Gosh, I need a break – recording one program, performing a full recital with another one with no time in between, wears the most resilient musician down. Last night Markus Becker and me played the opening of the Reger-Festival in Weiden (near Nuremberg), and if somebody would have listened to our rehearsals, he or she wouldn’t have believed that we were attempting to play that repertoire in concert the same day. We had good excuses for not being ready though; both of us just came out of tough recording projects, him doing Reger-Bach arrangements for Hyperion, I did the two very difficult Prokofiev Concertos. But at the end of the day, the audience in Weiden didn’t know about this and deserved a good concert.With the last amounts of concentration left, after working hard all day (again I must have played the cello for at least 8 hours including the concert) we pulled off the miracle and played actually really well. I was especially nervous because it was the first time since about 17 years that I was playing a recital with the music in front of me. I had spoilt myself by always knowing the sonatas I was performing by heart, which gave me another authority and view over the piece, at least this is the feeling I have while playing. But for yesterday’s concert there was no chance to re-memorize the Sonatas by Strauss and Reger in half a day, even though I knew them a year ago. The 5th Bachsuite I had to play by memory since the music is all packed in some moving boxes, but the rest of the concert I had to endure looking at the music once in a while. I survived and the concert is history 🙂
Markus and me had some very interesting conversations at breakfast/lunch/dinner and I wanted to write it down for me to make some sense of it (or maybe some comments of you helping me understand):
We are considered nice people, very easy-going, no attitude, no diva-esque behaviour, if somebody asks as a question via phone/mail/text message we tend to respond immediately, we talk to other people as equals, we just don’t feel that we are more special than others. We are only aware how lucky we are to have such a wonderful profession which lets us live well by playing music – and eternally grateful. Obviously we had to sacrifice a lot for being able to do what we do throughout our entire life and we might have worked hard in order to be so “lucky”, but this is a different story. Fact is we don’t take ourselves very important, and we were wondering if sometimes it would be useful to at least pretend to be more important.
We know of musicians who behave the opposite way and who are highly succesful like that; they are incredibly hard to be reached, they pretend to be incredibly busy (even though in our musician’s life there is so much empty time during travels, and since we often play similar repertoire, we do not have to practise all day) and they have this air of superiority around them which makes other people do anything for them. Not only do the attitude-people get their way, but they are respected for that. It’s almost like playing games it seems, playing “hard to get” in the first stages of a relationship…
The other day I ran into a webdesigner who is doing a page for a colleague of mine, and he told me that this cellist was so incredibly busy and important that he didn’t have the time to personally get involved with his own website, which I knew was a lie because I know how much time the guy spends on his website – he doesn’t have family, doesn’t play as many concerts as me for example, so obviously there is lot of spare time. Why can’t we admit that we have time? Do we have to pretend we are so busy just to prove to the rest of the world (and maybe also ourselves) how immensely succesfull we are? Are we still in the stone-ages where they had to swing their big bat to frigthen or impress the competitors?
By responding late (or not at all) to e-mails (or have your manager take care of that, even e-mails to fellow musicians) it creates this air of untouchability around them, but it is so fake. I do have a friend who is so succesful and busy that he hardly has any time to breathe, but he never makes much fuss about it – no, not a musician, he’s in the big business, and he really has meetings more or less non-stop the whole day spread over the whole world. He receives about 200 e-mails per day (no junk) which he HAS to respond to, so sometimes the private mail-responses take him a while, but with him I know it is genuine. With most other people I know it’s either a show or just plain inefficiency.
Whenever I am in Berlin I have indeed hardly any time – but not because of career or the cello, but because I love to spend the spare time I have in being with my child, doing household things, seeing my brothers and sisters, going to a soccer game, the theater or the opera, or just reading a book. I don’t like to “waste” my time with meeting people I don’t really care that much – but I don’t pretend that this is because I am succesfull or important.
Funny – it really helps writing this down. Before I really thought I should adapt some of these tricks to earn some more respect (for example yesterday we had a tiny problem with the piano tuner: he arrived earlier than our rehearsals was finished and for him it was more convenient to start tuning earlier than later – we accomodated to his needs and moved to another hall to finish. With a bit of attitude we could have shut him up easily, but actually I felt bad for him – it was Sunday, he had travelled 100 km to tune and wanted to get back home, so out of compassion we did what we did), but now, after writing these thoughts into my laptop here in the train back home to Berlin, I realize that I am not going to change for some silly “respect”. For a musician it is important to keep humility and humanity as high up as possible, and just because we play our instruments well does not make us better or more important people. And if this will make people take me less serious or respect me less, see if I care! 🙂