“What a passionate performance! You must be a very passionate man?” was the question (in French, oh mon Dieuâ€¦) in a radio interview during intermission in Brussels ten days ago. My answer wasn’t flattering to myself, but what do you expect me to say? “No, I am not passionate at all, rather very boring.” Well, this is what I answer when I am being asked questions like that, especially since I felt pretty empty and thus boring after the Walton performance. I had to think of this interview because today I did something seemingly very passionate: first my bow broke in the middle of the first movement of Brahms’ F-Major Sonata during my rehearsal with Steven Osborne two hours prior to our lunchtime concert at the Wigmore Hall in London, and then, within 2 minutes of our live-broadcast concert my D String broke. Passion? Or just bad luck??Nine years ago I had bought this gorgeous bow made by Nikolaus Kittel, the Russian “Tourte” as he has also been labeled, which broke three months afterwards. I couldn’t believe it and actually broke into tears because this bow was the first “thing” I really loved. I felt (and still do feel it) that he is the perfect alongation of my arm, and that all the music and sounds I want to create go directly from my arm through the bow into the string. Hans-Carl Schmidt in Dresden fixed it back then and it held up for 3 years, then broke again. My violinmaker in Berlin did the next few jobs, because every other year it would give in into the stress of being played every day for many hours in, yes, let’s call it a passionate way.
Unfortunately in the past two months it has broken three times, and I must admit that this is getting even by my standards a bit too much. Last month I saw my luthier Ingeborg Behnke fix it with superglue, so when my Kittel broke again two weeks ago in Kansas City, I bought myself some and glued it myself. Obviously not as well as she did, because this morning it happened again. Immediately I put the superglue with which I am travelling these days (top of the check-list, even before passport!) on and continued the rehearsal on my unloved substitute bow.
I actually went on stage for the first time in my life with two bows, because I didn’t want to play a for me important concert without my favorite bow, and since the Kittel seemed to hold up under pressure I dared to play on it. You won’t believe what I felt when it wasn’t the bow which broke but a string. But what can one do, these things happen once in a while although it is preferrably if it doesn’t happen during live radio broadcast concert 🙂
I ran quickly up to the greenroom where my cellocase was parked only to find it locked. Dashing back and crossing the stage to get to the room through the other stage door was unsuccesfull, also locked. The audience must have had a blast seeing the little cellist running back and fourth with his cello in a frenzy – I must have looked like straight out of a cartoon, maybe like the roadrunner?
When the room got finally unlocked I luckily enough found a very last D String and put it on in world-record time (not as quick as the tire-changes in the Formula I, but close to it, I’d say unter 20 sec.) to restart the Brahms as if nothing happened. I guess only the vibrato changed, got a bit more nervous for the next few minutes but I tried to calm my left hand down while continuing the performance. It was a real treat playing in the most beautiful chambermusic hall in the world with all its tradition with my dear friend Steven, who outdid himself in both the Brahms and the Britten, getting better and better with the years, just like the two bottles of red wine we had enjoyed the night before during a delicious Indian dinnerÂ – no, not the two of us, we were four.
This trip to the UK was indeed very efficient, playing two concerts in different cities with different repertoire, being away from home three nights only! On Friday I had flown to Manchester to rehearse the Dvorak Concerto with the BBC Philharmonic and young Spaniard Pablo Heras-Casado at 2 pm. My flight’s arrival time was 12:10 pm, but due to some technical problems we touched down at 1:20 pm! But either I am cold fish, arrogant or indeed not passionate enough – I really didn’t get nervous sitting in the taxi and being fully aware of the fact that I might not get to the rehearsal with one of the top British orchestras in time. But without raising my heartbeat I knocked the conductors room at exactly 1:58 pm, just in time to tell him that I like the Dvorak with a rather classical approach, no waiting at bar lines etc. and off we went.
Maybe I didn’t get nervous in the taxi, but it was indeed a very ugly feeling not having warmed up. My hands got very quickly very tired during the rehearsal and I felt bad for not playing as well as the orchestra deserves, because they were in high form and Pablo was lovely to work with. It’s always exciting to meet young new conductors from different back-grounds, him being an authentically informed singer, conducting already rather prestigious concerts. The concert went much better than this first rehersal, especially after we were fed the night before in the garden of the orchestra’s boss Richard Wrigley some delicious clay-oven-made pizza (he is a hobby chef) – and in my suitcase I am carrying clay-oven made sourdough bread Richard gave all his guests as a farewell present.
So I was obliged to pay him back with a decent Dvorak performance which wasn’t easy at all, because somehow my endpin didn’t like the podium much and decided to slip at least two times, sure enough during the gorgeous slow movement (yes, again radio broadcast, but this time not live – which doesn’t change much, because the BBC is not allowed to change a single not of a live concert, even if something goes awfully wrong). But as I am used to slipping endpines and broken bows and strings I pretended nothing happened, and – nothing happened! 🙂