January 28, 2011


A few years ago I read a blog entry written by a very well-known cellist in which he spoke of interpretation and technique. In this post, he stressed focusing on the physical, that being putting everything under the microscope of technical and physical accuracy. Of course, I agree wholeheartedly, but I wonder if sometimes, in the quest to play at the highest level possible - that being to play in a manner that transcends technique - that we overemphasize the physical.

Today I had a coaching on the first movement of the Sibelius Violin Concerto with Carol Zinavage, a brilliant pianist who lives in Knoxville, Tennessee and performs regularly with the Knoxville Symphony. As I spent both the holidays and the first three weeks of January REALLY studying and practicing, I was hoping to leave this session with a recording that could be sent out. Well, that did not take place - but what did was perhaps even more beneficial for the long-term.

Carol is a very insightful musician and coach, and this was our first time working together. After our first run of the movement, we spent time working. WORKING. One thing that has stayed was being told that I have to "let the inner soloist out." This is not by any means a statement that gives license to the abandonment of very detailed individual work: quite the contrary. Carol was very supportive of the hours that were spent in drill and with the metronome; however, she did point out that things did sound very vertical as opposed to cantabile. Additionally, she pointed out many places in the movement during which one could and should play with real abandon, using very apt metaphors to describe the emotional content of those sections.

So, we played again - the second time was of course much different, and I now find myself asking if my efforts to be "correct" are actually hindering my progress. This thought comes from being able to play very difficult passages with both technical assurance and musical integrity during the second run: not from telling myself to trust my work, but from truly making an effort to honor the music on the page.

I wonder if the question of being "free in the dome" is one that we all ask ourselves, and of course this is a question that has no easy answer. Perhaps all we can do is is have faith in our preliminary work and remember to focus on the energy and direction of the music while performing. However, this is NO easy task - but a welcome one, one that requires serious study both with AND without instrument in hand.

I am truly looking forward to working with Carol again next month. Today's session was one of the highlights of a fantastic week that included Midori's performances of the Mendelssohn Concerto with the Knoxville Symphony and the orchestra performing Ein Heldenleben. Lots of notes to absorb, and lots to learn - and the next few weeks feature more of the same, including the finals of the Sphinx Competition in Detroit, Michigan (where I will be playing in the orchestra).

I shall do my best to write more about Midori's performance in the next few days - but tomorrow features a bus trip home, which is followed by Odin Rathnam's performance of the Korngold Concerto in Washington DC on Sunday afternoon. Now, however, I rest, grateful to be a musician and happy to have the opportunities to hear so much.

Until next time,

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