A Birthday Song

Today I made it to 44.  Happy birthday to me!

Yesterday I played the violin for three hours.  Perlman says nobody needs to practice more than that.  Quarantine times are strange – you might imagine I’d play for hours everyday, but in truth I go days without playing, then I play marathons.

You might also imagine that I would be writing a lot.  And I suppose I am, but it’s all for work – I am working more than I ever have.  My organization is struggling mightily.  We will make it, I hope, but like most we are on an incredibly tough road.  Martial Arts is not an essential industry; our doors have been shuttered since March 15 – we closed voluntarily for the public good, just a few days prior to Governor Pritzker’s mandate.  We’ve taken it all online.

I haven’t had a violin lesson since the lockdown started.  Teacher is doing Zoom lessons but doesn’t seem too enthusiastic.  She’s willing, and I’m willing – specifically I really wanted to keep paying her – but our mutual lack of enthusiasm seems to have lulled us.  Maybe a break is good from time to time.

I continue to pursue The Boy Paganini, making a recording of it for the first time yesterday.  I can’t believe I’ve been playing the piece for six months now.  It’s getting easier, but the myriad technical challenges – lots of position shifting, left hand pizzicato, spiccato, to name a few – are still, well, challenges.  I love the piece.

Inspired by Daniil Trifonov’s celestial March 1 concert at Symphony Center, I have, all on my own, taken up Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring, the famous and beautiful melody from Bach’s Cantata 147.  I bought an arrangement for a violin duet, imagining I might play with myself.

Yesterday I recorded part of the violin one part.  While the violin two part couldn’t be simpler from a “playing the notes” perspective, without the violin one part playing along I am completely unable to play it well enough to record it – the rhythm is impossible for me hear in a vacuum, and there’s no melodic line in the part for my ear to grab onto and follow.  I have also tried and failed to find an existing recording of this arrangement.  So I decided that I’m going to have to record the violin one part first, which is much more difficult, but I can hear it and count it out well enough.  Then I will be able to play along/figure out the violin two part rhythmically.  When I accomplish that, I will record the violin two part. Finally, I will then be able to play the duet with self as violin one and self on a violin two backing track.

Teacher has always been the one to help me wade through new pieces, especially rhythmically, so in working through it on my own I must say that I am really learning and growing.  My metronome skills have greatly improved, and I’m counting, counting, counting…

I miss so much.   Sparring, seeing and hugging people I’m not married to, the lakefront, the Art Institute (where dozens of El Greco canvases currently hang in a new special exhibit unseen by me or anyone else), dinner out with friends, travel, plays.

But music.

The last concert I saw was on March 2 – the day after the Trifonov solo matinee that inspired my Jesu pursuit.  It was a dream concert – Yo Yo Ma, Leonidas Kavakos, and Emanuel Ax played three Beethoven Piano Trios. I didn’t write a review here at the time and I won’t now but I will say that these three men played not as the virtuosos they are, but as sublime interpreters of Beethoven’s magnificent chamber repertoire.  They yield to each other with a deft sensitivity.  Chamber music is in their veins.

Though I’ve seen some amazingly engineered Zoom performances, we humans just have to get together to make and to hear music.  We have to.  And we will again, soon.

Thanks for reading.


One comment

  1. Julie Libel · · Reply

    How right you are, son. Beautiful, bittersweet post written today on your birthday. We love you.

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