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.