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Wowie. - Karen's Musings
Random Rambling
My best friend, Seth and I went to Wolftrap last night in the pouring rain. Fortunately, we had seats inside the pavillion. IN THE FIRST ROW, BABY! (I so do rock)

First I should say that my best friend, Diana, and I have known each other for 21 years. She and her family introduced me to the joys of classical music (to be fair, my father listened to a lot of classical music, but Diana's family taught me about its intricacies). Diana's brother, Paul, is a pianist (with a PhD in Piano Pedagogy), and Diana started playing violin when she was 3 or 4. Over the years she has played the violin, clarinet, piano, and probably a bunch of other instruments. She is also a talented vocalist who sings with a local a capella group. She, surprisingly, did not major in music in college, but rather, became a physical therapist, then quit and went to school for music education and taught elementary school music for two years before returning to physical therapy, while resolved to continue to seriously pursue music in other ways. She is an impressive and talented person and I can't say enough amazing things about her. Really.

Since she moved down to DC, she and I have made a habit of seeing a National Symphony Orchestra concert at Wolftrap Center for the Performing Arts every summer. Last year we saw Itzhak Perlman, the year before we saw Evelyn Glennie (a deaf Scottish solo percussionist), and I can't remember if we saw anything the first year she was down here.

This year, I saw that Joshua Bell was playing at the NSO's Tchaikovsky concert, All-Tchaikovsky: "Russian Bells and Cannons". This meant, of course, that he was playing the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto in D Major. So obviously Diana and I had to go. And we even let Seth tag along (Seth came to Itzhak Perlman as well).

It Was Unbelievable.

Joshua Bell has an incredible stage presence. He looks at ease and comfortable. Were it not for the full symphony orchestra behind him, I would have believed I was watching him play in his own home or studio for his own pleasure. He is incredibly expressive, both physically and musically, and you can see that he does more than play his instrument (I wonder if he had the Stradivarius last night? I doubt it... too moist), he has an obvious mutual relationship with his instrument. His phrasing is flawless, his dynamic contrasts astounding. Though Diana lent me the score (piano reduction), it was clear that he wasn't playing the notes on the page - he played through the phrases and the notes were just natural intermediate points in the musical sentence. Oh, he played every note. But the Tchaikovsky has the potential to sound very laboured and difficult. But Joshua Bell played through the phrases like they were old friends. He caressed his violin to move through the entire range of the instrument and danced a duet with the conductor, Emil de Cou. The first movement was so astounding that most of the audience applauded wildly, while Diana and I looked on perplexed (in a classical concert, one typically holds their applause until the final movement of a piece has been completed). The second and third movements were no exception.

I was literally in tears. The music is so beautiful, and Joshua Bell so superb, that it's difficult NOT to be overcome by emotion.

For years after I left my music program, I didn't listen to classical music, I attended no concerts, I played no instruments, I pursued no musical interest. Because it was my entire life once. And being there reminds me of what once was but isn't now. But I'm glad I'm a concert-going listener now, though sad that I'm not performing anymore. I was depressed about it briefly, until I realized (while driving into work today) that I can't feel my right hand most of the time. So, um, yeah. Six hours of practice a day? Not gonna happen. I used to say that I would absolutely not pick an instrument back up because I'd never be that good again and it would be depressing to hear how awful I am now. But it doesn't work for me. I was talking to Diana yesterday and she said, "I never tire of learning more about music, no matter what pays the bills." And she's right. And I want that for myself again. So... after I've pulled the new sheitel fund together, I'm going to start saving my pennies for a new instrument and I'll go from there.

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Current Mood: artistic artistic

19 comments or Leave a comment
(Deleted comment)
estherchaya From: estherchaya Date: July 8th, 2005 04:26 pm (UTC) (Link)
It took me a long time away from music to realize and admit that I really was a good musician once upon a time. I'd never have been a Joshua Bell, but I would have found my way in music one way or another. These days, I'm surprised I can even read a score anymore.
(Deleted comment)
estherchaya From: estherchaya Date: July 8th, 2005 05:42 pm (UTC) (Link)
The big hurdle for me is accepting that if I pick up a horn I'm going to sound like sh*t for quite some time.

That's precisely why I haven't touched an instrument (other than the occasional piano scales). Even if I picked it back up and played regularly... an hour or two a week of practice will never bring my chops back to where they were when I was playing 6-8 hours a day, every day.
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estherchaya From: estherchaya Date: July 12th, 2005 06:16 pm (UTC) (Link)
I think by the time I got to college, I was down to 3-4 hours a day of actual full-on practicing. But I was playing (be it in chamber groups, ensembles, or lessons) at least that much on top of my actual practice time.

I often wonder what my skill level would have been if I had your level of discipline.

