Playing the concerto was a musical high point for me, a peak experience.
Why? Perhaps one reason was that I was coming off a cold and feeling new life, so anything fun was good.
But more deeply, it had to do with the soloist's approach. Andrea Belding is a great young collaborative violinist (that term, "collaborative," is usually applied to pianists who know how to groove with another player). She's out there as a soloist, playing big or hushed as needed, leading the gig as a soloist needs to do, but she's also constantly checking in. If we look, she's moving in the tempo, if we listen, she's setting us a rhythm or a figuration that gives us a new energy.
So there I am in the second violins, trying like heck to finger the hard parts and hush up when I need to, and be there for the important moments, and suddenly I realize, she's connecting with me... And with the clarinetist behind me, and the cello section, and the conductor, of course. For a split second, she and I play an eighth note in sync, and I know she knows that we did.
It's chamber music: that nerve-tingling sense of connection. It's not the composer dictating what we play; he just wrote the notes. It's we who figure out, here and now, how we play them.
And that's the gift of chamber music, even in an orchestra of forty players, that we're each involved.
In the ideal world, it always happens. In practice, I sometimes (often?) forget to notice.
Last night, I noticed, and for me it made all the difference.
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