Here's what Joshua Bell thinks about playing the Beethoven concerto:
“It is as though I must succumb to this world that Beethoven has created, and I suppose I almost treat it in a religious sort of way. In the world of his music, Beethoven is God. I’d never thought of it that way before, but it is as though I begin to warm up to what religious people refer to as a loving God within that musical world. I feel as though I surrender to this. I feel that there is somebody who knows this world so much better than I do – and it is Beethoven himself, who created it – and there is something very comforting about that. Somehow that gets me feeling very relaxed. I think what a privilege it is to be a part of this great, beautiful piece of music. And this helps me get rid of my nerves and stops my extraneous thoughts about technical issues and what I did or didn’t do in the practice room.”
I thought about this all evening as I practiced. I recorded myself. Then I listened to the recording, and for the first time, some of it wasn't bad. When I listen to Joshua Bell or Isaac Stern or Itzhak Perlman or Jascha Heifitz play it, as I have so many times, I hear them shift in the same places where my shifts are audible. I hear their bows slide just a hair in the awkward passages. I can practically feel their hands moving in the places where the fingering is tricky. Of course they play so beautifully - and I'll never be that good - but it's comforting to know that even the masters have trouble with the same spots as I. And sometimes, for a few glorious seconds, the recording of me sounds just like Stern - or Heifitz - or someone. And then of course the illusion fades.
But maybe, sometime this evening, the spirit of ol' Beethoven hovered 'round.