My performance of the Beethoven concerto is in 4 days. Today I had my last lesson on the concerto. Monday's rehearsal had gone well, and when I warmed up for an hour before my lesson I was really *on* - everything falling in to place and flowing along. Intonation was good. Bow control was good. I had this beautiful daydream in which the concert was a grand success and everybody was so moved...
But then I went to my lesson. I was reaaaaally nervous. I'd never played the whole movement for Rictor with piano before. So, of course, I looked panicked and sounded dreadful. When I'd finished, Rictor said that if he had never heard me play before, he would have concluded only that Beethoven is hard and I don't like it very much.**
When I get nervous, I get paralyzed. My fingers curl up and won't relax. I twist my back and neck unconsciously - although if you saw the position I get myself in to, you'd find it hard to believe that it's unconscious. (I have had a suspiciously sore back, complete with a visible enormous knot on the left side, for a week now. Hhhhhm.) My fingers seem to move whenever they feel like it, not when *I* want them to move, and this of course is extremely disconcerting and means that fast notes or large shifts are often fumbled.
So it's down to the wire. I need to clean up a few little spots - a shift here, a grace note there - but the piece is largely under my fingers. Now I just have to play it so that other people can tell how much I love it. For me, that means remembering to keep my head (chin) down and not tilt it back, to move my fingers from the first joint (the one in the palm), to release tension, to shift with my whole arm and not with my wrist, and especially not to make the icky facial expressions I make when I screw up a note. Because I *WILL* screw up a note in performance. I have to get used to that. Not even the greatest of the great plays perfectly.
Performing is such a funny thing. You work for hundreds of hours for the privilege to stand up in front of an audience and play once - just once, out of the thousands of times you've played it - so that it will mean something to them. You don't get to explain. You don't get a second chance. You can't give a lecture on your piece so they'll appreciate it more. You've just got to feed so much soul in to it that nobody could possibly be left untouched.
And this is what I have got to do on Sunday.
**Later, at the very end, he said that if I was a conservatory student, and I was playing the concerto for juries, I would be just fine. And that was very nice of him to say.