Probably, you'd have burnt out. I did. Of course, my burn out came after I'd caused myself serious injury...
mscongeniality From: mscongeniality Date: July 8th, 2005 05:16 pm (UTC) (Link)
Because it was my entire life once. And being there reminds me of what once was but isn't now.

I understand. That's very much how I feel about archaeology most of the time. I'll smile politely when my mother cuts an article out of the newspaper about one of my old professors and when I get home, I throw it out. I rarely ever read it.
ichur72 From: ichur72 Date: July 8th, 2005 05:35 pm (UTC) (Link)
>> All-Tchaikovsky: "Russian Bells and Cannons"

I assume this included the 1812 Overture?

It must have been an awesome evening.
estherchaya From: estherchaya Date: July 8th, 2005 05:40 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yes, though actually, we didn't stay for it. Diana looked at me at intermission after Joshua Bell finished (sadly, no encore) and said, "That was so amazing. I could leave right now and it was worth it!" "ME TOO!!" "hey... you wanna go?" So I looked at Seth and said, "Um, you really wanted to hear the 1812, right?" and he, thankfully, said, "I do, but I'm so exhausted and I still have to pack and be up early..."

So we skipped out. We felt like school kids playing hooky. But it was still worth the trek out there and the money spent on the tickets. It was incredible.

Anyway, I've been to the last several 1812 concerts (they play it every year during July 4th week), and I've played 1812 probably 2 dozen times (maybe more, even), so it wasn't a great loss for me. It is an incredible piece, but it will be there next year.
ichur72 From: ichur72 Date: July 8th, 2005 06:46 pm (UTC) (Link)
See, I've never heard a really good performance of the 1812 Overture and would really like to. But it sounds like you were more than happy with what you did hear, so it must have been a fabulous evening.
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estherchaya From: estherchaya Date: July 12th, 2005 05:15 pm (UTC) (Link)
I've seen both as well. They're good performances either way, but I can understand why you are so enamoured with the howitzers. You are a boy, after all...

I like the piece, but I've heard it a lot, so I'm not overly sorry that I missed it this time.
kressel From: kressel Date: July 8th, 2005 08:32 pm (UTC) (Link)

At least you have the consolation that you were actually good once. I took piano lessons for years, but I was pretty mediocre.

What do you play?
estherchaya From: estherchaya Date: July 12th, 2005 05:17 pm (UTC) (Link)
I played flute for a dozen years, but I switched to oboe medway through college (I had dabbled with it a bit in high school, so it wasn't completely new). As a music major, I had to pass juries on piano, but I am a really really lousy piano player. I can barely play scales these days. I don't know how on earth I managed to pass juries!
kressel From: kressel Date: July 13th, 2005 12:39 am (UTC) (Link)

The flute is one of my fantasy instruments, the one I wish I'd learned to play. Instead, the main character of my unfinished novel is a flute player.

I imagine it's rather a hard instrument, though. I doubt I could blow correctly and get a pretty sound out of it.
cleobatya From: cleobatya Date: July 8th, 2005 08:42 pm (UTC) (Link)
i love music...especially classical...i know nothing about it and am completely unmusically inclined, but i still know what you meant..shabbat shalom sweet karen!!!!
estherchaya From: estherchaya Date: July 12th, 2005 05:19 pm (UTC) (Link)
I love music. One of the things that I love about Diana is that she believes that no one is inherently incapable of learning to play music or sing. (I, on the other hand, firmly believe that there are some people, myself included, that can NOT be taught to sing)
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estherchaya From: estherchaya Date: July 12th, 2005 06:16 pm (UTC) (Link)
aw thanks. You're a good liar. :)
cleobatya From: cleobatya Date: July 12th, 2005 06:22 pm (UTC) (Link)
you are one of the best singers i know personally. not just flattery...i really want you to record pajama time. my father should NOT EVER sing out loud. yet he does and i guess we can say its sweet/admirable that hes not ashamed.
estherchaya From: estherchaya Date: July 12th, 2005 06:23 pm (UTC) (Link)
I could record pajama time for your father to tuck himself in at night. ;) Just KIDDING.
cleobatya From: cleobatya Date: July 12th, 2005 06:24 pm (UTC) (Link)
From: (Anonymous) Date: July 9th, 2005 07:35 pm (UTC) (Link)

Karen's so cool

Hey, Karen, thanks for the shout out. And the plug for Take Note. :) Karen totally rocks. And that concert was truly incredible. It inspired me to go out and get the music for the Mendelssohn concerto.

Get your new instrument soon! So we can play a duet!

love, Diana
estherchaya From: estherchaya Date: July 12th, 2005 05:39 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Karen's so cool

So glad you found my journal (now get thee an account with livejournal!). I don't know if you'll see my response, but I'll try anyway.

I had a great time, and I am still happy with the memory of Joshua Bell's extraordinary performance.
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