September 30th, 2007 § § permalink
Due to many mundane, annoying, and uninteresting factors, I haven’t been able to practice nearly as much as I would have liked to over the last four days: Thursday I practiced, but only for an hour or so; Friday I was forced to take off; Saturday was just a bit of strength training and some quick fundamentals; and today… well, today was a disaster.
I finally had some time to practice this afternoon, but after playing so little over the last few days, I felt horrible. This is perhaps the worst thing about playing the trumpet: the utter disappearance of ability that comes as a result of a couple of days off, or even just kind of off. It is certainly hard to deal with so demanding and unrelenting a bedfellow. Anybody know what the terminal velocity of a trumpet is? I’m about to go find out.
September 28th, 2007 § § permalink
Okay, where was I? Ah yes, I had just arrived back at my flat at 1:30am pumped full of Vicodin for my fractured pelvis with downbeat for the Brandenburg in nine hours. No problem.
The next morning my wife drove me to Orchestra Hall and helped me get inside with all of my stuff. This task was made a great deal more interesting by the fact that this was her first time driving a car with a stick shift. Nice way to learn, don’t you think? Nothing like cruising through downtown Chicago just hoping like hell that you make it through that next traffic light without having to stop.
Once we were safely inside the hall I began warming up and seeing what in the world was going to come out my bell. I tried to stand and play as normal, but as soon as I started to play, I started to pass out. Better try sitting. That, much to my surprise, felt okay, so I proceeded to warm up and get ready to go play. Unfortunately that peace of mind did not last particularly long. On a whim, Pinchas had decided that he would really like to go ahead and change the order for the rehearsal. He decided that Brandenburg 2 should really be done now, rather than after one of the other Brandenburg Concertos on the program. Okay, I guess my warm up is done, time to go.
As soon as the call came over the speaker, I began the process of packing up and getting myself upstairs. Unfortunately, the quick jaunt up the stairs had turned into a long hobble down the hallway and an even longer trip up the freight elevator. By the time I managed to claw my way onto stage, my wife brandishing my piccolo trumpet behind me, the orchestra was already playing the first movement of the Concerto. As I arrived the orchestra gradually stopped playing, one person at a time, as they watched in shock as I worked my way across the stage on my crutches. By the time I got to my waiting chair, it was dead silent on stage. I sat down, tried to find room for my crutches between my chair and the cellos, and then took my horn. The next moment is one that will remain etched in my brain for the rest of my days, for it was the moment I first met Pinchas Zukerman, and it happened in a truly unorthodox way. He looked down the line of soloists with a look of pity and curiosity, but mostly curiosity and asked, “Are you okay?”
“Yeah”, I replied, “I think so.”
Then, with a nonchalant shrug of the shoulders, he announced, “Okay, let’s take it from the top.”
From that point on, I felt surprisingly comfortable. The rehearsal went well and I was off and running into what has to be the most rewarding week of my entire career. At the concerts, the flutist would carry my instrument onto the stage for me as I did my best to be as graceful as one can be while nursing a fractured pelvis on a pair of crutches. I would play the Brandenburg, hobble offstage and down to the dressing room, and change into concert black for Soldier’s Tale (we were doing a staged production with actors and dancers. In fact, John Mahoney — Frazier’s Dad in the hit TV show Frazier — played the role of the narrator!). After changing clothes I would grab my single gig bag with my C cornet in it and make my way back up to stage for the Stravinsky. If everything went smoothly, I would even have enough time to play a couple of notes before the second half started. Needless to say, this was not at all how I had planned it, but like everything else that week: it worked out.
To me, the culminating experience of the whole week occurred at one of the last concerts, just prior to the Brandenburg. At some point during the week the flutist, Richard Graef, cut himself on his head. It wasn’t a bad cut, but it didn’t go unnoticed by our inimitable oboist, Alex Klein. As we were lining up to go on stage, Alex reflected on a problem he had been having with his shoulder, looked at Richard with his cut, me with my crutches, and pronounced, “I’ve got it, we can go out as the walking wounded! We can get a big bandage for Richard’s cut, I can get a sling for my arm, Craig has his crutches, and Pinchas can go out with his VIOLA!” I very nearly fell out of said crutches onto the floor laughing. Any time you can sum up so much work (laced with so much adversity) with a viola joke, then you know you have found nirvana.
September 26th, 2007 § § permalink
I got yet another phone call about my website from my friend Rod tonight (see Good Friends to the Rescue). I guess I am going to have to set Rod up with his own page somewhere if he keeps playing such a prominent role on my blog! Anyway, he felt that I didn’t fully cover all of the material when I was describing my experience performing Brandenburg and Soldier’s Tale with the CSO (see Dueling with Pinchas).
What was the part I left out? It was the part about having a bicycle accident on Monday of BRANDENBURG WEEK and fracturing my pelvis. Yeah — that.
I was at the emergency room until 1am while they took x-ray after x-ray, trying to determine why, when I tried to walk, I would crumple to the ground like a kleenex box under a pile driver. They finally found the guilty pelvis, told me that there was nothing to do but take pain meds and wait for it to heal, gave me a crash course with crutches, and sent me out the door. T minus nine hours and counting until I would be onstage playing Brandenburg with Pinchas Zukerman and the Chicago Symphony. Somehow, this wasn’t how I had always dreamed it.
There’s more to the story, but that can wait for another time. Right now, I am going to go be thankful for not having a fractured pelvis!
September 25th, 2007 § § permalink
I have been extremely busy lately with things that seem to be mostly designed to keep me… well, busy. Don’t ever doubt busy work, it really does exactly what it says it will do. In the process of doing this work, however, I came across an old review from my time in the San Francisco Symphony. This was a review of a concert during my first season with that orchestra that featured Shostakovich’s Ninth Symphony on the first half and the Brahms Second Piano Concerto on the second half. The review was glowing regarding the Shostakovich, which was fortunate for me since I was playing principal on that piece, but the Brahms incurred the wrath of Joshua Kosman, the classical music reviewer for the San Francisco Chronicle (where do these guys come from anyway?). His discussion of the second half opened with the following phrase:
After intermission, though, things went bad in a hurry, as pianist Vladimir Feltsman conspired with the orchestra to stomp on Brahms’ Second Piano Concerto.
I have always gotten a kick out of that particular piece of journalistic bravado. I’m sure all involved parties enjoyed their stomping conspiracy, but sadly I was left out of that particular round, maybe next time.
By the way, where is it that we get to write about someone who conspires to stomp on some of the best classical musicians in the world on a weekly basis? Oh yeah, that’s right… That can be done right here!
I tried looking for a bio for Joshua Kosman online, but I couldn’t find one anywhere. The closest thing I found was a page that mentioned that he had received his Master’s Degree from the University of California at Berkeley. Master’s in what? It didn’t say. I wonder how much real music training one has to go through before you are qualified to shred world class musicians in major publications? It’s ironic that the ones getting criticized are the musicians who have dedicated their lives into creating a product, rather than the critics who essentially spend their lives destroying one.
September 18th, 2007 § Comments Off § permalink
A quick and hectic trip to California has drawn to a close. I am back home again just in time to get some sleep and start back teaching tomorrow. Between the long flight and a crash on the San Mateo bridge — which stacked up traffic for miles, forced us to take BART to the airport, and eliminated any hint of a relaxing morning — I was not able to get any playing in today, and that just plain… Well, it was rather unfortunate. I guess I will need to carve out a little more time to play over the next few days. I wonder where that is going to come from?