Alban's Blog

Short trip to London

This little trip couldn’t have been more efficient: my pianist Markus Becker and me flew into London last night, arrived at 7:50 pm after a day of rehearsals in his hometown Hanover, and left today at 8:15 pm after our lunchtime concert at LSO St.Lukes.
It was one of these BBC lunchtime concerts of one hour without a break, which I find almost more stressful and tiring than a full recital – at least you don’t have to play longer than 40 minutes in a row. We performed in a pretty new London-venue, an old church which has been transformed into a very beautiful, sound-proof performance space.

We didn’t have the biggest crowd, and I was stressing out not only because of the microphones but also because of the very sparse rehearsal time we had. We met the day before and rehearsed the entire program, which consisted of the Debussy Sonata, which we had played often, but also the Suite Italienne by Stravinsky and the Prokofiev Sonata, we had never played together.

Except one little memory slip I felt actually quite good, but it is funny how a small lunch-time audience can alter your feeling after a performance. Again I felt rather free and thought more about music than about playing perfect, which is not an easy thing to do while the microphones are running, I must admit.

But I focused on breathing very deep and tried to talk with every single phrase (no, didn’t succeed, that’s for sure, but at least I tried…:) I just found out the importance of deep breathing, by the way. Yes, I knew before about how important breathing is in general and in music in particular, but to breathe really deep opened completely new perspectives to my performing, since it makes me feel much more free and liberated, and I start doing rather unusual musical (or unmusical) things.

Oh, one little mishap: in the coda of the Prokofiev Sonata our page turner got completely lost and turned at places he really shouldn’t have turned, so poor Markus, who played this Sonata for the first time, was trying to remember what he was supposed to play, but without the music in front of him, he was only guessing, and this causes sheer panic. He recovered beautifully, and we did a little patch-session for the radio-broadcast tomorrow, but something like that reminds us how dangerous of a job it is to perform. Anything can happen…

We had a lovely lunch afterwards, a couple of coffees, wines and a beer, before leaving one of the most exciting cities in the world in order to get home to prepare for our Reger-recordingsessions which start next week. Soooooooooo much work, and I still don’t completely understand the music.


  • George

    Hi Alban…Are there any exercises you can recommend for incorporating the deep breathing that you refer to…into one’s playing…I recall that Janos Starker’s breathing was very audible in early recordings and it contributed to the sense of the moment of creativity that was taking place…but often loud breathing is discouraged when high powered microphones are in use. This is an area that I have had an interest in for quite some time. I would like for the improved breathing technique to become automatic and such that I don’t have to consciously remember to do it..this will take time I realize..I believe that proper breathwork can contribute many benefits for playing. Any ideas or thoughts you have would be greatly apreciated..

  • Christina Kim

    OVer the last copule of weeks, I had been working with a lot of stress. Much of the Preparatory work for a new season makes me feel very stressful.
    Reading your writings makes me feel better.
    While I am reading your blog, I imagine the scene you described as I do so when I read a book.
    I experienced a similiar kind of things you had while we had winter festival last February, of course, though for me, it was a matter of organization. It was a terrible moment. However, after the concert ended in a fine shape, I could say with a relief the chaos before concert which I had to handel.
    Unexpected things occurs. I hate this…..

    Thank you for your nice blog.
    Have a nice day!
    Christina from Seoul

  • Alban

    Hi George,
    sorry for writing so late; well, if one breathes really well and deep, it should be definitely inaudible, best would be to breath through your mouth. Today in the middle of the recording session, when everything hurt, I lay myself on the floor and did some very deep breathing on the floor, and after five minutes the pain in the hands and left wrist was gone.

    No, I don’t believe heavy breathing has anything to do with musicianship. The person who does so, might believe that, but I think this is exactly the danger that people start to believe in their own musicianship without actually listening. When the breathing becomes louder than the playing, there obviously is a problem.

    Techniques? Unfortunately it is just as so much in life self-control; while practising you have to watch yourself if you are breathing well and independently to your playing. And yes, after a while it should become automatically, but I must admit, I am still catching myself of holding the breath sometimes in difficult passages – doesn’t make them any easier, rather the opposite.
    All best,


  • Alban

    Hi Christina,

    thanks for your kind remarks, glad you like my unfiltered thoughts…
    It is indeed so much fun to survive a crisis, often strenghened by it, since we learned from it. Hope to meet you next month in Korea,
    best wishes,


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *