Monday 17 November 2008

A Few Extraordinary Weeks

I left the UK for New York City shortly after the Groanbox Boys Fall 2008 UK tour. My work Treny had its world premiere by Dawn Upshaw, Stephen Prutsman, and the Ensemble ACJW at Carnegie's Zankel Hall on November 2. The entire process from rehearsal to performance was humbling and awe inspiring. The intensity of everyone's listening was something to behold. Dawn Upshaw is a miracle.
On November 3, composer David Bruce (whose Piosenki was also on the Zankel Hall program) and I had an interview with Andrew Cyr of the Metropolis Ensemble to discuss our Groanbox concert on January 28. Watch the Metropolis site for video updates.
I left NYC for Hong Kong early in the morning on November 4 for a performance of Osvaldo Golijov's Azul with Yo-Yo Ma, Jamey Haddad, Keita Ogawa and the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra on November 9. I would also be performing Astor Piazzolla's Aconcagua concerto for bandoneon and orchestra, which I rearranged for piano accordion/stradella bass. This would be my first time performing this masterwork, and the first time as a soloist with an orchestra.
I met with conductor Lan Shui on November 8, thirty minutes before the only scheduled rehearsal for the Piazzolla. As we talked about the piece, I noticed he was not feeling well. He excused himself. Before I knew it, the entire rehearsal was cancelled. I would have to make do with the dress rehearsal only, which was in the morning on the day of the concert. Fortunately, Lan Shui was feeling better and the dress rehearsal went well. I enjoyed the hall and the experience of being the soloist in a concerto with such a fine orchestra providing accompaniment.
When show time came, I was busy practicing and got word that Yo-Yo was looking for me. He took me into his dressing room and asked if I would like to do an encore with him. Music from The Mission soundtrack by Ennio Morricone. We went over it a few times while people were knocking on his door telling me it was time to go on for the Piazzolla.
I felt the Piazzolla and Golijov went very well. The orchestra was sounding great and everyone was in top form. The audience responded enthusiastically to each piece.
Then came the surprise encore. I mentioned to Yo-Yo that I wanted to be plugged in so that I would have the extended bass frequencies of the hyper-accordion. It was effective. I am excited by this new exploration of using the hyper-accordion at very low volumes while the rest of the ensemble is acoustic. This was also how we performed Treny. The amplification is used to extend frequency, not volume.
The house went wild after the encore, and Yo-Yo came and went a few times before sitting down one more time, preparing to do another encore. I suggested Piazzolla's Libertango, as I had shown Yo-Yo an arrangement I was working on earlier in the day. He said he had something else in mind. But he asked the audience first. Someone yelled out "Libertango!!" But it wasn't to be this time.
Yo-Yo played the Sarabande from Bach's Unaccompanied Cello Suite No. 6. I had the best seat in the house, less than an arm's length away. It was one of the most profound experiences of my lifetime.
The next day Jamey, Keita and I left Hong Kong for two concerts in Lucerne with cellist Alisa Weilerstein. We had a few rehearsals with conductor Paul Goodwin and the Lucerne Symphony Orchestra before the two scheduled concerts.
After the Hong Kong show Jamey, Keita and I were jamming on a forró tune I know called Feira de Mangaio by Sivuca. We thought it might make a good encore, so we showed it to Alisa. She rocked it!!!
Paul conducted the LSO in Stravinsky's Firebird Suite for the second half. It was another life changing listening experience.
The concert and an interview with me and Alisa will be broadcast later in the month on Swiss radio.
We stayed at the lovely 14th Century Rebstock Hotel in Lucerne. The bells of St Leodegar Cathedral echoed in my room. I had a great view of them, Lake Lucerne and the Swiss Alps from my window.
Early in the morning after the second concert I made my way back to London for a performance at the Blues Piano Orgy at Brook's Blues Bar along with John Challis and John B. Harris. It was a great night. And nice to be home singing and playing some piano. I miss it!!