25 June 2009

Upticks (I) Recap

The audience outnumbered the musicians four to one; so attendance must be reckoned a crowd. This was a nice ‘zone’: an audience large enough, that you feel that you are playing for the public — yet an audience intimate enough, that everyone feels welcome to come up and congratulate you afterwards.

The space, too, is impressive. Though it is large, it is acoustically a wonderful interior, wherein a nervy wind player with good projection can ‘command’ the whole space, no matter how quiet the music. The audience were all keenly attentive, you could practically feel them breathing in sympathy with you — and any musician is grateful for such an audience, great or small.

Calculatedly, Gentle Reader — ever so calculatedly — I opened the program with the whirlwind Blue Shamrock. No matter the several imperfections of the reading to which I was necessarily alive, all it needs is nerve enough to carry on, and to keep the energy ratcheted up.1. Even at somewhere-less-than-perfect, the piece makes an impression, and wins you the audience; which in my book, is worth all the sweat needed to bring the piece to an audience.

Mary Jane then played the harp solo suite, Lost Waters. (I should be apt, Gentle Reader, to make myself tiresome with saying this, so let me say it once now, and I shall not repeat myself, though it will be true of all the remaining program, too:) It was an irreducible admixture of pleasure, pride, gratitude to the performers, and humble gratification in the performance, to have one’s music (written, in some cases, long before) played with such sensitivity and grace, by such accomplished colleagues. If I say that I enjoyed every note, let it not suggest any proprietary attachment to the fruit of my musical brain, for it signifies instead the professional and musical importance with which the performer invested each note. Any composer would be envious of such attentive performance of his work. At whose end, Mary Jane rose to a well-earned warmth of applause.

After the ready accessibility of Lost Waters, Peter and Mary Jane launched into the comparative musical maze which is stars & guitars. Together they played the piece with unwavering focus and passion; and I thought, what a good thing that I wrote it for such a long piece: for (and especially after the familiar sound-scapes of Lost Waters) the duo starts off in a way which, to anyone new to the piece, must seem a stark puzzle — but let your ears settle, and things fall into place. It was a gripping performance.

After a brief intermission (whose purpose was more to give Peter a chance to catch his breath, than for the instrument change), the bass flute was traded for an alto, and forth sang The Angel Who Bears a Flaming Sword. Apart from obviously occupying a mid-range between the standard concert flute and the bass, the alto flute also balances half-way between the sweetly focused tone, and on-a-dime navigability of the concert flute, and the earthy, take-a-deep-breath character of the bass. Peter gave outstanding performances all through the evening.2.

To wrap up, the trio (Fragments...) and quartet (Radiant Maples) both went very well, and aught that they may have lacked in strict compliance with the score (the clarinetist managed somehow to come in early after one tempo change, for instance) was more than made up for in spirit. And the slow closing section of Maples is exactly what I should have wished, in terms of the audience’s final impression of the evening.

What was especially gratifying: I was introduced afterwards to a splendidly capable freelance clarinetist, who is keen to give Blue Shamrock a try. A program which he is playing in a week or two, in Brookline (IIRC), is all music by American composers, so the Shamrock falls cannily within his recent musical thoughts.

My mom came up from Tennessee for this concert, which all of its own was a touching gesture — it is many years since last she heard me play, and I don’t know that she has heard any of my compositional work at all. The stage was set for a comedic, Is this what you compose?!? But mom and her two traveling companions spoke to me afterwards with a warmth which went well beyond any obligatory en famille politeness. I think mom may not wait so long before attending another concert.

1. Someday, I am going to say to my wife after a concert, “I played Blue Shamrock exactly as it ought to be played [or, one of a variety of ways within how it ought to be played].” Someday, I am going to say to my wife after a concert, “Once again, dear, I played Blue Shamrock exactly as it ought to be played.” Even though yestereve was not either of those days, I am entirely pleased with my performance. I should be displeased, if the next performance does not improve on it.

2. And between stars & guitars and The Angel..., he was given enough of a workout that he scheduled himself a post-concert appointment with a masseuse today.

PS/ Even if things had gone absolutely smoothly, it would have been a busy afternoon before the recital. But then, as I was on the highway heading south of Boston to fetch in the recording engineer — tire went flat. Had to pull over, call AAA. (It all sorted out, and happily the adventure did not remove my ability to think on my feet . . . .)

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