Monday, April 18, 2016

Accompanying a Violinist and the Macau Classical Music Society

After a few years of settling in Macau, I finally took the time to found the Macau Classical Music Society (facebook page here) with some friends.  We are having our very first recital!

The violinist Wang Hao plays first violin for the Macau Orchestra.  The concert opens with Brahms' 1st Violin Sonata Op. 78, followed by several violin showpieces: Carmen, Paganiniana and La Campenella, Souvenir d'un lieu cher: Scherzo.  Closing out are a few more relaxing pieces: Souvenir d'un lieu cher: Melodie, Humoresque, movie music Ladies in Lavender, and the elegant Graceful Ghost by William Bolcom.

It's an interesting program, to be sure.  For the pianist, the Brahms is obviously the meat and potatoes, but Tchakovsky's Souvenir d'un lier cher: Scherzo has some passages that when played at the violinist's desired speed is next to impossible.

It's been a while since I last seriously played with a violinist outside of an ensemble.  Believe that was back in 2002 with Isaac See back when I was at Caltech.  Before that was with Daniel Kim back at Cornell.  I might have underestimated the difficulty of this program for the pianist, because in comparison to violinist's enormously difficult pieces, it's nothing.

It's a good learning experience.  I thought I was good at accompanying because I like to think of myself as a considerate pianist, but not when you don't know the pieces too well.  And since Wang Hao is a professional, plus many of these are canons in the violinist's repertoire, he knows these pieces much better than I do, which leads to some rather, let's just say, incompetent moments on my part during rehearsals.

The more important lesson outside of "know your piece" here is that the pianist cannot also try to anticipate or wait for the violinist.  He does need to set the tone from time to time, or trust that the violinist will not fall behind or race ahead. Partnership is key. But for me, it's surprising difficult to break out of my prior habit.  Knowing the pieces would certainly help, as well as regaining some swagger and assertiveness as a soloist.

I more or less wrote commentaries for all the pieces in the programme, with help from various sources.  They'll be uploaded to the society's website in a few days.

Wish me luck!  For those who happens to be in Macau (long odds) do drop by and say hi!  Even better, for those who live in Macau, let's get in touch and grow the Macau Classical Music Society together.