The “A” word is officially banished from my vocabulary, even if its residual usage in books, newspapers, old reviews, can’t be controlled.
To boot, anyone who’s been handed a stack of music by the High School vocal teacher to ready for the mid-year Christmas program and a few others in between Thanksgiving and semester break, knows that practicing sonatas, etudes, nocturnes and preludes is ON HOLD for a term of “ancillary” musical service.
NO not ancillary! according to Merriam-Webster
1: subordinate, subsidiary 2: auxiliary, supplementary
Purge this “A” word from the music-related vocabulary!
I must confide that the original verboten “A” word slipped into an e-mail I’d sent to a NY Times editor. And it ruffled the feathers of a world-class soloist and COLLABORATOR who received my prompt apology.
Now here’s a supreme collaborator in a Brahms Piano Quartet performance.
Those of us who’ve “COLLABORATED” know the practicing requirements. They upend family obligations at times, and turn our lives inside out and upside down if you factor in practicing prep, rehearsal schedules and performances.
Take the Beethoven “Spring” Sonata, for example, scored for violin and piano. It’s glaring that the interactive counterpoint between players, precludes thinking of the composition as placing the violinist in a starring role. The SOLOIST domain days are over!
And while pianists may be sitting, THEY WILL INEVITABLY also SIT-IN for proper recognition.
Same for harpsichordists, one of whom stands, gaining long-delayed attention– Elaine Comparone has championed harpsichord rights, erecting a “Brooklyn Bridge” to lift the spirits of her instrument, though she remains a superb collaborator.
In the chamber music venue, I played the Brandenburg Concerto 5 at the Merrywood Music Camp, and my part in the Gigue movement, was no small task. I was “conversing,” overlapping, chattering, through a quick-paced reading with an instrumental group of equals. If I failed, which I did at one point, the music crumbled like a house of cards.
And this whole chatter-boxing dimension of interactive, collaborative performance, brings up the subject of Deborah Tannen’s Book, That’s Not What I Meant.
Collaborators have the challenge of saying what they mean in a musically harmonious fashion.
I remember reading about how Dietrich Fischer-Diskau, with his “strong personality” asked Sviatoslav Richter to tone it down more. And Richter having a robust persona, perhaps didn’t always agree that his contribution should be diminished.. (not literally, of course)
How many times have we heard one collaborator drown out the other, unsettling a balance between them, especially where one of the two had a riveting passage that needed fleshing out.
Naturally, the ART of making musical decisions is pivotal to a convincing performance and begs for good interpersonal communication skills. (consult again, Deborah Tannen, That’s Not What I Meant, You Just Don’t Understand, and I Only Say This because I Love You)
Now back to the High School or Middle School venue.
I remember hauling a stack of albums home, and grimacing at the very thought of practicing a medley of Christmas Carols. Being paid $9 per hour at the time (while holding a Master’s Degree) my classification was “associate.”
Oops, that’s my cue to EXPUNGE still another “A” word from the language! For heaven sakes, NO ASSOCIATE practices for HOURS, DAYS, WEEKS having a back-up pile of spirituals and movie themes to plow through.
And what about navigating those first, second, third and fourth endings sandwiched between dal segnos. DC al Fine–not to mention sifting through slash marks, revisions, and last-minute cuts made by the conductor.
Case in point–On the day of the BIG Holiday performance, the music director did the UNTHINKABLE!
He slashed 4/4 to 2/2 without a word of warning and sent us all hurtling into musical space at break speed tempo!! (I watched his index finger rise and fall like his twitching nose)
Luckily, we made it in one PIECE to the final cadence amidst earth-shattering applause.
Sadly, this death-defying effort, sealed my retirement as a secondary school collaborator! Kaput! Finished! I was off and running back to the serious practice room where I bathed myself in Bach, Brahms and Beethoven.
Fortunately, earlier opportunities, outside the public school venue, were heaven sent by comparison! And these are enumerated:
Mozart G minor Piano Quartet (Appel Farm Arts Camp, Elmer NJ)
Brandenburg 5–Gigue (Merrywood Music Camp–Lenox, MA)
The Beethoven “Ghost” Trio–Fresno CA
Beethoven: Trio for Clarinet, Cello & Piano in B flat major, Op. 11 (with NYC HS of Performing Arts alums–I recall cellist, Marcia Patelson Popowitz)
Schubert Fantasie in D minor.. 4 hands, one piano (with a student)
Beethoven “Ghost” trio again, 92nd Street Y (Yuval Waldman, violin) don’t remember cellist.
Diabelli duets with my cousin Gregory.. 4 hands, one piano
Bach Concerto for Violin and Oboe in C minor, BWV1060 (My cousin Greg played the oboe, alongside Uncle Joe on violin)
Bach Double Concerto (I played violin) so I was still collaborating.
Mozart Concerto K. 453 (collaborating in the orchestra) before stepping out as a “soloist” do I dare say!
Shall we ban the word “soloist” from the musical UNIVERSE!!! !
I think there’s movement in this direction!
And speaking of the soloist venue, here’s Morozova playing the very concerto I performed at the New York City High School of Performing Arts Winter Concert.
We can all agree that Mozart in this orchestration, IS chamber music. (Even the pooches heard in the distance were willing “collaborators”)
The Collaborator Blog Spot