JKP Blog Posts
We are officially on the final stretch, having played in Calgary two nights ago and Regina last night, with Saskatoon tonight and Winnipeg, our final concert, tomorrow night.
There are signs. After last night’s concert in Regina, several of the players walked offstage looking slightly stunned. The hotel bar was a little quieter than usual at midnight. There’s a little less chatter and little more napping on the busses and planes.
And of course, the number one telltale sign that we’re near the end of an orchestra tour: it’s becoming obvious to anyone who looks – or smells – closely, that none of us have had a chance to launder or dry clean our clothes for some time. You can really tell if an orchestra is at the beginning or end of a tour by checking out their wrinkled tails and dresses onstage. (In case you were wondering who the best-dressed orchestra is, it’s the Hong Kong Philharmonic. Their secret? Thousands of local and inexpensive tailors in the nearby streets of Kowloon.) Continue reading
I grew up in Vancouver, a hotbed of musical talent. I recall my youth as a swirl of piano lessons, Kiwanis festivals, student recitals, and absolutely no hockey.
One occasional feature of growing up in a musical world was taking part in master classes. The most memorable for me was in 1977, when the internationally renowned violin soloist Pinchas Zukerman came to town to give a class at the Vancouver Academy of Music. I was seventeen at the time.
I played the Fauré A Major Violin Sonata with a colleague for Mr. Zukerman’s class. Master classes are a strange mix of performances and public lessons. The students play a work, and then the esteemed soloist critiques your performance in front of the audience. One hopes that they will be gentle in their comments. Continue reading
What is it about this concerto that makes it so difficult?
I’m experiencing this enigmatic and beautiful work from both sides: I am performing it with both James Judd and Pinchas Zukerman and the National Arts Centre Orchestra on tour, and I am currently teaching it to one of my advanced students, Lucy Chang, at the Shepherd School of Music at Rice University in Houston.
I first heard about “Beethoven 4” when I was a teenager. Older pianists would say “Beethoven 4 is impossible to understand,” or “Don’t think about playing it until you’re in your 40s,” or “It’s much too dangerous to play it in a competition,” and so on.
These comments intimidated me enough that I postponed learning it until I was out of school. Continue reading
What a day! I woke up in Vancouver, spent the afternoon giving a master class at the Victoria Conservatory, and at 10:22pm touched down in Kamloops. For a moment I could imagine what it might be like to be on a political campaign. (No, thanks…)
The National Arts Centre Orchestra performed in Victoria tonight, and arrives in Kamloops tomorrow. I had the night off, and chose to come here early for one reason: to try the piano ahead of time, and in peace and quiet.
“Peace and quiet” is hard to come by on a concert day, when a stage crew is unloading an entire orchestra’s worth of bass instruments, chairs, stands, music, conductor’s podium, etc at 4pm for an 8pm concert, and the piano technician is simultaneously desperate for his or her access to the piano.
So this explains why I am arriving at the Sagebrush Theatre to rehearse at 11:45pm. Continue reading
I admit that I planned this from the start. The temptation was too great.
You see, there is one thing that performers usually can’t do when faced with, say, a “missing” accent in a Beethoven sonata, an inconsistent articulation in a Brahms Intermezzo, or the “obvious” typo of a trill to the white key instead of the black key in a Mozart concerto.
We can’t ask the composer what they really meant. We can only guess, and often the most educated guesses disagree. Beethoven, in particular, causes problems because he often made a point of deviating from simple repetition when similar musical material reappears. One could even say that the very nature of artistic creation is to avoid the obvious and to be unpredictable.
Not to mention that this isn’t jazz, where printed material, if necessary at all, would be a mere starting point. This is classical music, where the score is king. You cannot imagine how capable we are of fussing over these tiny questions. Continue reading
National Arts Center Orchestra
Western Canada Tour
“A concert by NACO on tour”
In homage to my favorite Robert Service poem
“The Shooting of Dan McGrew.”
A bunch of the players were tuning it up in the Yukon Arts Centre hall; The guys that handle the stage and the props weren’t tired one bit, not at all; In front of the band and ready to solo, a Steinway looked just like the brochure; All seen by a crowd that sold out to be wowed by a concert by NACO on tour. Continue reading
Prince George, BC
I am in Prince George and I am embarrassed. Of course I am thrilled to be beginning my set of performances with the National Arts Centre Orchestra on this leg of our Western Canada tour.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Twenty years ago I came to play a recital in Prince George, and told the recital presenter how much I was looking forward to my first performance here. “But you played here three years ago,” she said. “No,” I replied, “You’re probably thinking of my brother Jamie.” That night, she brought proof: the program from my recital three years earlier. It was the first time that I had forgotten performing somewhere, and as I said, I’m still embarrassed. Continue reading