Sunday, October 14, 2007

Rolling Beethoven

As much as I need the time, I was glad to see the symphony schedule—Beethoven. Good. All those years in the practice room and on stage will come rolling back, focusing my attention on the necessities of professional performance, and on music that deserves that kind of attention. Lots of work, but oddly relaxing. Meditative.

And so it started. Thursday night’s rehearsal was a welcome release—I didn’t even mind the second bassoonist playing games on his cell phone at every opportunity or the new principal flutist, still a kid really, struggling with the New York Times crossword puzzle (why do people pursue professions that bore them—especially professions that don’t pay well?).

The program was a bit odd—After the Prometheus Overture, we’d play the Violin Concerto. At its premiere, the musicians were sight reading, and the soloist decided to sneak his own composition into the cadenzas—so it didn’t go off well. Beethoven shelved the violin version and converted it into a piano concerto. The violin version was forgotten. Fifty years later, however, the violin version was rediscovered, and the piano version was shelved. This concert would feature both.

Then Friday we met the soloists, a brother and sister team: Franziska Koenig on the violin, Iwan Koenig at the piano. OK.

The violin version went OK—she’s all about notes instead of the beauty of the phrasing inherent within those notes, but not bad. She can, at least, play those notes (and there’re lots of them), and overall, fine. A regional orchestra can’t pay the fees major artists charge, so management settles. It’s OK.

Then her brother takes the stage. Oy. “Attacking” the notes takes on new meaning, and it isn’t good. Noise. No phrasing at all. Nothing. Notes.

Beethoven added an extensive tympani part to the piano cadenza. News to the conductor and the timpanist, who had no such part. Iwan insisted on rehearsing this. The conductor explained that wouldn’t be possible until the next day. Iwan insisted. The conductor repeated that this wasn’t possible, adding that we were under time constraints and that the next day we could rehearse to his heart’s content.

“What kind of a rehearsal is this?” Iwan complained. “I have never played this with orchestra before. Tomorrow we must perform it.” He left the stage.

Just in case you’re wondering, no, this isn’t common behavior for a “professional.” One of the horn players behind me remarked, “Well—I haven’t seen THAT since college…”

Iwan’s parents were there (no, that’s not normal either--both siblings are adults) and (in German) turned him back to the stage.

Rehearsal finished. The next day, Iwan got all the time he wanted. Not a hitch (our timpanist is a professional). We played. She played. He played. We went home.

So much for a break from the bullshit.



immer dabei said...

Too bad, you got most of it wrong. Iwan played the piano version perfectly well. You, back in the orchestra just never heard it before and thus can not judge it. He had more reasons to go off stage for a moment and blow off steam. Yes, lack of professionalism was part of it, but not on his part. His parents remained in Germany. The people you took for his parents were the sponsors. Iwan's professionalism kept him going and perform the concert in an unforgettable way and
make it a memorable premiere of Beethoven's Op.61 back to back by siblings. Instead of being proud for the Utica Symphony, you stab the endeavors ananimously out of the dark and from behind. So sorry for the fine arts...........
How do you want to keep on going like this?

Beethoven said...

I am an amateur violist and during the past 40 years played in many semiprofessional and professional orchestras - I have never seen any of the orchestra members playing video games or doing puzzles. After finishing your comments on Beethoven and the soloists I was even more shocked. Are you trying to be funny, or controversial or are you just plain ignorant? I guess you are a frustrated, rigid and certainly not very professional schoolteacher - I feel sorry for your students. Stick with your blogs on vegetables and stay away from music.

Writer said...

Indeed, I simply wrote what I saw.

You can make it mean whatever you wish, but it won't change reality.