I will not link to it, but if you’ve read this blog long enough perhaps you’ll recall my very (very very very) pathetic post about blowing it when I last played Mahler 4 a few years back. No, not blowing it as a reed player must blow through her horn, but blowing it as in my “FingerBrains™” went haywire on the second to last entrance of the last movement while playing English horn. It was only seconds of misery, but I was devastated. The second performance went fine, and I at least had that to hang on to, but when I walked off stage after that second performance I told several friends, “I will never play this work again.”
I had had it.
I’d played the work twice before that catastrophic set. (Yeah, I know, it’s not all about me … except that in my own little world it actually is!) The first time I played it I was extremely young, and I had no idea it was a tough part for English horn. When the Maestro signalled for me to stand and take a bow after we had finished I didn’t even realize he was pointing to me! (I wish conductors would mouth our instrument names — sometimes it’s tough to see who they are pointing to and I’m the sort who assumes it’s someone else being acknowledged.) The second time I struggled and I was well aware that it was a scary and tricky part, due to the ppp marking and being nearly alone at the end. At that point I thought, “I don’t think I want to play this again,” but I went ahead and did it that third time.
And that third time was most definitely not the charm. That was when I vowed never to play it again. That was when I thought there was a curse on me regarding that work.
Okay, maybe not exactly a curse. But I was haunted by the darn thing. It scared me far too much. I was done with it. Until I got the call from Barbara Day Turner.
Perhaps it was because I was on vacation when she sent me the email. Perhaps it was because I adore playing with San Jose Chamber Orchestra and I love the smaller venue. But I said yes. Perhaps it’s because I do love Mahler’s fourth, even while I have been so haunted by it. No matter the why of it, I’m just extremely glad I did say yes.
I didn’t fall flat on my face. I think I played well. I am not going to tell you what I didn’t like about my playing for once; I’m attempting to only focus on the positive. (How surprising is that? How long will this last, I wonder?!) I absolutely loved playing the slow movement. During that movement I’m on oboe (if you recall this is a very reduced orchestra and we only have one of each of the woodwinds) and I do love the oboe part! It’s what Dan might call “PattyMusic” as it’s expressive and I get to shape things and take my time. The switch to English horn, with all of four measures to move to the ppp grace note G# to F# passage went fine. (And no, I opted NOT to play the passage right before that on EH. I just braved the quick switch and trusted that my EH reed would cooperate!)
So it was a fun concert. It was challenging. I was tired after, and my hands certainly felt clammy, but I made it. I am thinking I might be able to put that last Mahler debacle a bit further back in my brain. (I can never fully get over those. Some people only remember the good moments. My memory works better with the negative stuff. Go figure.) I feel as if the curse has been broken!
I’m not sure I’ll play it again, though. Maybe I should leave it at this, eh?