Finding the Harrison.

N and I – discussing the great ideas last Saturday on my pre-concert hike to Lookout Mountain and Cahilla Peak. Er, not really “the great ideas”. We were actually commenting on the pile-up of morse code contacts for his hiking/radio hobby, Summits On The Air, atop Cahuilla.

Last weekend, the La Jolla Symphony performed our third of six concert series for the 2013-2014 performance season. With The Roman Carnival Overature by Berlioz (1843), Brahm’s 4th Symphony (1885), and the Harrison Piano Concerto (1983/1985), it was an awesome concert to play, and I really enjoyed the process of getting to know each specific piece of music. As a symphony on the Saturday evening performance, we kept the Berlioz light (well, we attempted to), gave Brahms the due seriousness that he deserved, and matched the excitable pace of soloist Sarah Cahill on the Harrison.

Sunday morning, one of the first things I did was check to see if we received a review – it’s always nice, regardless of the positives or negatives, of getting press – especially with the San Diego Symphony as the more well-known ensemble in town. I’m curious – so I’ll usually scour the UT. And, it’s not like I really care about reviews, or what reviewers write. Critics are, after all, just writing their own opinions and words, and have little to do with how I/we felt while performing or what the audience experienced during the performance.

Anyway, Sunday morning I found the review on the UT website and read it aloud to N. It seemed overall to be positive – he didn’t really mention the overture, but instead wrote glowingly of the Harrison. I’m not sure if it was our approach as a symphony, or because our soloist was incredible, or even the music itself – the piece just came together. It was fun to play, and throughout the previous week, I had found myself humming bits of the 4th movement. Brahms, however, was not as well received; the comment was that the Brahms was weighty. 

The review ended with the following

In the opening movement of the Harrison, Schick found the Brahms in Harrison in the way he treated Harrison’s expansive, unison string lines. It proved to be a revelation.

The Brahms symphony is undoubtedly full of revelations as well, but Schick and the orchestra were unable to find the Harrison in Brahms.

I’ve spent a few days thinking about this, and I think it’s pretty interesting.

It’s an interesting concept — to take what we’ve done, what’s been learned…Apply those things from the past and use them in the present. From a time-space-continuum standpoint (unless The Doc was right after all), it’s impossible to apply stuff that we’re doing now to the past. However, when it comes to music and performing and really learning a piece, why can’t we? The Harrison was fun to play… I was amazed by Cahill’s hand technique and body motions…. the piece was fun, and though serious at time, that lightheartedness was never absent even during the more somber moments. And the running joke between my stand partner A and myself, was that the 4th movement sounded like the perfect Pixar Short Film score.

We had a blast playing it — and it really showed.

The Brahms was more serious, and we approached it as such. Before starting the first movement, our conductor Steven Schick commented to the orchestra (after putting the microphone down from speaking to the audience and ensuring the sound was off) that, “Brahms was too important” [to accidentally leave the mic on and ruin the performance].

I think that we approached the piece so seriously – because it IS a serious piece, a musical behemoth, and as such deserves respect and careful attention (without overplaying, of course). But at the end of the day – I don’t want to loose sight of the fact that it can be fun as well. We all enjoy playing music – that’s why we’re in the symphony. We don’t get paid for our time, rehearsals or concerts; rather we practice and perform because music is something that we love.

So – in the future, I’ll make sure that I put a little more Harrison in whatever I do…. And that though life happens in a sequence, it doesn’t mean that we can’t take concepts and lessons and look at them from a 4th dimensional perspective (time), and then re-apply to fit whatever we’re doing. I’m not sure if that makes sense, but when I think of it musically (applying the concepts of music composed in 1984, to something written 100 years earlier), it does. Perhaps there’s more there – I’ll stick with the space-time-continuum though and leave it at that, lest my mind get too blown away.

At the end of the day, I  never want to forget that while serious at times, life is also fun, full of discovery and lightness – just like the Harrison.

Full review can be found here:

http://www.utsandiego.com/news/2014/feb/08/la-jolla-symphony-cahill/

PS – and because I like to hike, and combine my love of art with all things outdoors – a few pics from last weekend’s pre-Saturday concert hiking adventures to Lookout and Cahuilla Peaks. Full trip report to come.

Nate_Cahuilla_Manzanita

N, en route to Cahuilla. My favorite photo from Saturday’s 2-peak hike to Lookout Mountain and Cahuilla Peaks.

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