The advantage of being a soloist is that we donâ€˜t have be away from home for as long as a conductor for the same amount of concerts. When I did my little Hamburg-GÃ¶ttingen-commute the other day I was gone from home for five days, in which I had five rehearsals and three concerts with two different orchestras, conductors and pieces. Both of the conductors worked for at least the same time each. Why? Very easy: They have to work with the orchestra more or less from scratch, sometimes three, four days of rehearsals, while I come sometimes just the day before the concert for the first rehearsal, play in the morning of the concert a dress rehearsal, concert at night, and, if it ainâ€˜t too far from home, I might even drive back after the concert.
This has the clear advantage that I would be home more days of the year than a conductor, if he plays the same amount of concerts like me. Sure, I have to do some work at home, prepare and learn the pieces, but so does the conductor. I know so many conductors who are never home while not really doing more concerts than me – and Iâ€˜ll be home almost all of December! But there is clearly a negative side to this: we can do much more stressfull things, flying in and out within hours, arriving shortly before a concert (as I did in September, when I arrived from Texas just hours before playing the Rococo Variations with an orchestra near Stuttgart, just rehearsing for 40 minutes right before the concert) and obviously we are able to do have more concerts than the conductors.
The next concert is different: even though there are only two rehearsals, they happen on two separate days before the single concert, and since it took about 7 hours to get to Porto from Berlin I had to arrive a day before in the afternoon, 20 hours before the first rehearsal. While this takes valuable time away from home and my family, it does feel like luxury; I suddenly realized sitting in my hotelroom and practising the awfully hard SchÃ¶nberg Concerto, that it was nice for a change to stay four nights at a nice hotel – I would be able to finish my two books, practise well, do some sports (they have a nice gym with pool and Turkish bath), eat well and just relax. This back and fourth of the past few weeks has been very exhausting, so now I really enjoy having the time to breathe and take time to play this 15 minute concerto as well as I can, because I think it deserves a good performance since it is an underrated work.
No, it is not very modern at all; SchÃ¶nberg wrote it for Casals who didnâ€˜t care about modern music at all, so he wanted to make it as â€žeasy-listeningâ€œ as possible. He took a cembalo concerto by G.F.Monn as model and â€ženrichedâ€œ it with tons of little inner and side tunes, rather crazy and overloaded, but highly entertaining. As he respected Casals as the greatest cellist alive he made the cellopart ridiculously difficult – at the end Casals never performed it, it was Feuermann who played the world premier.
About ten years ago I practised it a bit (still living in New York), just for the fun of it, when the phone rang and Eva Lehnsten, Feuermannâ€˜s widow, whom I had met through a common friend, wanted to chat a bit. At some point she asked what I was working on these days, and I mentioned the SchÃ¶nberg. She mentioned that this piece had spoiled her honeymoon, because Feuermann was practising it instead of being romantic with Eva…