Saturday, November 24, 2007

orchestral puppy love

A couple of months ago a video began circulating on the internet of the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra at the London Proms, turning the "Mambo" from West Side Story into a ridiculous free-for-all fiesta - shouting, choreographed and spontaneous dancing, trumpets and basses spinning -

Watching that clip, people who had never seen an orchestra must have been saying, "Wow, that looks like so much fun - maybe I should try it!" And when it was e-mailed around the CPO, and I heard some of my veteran colleagues comment about it, their reaction was also: "Wow, that looks like so much fun - maybe I should try it!"

It's not that playing in an orchestra stops being fun once you have done it for a while, or done it professionally. But it does become a workplace, rather than just a huge floating party - which means we're unlikely to break into spontaneous dancing during rehearsals, unless specifically instructed to do so by the composer. Orchestra members have families and outside obligations, and it's not easy to act like a goofy teenager among people who have teenage kids of their own.

Which is not to say my CPO colleagues are all a bunch of jaded, grumpy grown-ups - far from it. Most rehearsals are filled with jokes, gags, and teasing, and not all of it at the expense of the conductor. There's a level of intensity and commitment, in our more serious moments, in which everyone is completely focused on the musical product. And I've even caught one of my fellow bass players, in an unguarded moment (we were playing Firebird), saying, "I love my job."

On the whole, it's a little like people who have been married for 20 years - it's not that they value the marriage less, but you're more likely to hear her complaining about where he leaves his socks, or find him wondering if she'll ever be done in the bathroom, than you are to catch them making out in public.

Which is why a week like this one, with music director emeritus Hans Graf returning to conduct Don Juan, Mozart Violin Concerto No. 4 (with Corey Cerovsek), and Dvorak 8, is such a treat. The orchestra adores Hans, and you hear musicians at break or in the locker room marveling at his clarity, his precision, or his sensitivity and graciousness. Midway through the first rehearsal, four or five experienced colleagues asked me what I thought of him, sort of like giddy school-kids admiring a crush, and I told them that I had actually worked with him before (he conducted Bartok's Concerto for Orchestra in Miami), but I still found him wonderful.

Having Hans on the podium has been like catching a glimmer of the exuberant, wonder-struck adolescent still hiding in every member of the orchestra, beneath the hardened exterior. Everyone on stage was at least as goofy and fun-loving as those Venezuelan kids, at one time or another. And though we might not get up and start dancing through Don Juan tonight, it feels like an orchestra remembering how to fall in love.

1 comment:

LR said...

Just wait until Bernardi shows up. Its a little more like meeting up with your high school nemesis and realizing you still can't stand the bitch.