Yesterday I performed my first concerto solo: Vivaldi’s cello concerto in D Minor RV 406, Allegro non molto (the first movement – you can find it here). Preparing for it pushed my playing abilities to the next level, to say the least, involving shifts and extensions which I had never done before. I also learned how to learn a big piece, which was a great challenge. I never thought I would be able to break down something so fast and technical into manageable chunks, but Diana (my excellent teacher) showed the way. She’s such a perceptive teacher – she would spot the problem or issue I was having in my playing within a minute every time I had a lesson. She always had the right solution and it’s quite unique that teachers are so attuned to their students’ psychologies and abilities. I’ve never met a teacher quite like her. She makes it fun and I always leave a lesson cheered up, regardless of how well I did.
I’m very proud of the fact that I managed to learn the entire solo and play it at a reasonable pace (though not quite as fast as the original). The fact that I’ve only been playing for 2 and a half years is something I keep reminding myself of when I think of last night’s performance.
I was incredibly nervous, to say the least. I started reading the Inner Game of Music in order to try and develop some techniques for bringing out more beautiful music, but it’s definitely something that needs to be practiced often, rather than just read. I had read about how much better you’ll play when you don’t “try” in the sense of “Oh, now I’m performing – I really have to try” (Do or do not – there is no try). I had also read about how much better you’ll play if you focus on the music, the sounds, or visualize each note. These things are all good in theory, but when I got up there my hands were shaking and sweaty. It’s a miracle I didn’t drop my bow.
I made many mistakes – almost every one that I had made practicing, in combination. That aside, there were some parts that were pretty good, and I managed to stay on time and pick up where I left off each time I made a mistake, which I think is pretty admirable. I did my best and the response was very positive. I had many people approach me and say that I’ve improved tremendously (I think the last time I was playing by myself was “O Come, Little Children”. A great song, but a few quanta below the concerto). They complimented me on my technique (my hat must come off to Diana, because she really is an amazing teacher) and really encouraged me to keep going. No one said that I did an amazing job, which was honest, but most people acknowledged that I was doing something very challenging for the first time, and they appreciated it. Diana has said that enjoying music is about finding what you like in someone’s musical expression, not about finding the flaws. I think the crowd yesterday was exceptionally considerate and warm, and for that I am very grateful. With some good friends and a warm welcome, I couldn’t have asked for more encouragement to keep pursuing my musical inclinations.