the learning continues

After this past week’s rehearsing and performing at the Portland Piano International Festival, I learned, or re-learned several things.

First, I learned what the Dutch expression “mierenneuken” means (nit-picking is the least offensive way I can explain it) from former Concertgebouw Orchestra concertmaster Alex Kerr. (It came up in the context of the American system of orchestral auditions, which is notorious for being incredibly myopic in its focus on an insane level of perfection.)

Photo: Portland Piano International
Justin Bartlett, Sarah Kwak, Nancy Ives, Jason Schooler, Alex Kerr and Charles Noble play Liszt. Photo: Portland Piano International

Second, I re-learned that simple score study with a recording can make my life much, much easier. I forget this from time to time, especially when the music I’m playing doesn’t present much in the way of technical challenges. I discovered this to my chagrin in the dress rehearsal for the Chopin First Piano Concerto. Lesson learned, score studied, performance humiliation averted.

Photo: Portland Piano International
Sarah Kwak, Alex Kerr, Charlie Albright, Nancy Ives, and Charles Noble play Chopin. Photo: Portland Piano International

Third, I learned (and likely re-learned) that a performance is not just the playing of the notes. It’s projecting an involvement in what is happening even when one is not playing. Even when I’m nervous about my counting, or remembering what figuration this pianist is playing in his left hand, or just feeling plain crappy, just the act of acting like I’m involved and enjoying what’s happening always leads to me actually¬†being involved and enjoying what’s happening. That adage “Fake it ’til you make it” isn’t an old saw for no reason. It works.

Photo: Portland Piano International.
Arnaldo Cohen, Alex Kerr, Sarah Kwak, Nancy Ives, Charles Noble after Brahms Quintet. Photo: Portland Piano International.

I took the day off today to head out to Hood River for a day of R&R. Tomorrow, I buckle down again and get ready for my first concert of the 2016 Oregon Bach Festival, which is a chamber orchestra concert under the direction of Sir James MacMillan. It should be fantastic, I’ll send dispatches from the road as I have time. Onward!