Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The trials of being a high-profile symphony musician

Here's an article about the chatter facing the principle horn player for the CSO. Horn is a famously difficult instrument, and this player is having a difficult time, to read the reviews. Sports analogies seem appropriate. I'm reminded of legendary hockey goalie Jacque Plante who, in response to someone's complaint about their work stress, replied "How would you like a job where, every time you make a mistake, a red light goes on and 18,000 people boo?" We're used to top athletes making mistakes, and we're used to top athletes being forced into retirement by the demands of the game. I think it's actually kind of cool to see this kind of news coverage, orchestral performance as athletic event, with all the inherent drama that that entails. I just wish it was enlivened by some replays, so that those of us who weren't in the audience could see what happened.

I went to a wind quintet concert on the weekend, and chatted a bit with the horn player afterward. He'd studied with one of the CSO horn players, and had spent a couple weeks living at her house when he was between residences. A really interesting experience, because he got to hear precisely how a top player practices in the privacy of her own home. He was impressed by how perfect she was. Not one wrong note, not one split attack, from the first note of the day to the last. Lots of slow playing, to be sure, working out and learning the music. _The Perfect Wrong Note_, which I've read, got mentioned as describing the philosophy. I can't do this, or at least that's what I tell myself, but every time I try I feel like things get better.

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