Wednesday, December 16, 2009

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Friday the 11th, I performed the Sibelius Violin Concerto with my son Stephen conducting his student orchestra at Yale in New Haven, Connecticut. The program began with Stephen conducting a commissioned piece by a Yale composer, then the orchestra played the first movement of Schubert's "Unfinished" Symphony, conducted by the Berkeley College Orchestra's assistant conductor.

Thankfully we had about 25 minutes shortly before the concert to rehearse the entire second movement, and spots in the first and third movements. That was valuable because it was our first time together in the Battell Chapel, the site of the concert. The acoustics there were quite different than they were for our rehearsal the previous Sunday. There was warmth and reverberation in the chapel, both great qualities for making music. However, reverberation often makes it more challenging for a performance with a soloist, because the orchestra can easily be too loud for the soloist, especially a violinist. So I spent some of the rehearsal tying to play as loudly as I possibly could. That isn't usually the best strategy for making music, or even for getting the most sound out of a violin!

So getting ready for the concert, I made some mental adjustments, planning to play just a little faster in the slow movement, for example, in order to sustain my tone more easily. And I tried to ignore the thought that I might be drowned out in this very symphonic concerto. I knew that if I played well, the way I had been practicing, I would be heard at least most of the time.

Playing one of my very favorite pieces with Stephen conducting was truly magical! He controlled the orchestra very well, both in terms of tempo and volume. I was just a little nervous and tight for the first part of the first movement, but gradually I felt more comfortable and I started letting go. All the practice since early August really paid off, my memory didn't fail me, and my pitch was generally good (though there are a few notes I wish I could have back). Before we knew it, the 35 minute piece was over, and we faced the applauding audience, many of whom were standing. What a moment! I am blessed to have had such a great opportunity with my son. The members of the orchestra were very appreciative of my coming to play with them. I thanked them for such a great opportunity.

My other son Eric came up from New York to see the concert, and of course my wife Jeanne was there. My parents made the trip from Virginia, my brother and his partner came from Boston, and my cousin from Rhode Island even came! So afterwards we all went out and celebrated.

Then another blessing over the weekend: two whole days without touching the violin!

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