Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Mozart, with orchestra

I play in a modest community orchestra. Is it the best orchestra in town? No, but it was the most enthusiastic when it heard that I was a bassoonist looking for a place to play, a year ago when I'd just picked up my horn again. Last season, our conductor programmed a movement of Mozart's flute concerto, starring our flutist and my friend R. I guess he liked it, because at the end-of-season party in the spring he chatted with me about doing solo repertoire again, this time with bassoon. I tried to sound as enthusiastic as I could without immediately committing, since, well, it's not actually all that easy a piece. And I'm still in the beginning stages of coming back. Nevertheless I practiced over the summer. And started lessons, one of the main purposes of which was to help prepare, and evaluate whether doing it was reasonable. I explained the situation at my first lesson, and the response was, "Sure, no problem, you have lots of time." Of course, that was before he'd worked with me much. At my last lesson, M said something like "Maybe you could work on the piece this year, then get it programmed for next year. Sometimes hard problems disappear after a break like that." But I'd never really given a definitive answer, and still spent most of my practice time trying to play scales cleanly at moderate tempos, and work up my etude.

This evening was the first rehearsal with our conductor back (he'd missed the first rehearsal of the year). I wasn't looking forward to it, since I was of mixed mind. On the one hand, I don't want to suck. When R played the flute concerto, I thought, wow, I'd love to do that, and in a couple years maybe I'll be ready. It's a life-long dream, really, playing a solo piece in front of an orchestra. When I was in high school, playing in the orchestra, I had no idea how it ever happened that one might get put in front. And a couple years after I left, my teacher had another student at the same school who did play a concerto movement with the orchestra. That was Vance Lee, who later became a pro with the Hong Kong Phil. I was so jealous. So life-long dream, never thought it would happen. I once read an article about a business magnate whose dream was to conduct some symphony. Being rich, he hired a major orchestra to play under his baton. Win-win, really: he gets to realize the dream, without having to both devote his life to music plus win the conductor lottery; and the orchestra got a donation of I think it was $250k, back when that was real money. He was, according to the orchestra members interviewed in the article, apparently quite good: he really knew the music, came in with the score memorized, and was technically able to conduct the group. So that was one way I could imagine to become a soloist: get rich, then buy it. But now the opportunity has come, but I'm not ready. And maybe can't be ready in time.

On the other hand, the future is uncertain. My original imagined timeline gave me another year. Heck, M's comment at last lesson was about another year. But I don't know if I'll even be living here a year from now. If I'll have a job. If I'll still be able to spend lots of time practicing bassoon. If my conductor will still be leading that orchestra, and if he'll still have lost leave of his senses, and want me to play the solo. So many uncertainties. Maybe I'd rather do it badly than not do it at all? And the opportunity may come only once per lifetime.

So yeah, of mixed mind, and realizing that I'd have to talk to him about it. At rehearsal tonight, he gave a short speech to the orchestra talking about the season, and talked about programming solo work in a vague way, but mentioning using "someone in the winds, maybe a bassoon" (looking at me) but also leaving himself room to schedule some vocalist, and alternate years with internal and external soloists. At break I went to talk to him, told him I'd been practicing, and started lessons, but there was a lot of work to be done, but the future is uncertain, and I'd rather do it badly than not do it at all. Which he basically took as a Yes not the Maybe I Hope So But I'm Not Certain I'll Be Ready This Year that I think I'd intended. He said, everyone could always be more ready. He said, Thanks, you've taken a load off my mind. So that's it, it looks like I'm committed. Mozart Bassoon Concerto, Kv191, first movement, this spring. Me. Standing in front of an orchestra. Assuming, of course, it's not a total disaster. Easy for the guy waving the baton to say it'll be fine, I'm the guy struggling to play scales cleanly at 60 bpm. A total disaster is possible, of course, in which case I think we'd take it off the concert and play something else, we've done that before.

And oh yeah, I ended up volunteering to serve on the executive. I didn't really want to, but what goes around comes around.

1 comment:

  1. I'm so glad you're doing it this year. You're working very hard. It will probably be ok. You have seven months...