concerts in a month makes each performance that much easier; the nerves that much more at bay; the practice/travel/rehearsal schedule that much more bearable.
One artist (whom I won't name) took a sabbatical because he felt he couldn't face the prospect of playing the Mendelssohn 20 times on tour and still find something fresh to say.
“Face the prospect of playing the Mendelssohn 20 times?!”
Andrew, unless you are speaking from experience, perhaps you should try eating your favorite food base - say fresh salmon - 20 times in a row before making that conclusion....
Andrew is a full time soloist. I imagine he does speak from experience.
I don't know, Elise. I've had pretty much exactly the same thing for breakfast every day for the past 25 years and I still look forward to it when my alarms goes off. Only small variations here and there. On Sundays I make pancakes or waffles for my family -- but do not eat them; I have my regular breakfast.
Elise - just yesterday, I played the Franck sonata for probably the 200th time...and I’m still discovering intricacies and pearls in it. In fact, my pianist and I turned to each other after the final glorious A major chord and agreed, “this piece never gets old, does it?!”
Andrew - thanks for the follow-up and of course I appreciate the explanation. But do you feel the same about all of the pieces? There are many that I feel the same way about (not as a repeating soloist but from practicing them for a year for a single performance!) but others that I hate or feel ambivalent about even the first time through. Could you also play those 20 times in a row with equal enthusiasm?
If they are as good as the most played dozen concerti, than sure!
Vladimir Horowitz was probably the last to tour with his own piano (including a piano technician, apparently); at any rate I haven't heard of any others since.
I think the idea of performing the same concerto (or otherwise) many times over is dreamy! Imagine the possibilities of pushing your level of understanding and interpretation to new places and glean new insights.
There was another pianist, I forget her name, that traveled with a custom built piano. She had small hands, and had a piano made with slightly narrow keys. She also specialized at doing recitals in small American towns, that rarely have live classical music events.
Two hundred times? I'd like to be able to play the Franck Sonata decently even once! With apologies to Gershwin, that's nice work if you can get it. ("And if you get it, won't you tell me how?")
Krystian Zimerman for sure tours with his own piano, and I'm pretty sure he's not the only one. US customs at JFK airport jacked-up his piano at least once.
Gary Graffman writes of being a Steinway artist back in the 50s and 60s. There was one piano he really liked, and would swap it around with William Kapell and Leon Fleisher, depending on who was playing where. There were problems of time between cities to consider, and at some level there were costs they had to bear.
They probably practice forty hours a day, nine days a week?
I speculate that HH is secretly training to transition her career to the podium. I bet she emerges from her sabbatical with a few guest-conducting appearances.
Yes I hope so Paul.