Yesterday was what one could term 'instructive'.
Stephen Kovacevich had very kindly offered to let us do a 'play in' at his place to help us prepare for our recitals in June. It's one thing to play in your front room for the neighbours, quite another to play in an unfamiliar room on an unfamiliar piano in front of a group of frighteningly musical friends: one step further towards the Real Concert Setting. So along we went.
Oh, the things one learns...
Strange how after just two days the programme came out sounding entirely different. The Elgar Sonata went like a dream - it came together as never before and said everything we wanted it to say. The Delius Legende now goes faster than it used to; one friend who particularly loves it thinks we should slow it down again. There was much to be pleased with in the Faure A major sonata (and yesterday was Faure's 160th birthday!). But one notices other matters in this context that were never apparent before.
This is particularly true of energy and pacing - applying not only to the music but to oneself. Mistake number one: practising and rehearsing for three or four hours in the morning, then practising at Stephen's place for an hour and a half before the 'performance'. We were, obviously, knackered before we began... As for the flow of energy in the music, our programme involved two high-emotion sonatas with the Delius as a breather in between; and we thought that finishing with three short Debussy numbers and two Elgar salon pieces would work after the Faure. But the Faure is such a high-energy piece that after it the pace simply sagged and we felt we never got off the ground again. With the help of two clever and experienced friends at the end, we've decided to lose all the Debussy except possibly La plus que lente, to drop Elgar's Sospiri and to finish with the Faure. (Fine with me - as long as I don't have to start the entire programme with the ant-heap of a piano solo that begins that sonata, anything is OK.)
It was afterwards that the weird things started happening. Notably, Tom collapsed. Why? The hot room? The exhaustion? Something he'd eaten? First he started feeling odd and turned a greenish shade of white. Then he cut his finger on somethingorother and there was rather a lot of blood, which made me come over queer too (I'm idiotically squeamish about blood), then he went to the bathroom and fainted briefly, and I sat in the kitchen with my head down trying not to faint in sympathy; then someone bandaged up Tom's finger, after which he lay on the landing with his feet up saying he felt better and then he had to go and be sick and then somehow we got him out of the house, into the car and home. Stephen was marvellous about it...poor guy, I wonder if that will be the last time he offers to let friends perform at his home......
Whatever we learned yesterday, I'm glad that we learned it at a 'dress rehearsal' rather than the 'real' concerts. Hopefully in two weeks' time, we will have sorted out the programme and will be able to keep away from our instruments for the better part of the day. And I hope that finally the end will justify the means.