Alban's Blog

Prokofiev Sinfonia Concertante in Amsterdam

Alban plays at the Concertgebouw AmsterdamI don’t know if anybody might find it interesting what I have to say after a perfomance, especially since I stated in an earlier blog that I am my own worst judge, that I never know how I played. But at least I know what I felt, and I asked you now to say if I should continue writing directly after concerts or not.It is always a thrill to play at the Concertgebouw, one of the best and most prestigious halls in the world. My heartbeat always goes already up when I am picked up from my room; this is not ordinary, since soloist and conductor are taking an especially reserved elevator from the basement to the first floor where one waits for another couple of minutes for the final call. Entering the hall is scary: While the orchestra is sitting nicely tuned in their seats, all eyes of the audience are on the two protagonists trying to make their way down on this big staircase, about 20 steps, and entrance absolutely Oscar-worthy ๐Ÿ™‚

The hall is gorgeous, but if one isn’t already nervous before the concert, by the time one arrives on the podium, you feel the nerves. And the Prokofiev is a dangerous piece. Well, many fast notes, many tricky jumps and one and a half showy cadenzas, but the worst for me is really the long stretch of concentrating. It lasts about 40 min, and the cello hardly ever has a break, and there is nothing easy in that piece. Even the slow passages are difficult, either intonation, sound or musically (mainly all three…).

How did it feel? Actually, I felt very free, and once the orchestras started it’s opening bars, my trembling nerves were all gone and I enjoyed the moment of playing at this wonderful venue. I love this piece, and as hard as it is, it’s great fun to play, since it was written for and co-written by one of the great cellists of all times, Mstislav Rostropovich, and he knew what he was doing.

Maybe we got stuck a bit in the slow passages, which I like to feel with lots of direction, but one tends to get carried away by the pure beauty of the melodies, and I think I rushed a bit too much through the cadenza. Will change that tomorrow, for sure. It’s always nice to play a concerto couple of times since it allows us to experiment and play around with the music, come up with new ideas and surprise conductor as well as orchestra and ourselves.

No, didn’t play an encore, I was just too tired and hungry, wanted to get to the second half in order to be taken out ๐Ÿ™‚

At dinner there was a nice surprise: four musician friends showed up (all excellent players), Benjamin Schmid, Quirine Viersen, Hanna Weinmeister and Silke Avenhaus, who had played in the small hall of the Concertgebouw at the same time like us, to say Hi, since we all had met and partly played together before. The music world is very small…


  • George

    Please continue to write after your concerts if you have time and feel like it!
    If you don’t…don’t…It’s totally understandable either way…Your comments post performance, though, do much to convey the mood of what took place..(i.e the elevator ride and descent down the stairs)..and that’s very cool….Congratulations on a succesful performance.

  • Mette

    You just keep on writing whatever you like! I think in fact that it’s VERY interesting to hear some of your own thoughts about your concerts – it makes me understand that the hard self-criticism, that we as musicians suffer from, will probably never go away – no matter HOW GOOD we become! So we better learn to deal with it… and the nerves as well!

  • Guanaco

    Your post-concert writeups are fascinating. It is so interesting to learn what the performer thinks of the setting, the audience, the playlist, and his own performance.

    As an adult beginner, the prospect of playing in our small community orchestra is quite terrifying. It helps me to know that even the best among us have moments of doubt and concerns about their playing. I like how you candidly discuss your own perceptions of the concerts – what you felt went well and what you felt didn’t quite work. It also helps to read your perceptions of the minor details and how you handle the all-too-common challenging moments.

    Please don’t stop you.

  • Alban

    To tell you the truth, I am not just writing whatever I like, I am playing like that too. No, honestly, I sometimes feels like it, you know, not having a clear script and fixed idea of what you want to say, but just start saying something. Makes life so much more interesting if you don’t know what you are going to do with the exposition this time around.

    Yes, moments of doubt are constant, believe me – not so much the doubt of being able to stay alive, but the doubt if this makes sense at all I am trying to do on and off stage. We have to be very self-assured to do what we are doing, but at the same time I sometimes feel I don’t know what this is all about. Very strange sensation. Self-criticism is the other necessary evil to keep on working – never be completely happy, always find a hair in the soup to keep you going, to do a better “job” in the next perfomance.

    Just re-read what I wrote after the first night of Prokofiev, and funny enough, while I tried to avoid any self-indulgence in the slow passages, a cellist from the orchestra came to me after the second performance and praised the fact that I had taken more time to express certain things ๐Ÿ™‚ And I was aiming at the opposite….


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