Often I am being asked in interviews how difficult it is to combine the life of an egotistical soloist with having a family (somehow this subject sounds familiar – I must have written about it already; if so, please forgive me for repeating myself!). Last week I lived the perfect example of how easy it can be to combine the two pleasures; my ex- wife attended a seminar in Los Angeles and our son JÃ¡nos who had just switched schools refused to stay alone in Berlin during my trip to Oslo (he could have stayed with my father or my sister). The solution was far too tempting for me to turn down: He had to come with me to Oslo. During school time. Why not? He took massive amounts of homework with him, his laptop with online-work to do, and by experiencing a new city the loss of missing three schooldays would be within the limits.We had done it once for a much longer trip to Vancouver and it worked beautifully, but this time was even better. He is ten years old now and a wonderful travel companion, witty, warm and very supportive, strangely enough. He loves music and didn’t mind me practising next to him while doing his homework or playing Fifa 09 and chess on his PSP (this is some Sony playconsole, for those who don’t have 10-year-old children) and practising the piano during my rehearsals. And it was wonderful of having at least one loved one for my debut with the Oslo Philharmonic at my side. The afternoon after the first rehearsal we had some rather philosophical conversations about love, life and especially death (he is fascinated by this, also women start to be more interesting for him than a few months ago – he doesn’t understand them or at least not the ones he knows), studied a bit and then – only free evening of the stay there – we went to the movies to see Pink Panther.
Besides spending quality time with my son it gave me the opportunity to catch up on some sleep, for I am not the most discplined turning off the TV/closing the book at night, but with a little person like him around we went to sleep at 10 pm! Maybe it was the lack of focus on myself or the huge amount of hours I managed to sleep, I felt better than ever playing Shostakovich’s First Concerto with Hartmut Haenchen as replacement for Mikko Franck – reached a certain freedom which I never really achieved before with that piece; oh, I have no idea if it helped the piece, but at least I felt good about it 🙂 The orchestra played absolutely beautiful, highly passionate collaboration, not just accompaniment, a real treat, besides meeting some old friends (two of them I hadn’t seen in 20 years!).
Lucky enough we had two concerts – the chance to play the concerto differently, yes, but also more or less a free day (except the concert in the evening). We grabbed this chance, took the subway for 30 minutes and went skiing for 5 hours. Not the most challenging of all ski resorts, but surely one of the most expensive… We had a wonderful time, it felt like holidays, and I definitely forgot about having to play that same evening – otherwise I can’t explain while I risked my health by taking on for the first time in my life a so-called “half-pipe”, falling badly and almost breaking a leg. Towards the end some idiot drove over poor little Janos at full speed. Unconsious for some scary seconds he proved to be alright, except his head hurt a bit – mild concussion, I guess…
This again showed me the real priority in my life – bringing up this young man, making him happy but also challenging him with the piano, maths calculations and conversations about more or less anything, treating him like a grown-up much rather than a child, while giving all the love possible. The concert in the evening was only a happy reminder of how lucky I am having this profession which makes it possible for me to spend soooo much time with my only son. And the lack of self-imposed pressure of perfection made me again freer to express practically anything I wanted to express without hesitation. The second half introduced to JÃ¡nos his first Alpensinfonie by Strauss which he found pretty exciting, especially the storm 🙂
Back to Berlin (we left at 5:30 am in the morning) I had the pleasure of receiving my old friend and pianist Markus Becker (yes, the one with the Reger Sonatas) to rehearse for a recital this Sunday night near Karlsruhe – why I do something rather hectic like that? Because I love playing recitals and can’t get enough of it!