In about two weeks we are going to play Jennifer Higdon’s On A Wire with the Philadelphia Orchestra. Yes, that Philadelphia Orchestra. It’s been a few years since we played it last, and Nathalie has never played it. We’ve been working it back up slowly, doing memory work and woodshedding. It’s funny how some parts come back easily and stronger than ever, and other parts are like starting from scratch. I remember the terror of performing it for the first time – dropping my pick in the piano, even – but after getting over that first performance, each successive one got easier and easier. Or at least less and less terrifying. I really feel for Nathalie, because no matter how much you rehearse something, there’s no substitute for how you will feel in a performance. And there’s always a first performance. You can’t skip over that step.
We are trying to ease the the height of that step, though. So last night we invited over some of our closest friends and supporters so we could run through the concerto for people. Sure, they’re not the judgmental public-at-large, but it still helps. We plied them with wine, cheese and hot apple cider, then ran through the solo bits of the concerto, singing and counting through the orchestra tuttis. It was great fun, and one thing we could do with our intimate gathering that we won’t be able to do with our Philadelphia audience was invite them up to the piano to peek in while we played the opening few minutes of extended piano techniques again. There’s an insane amount of coordination to fit us all around the instrument, twelve hands all doing different things inside the piano and on the keyboard at the same time, but all the audience ever sees is our butts. They’re always fascinated to discover just what is making the piano sound so mysteriously like several different instruments at once.
The run-through was pretty successful, and I think it went a long way towards building much-needed confidence for all of us. We head to Hungary on Sunday, and will only have a day or two before going to Philadelphia. See you in Budapest!