05. March 2012 · 2 comments · Categories: Ramble

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?


  1. patti with an i

    I’m glad you had a good outing with it, and really glad you are feeling happy about it! I’m sure it was gorgeous; you know how much I always love hearing you play. If I could make one wish for you, it would be that you learn how to work around your tendency to have your “memory work better with the negative stuff.” I tend to be the same way, but I’ve finally started to understand, after a lot of struggle, that each of us has a lot more control over how our minds work than we think we do, that we often aren’t aware of how we are feeding and encouraging our inner demons, and that life and work and art are MUCH more fun when we develop the discipline to choose the good stuff instead. You’re really a remarkable musician, my dear; I so wish you could enjoy your work as much as I do!!

  2. This may sound odd, patti with an i, but one of the reasons I blog about this is that it actually does help me. It’s my cheap therapy! And honestly, I really am getting better about experiencing the joy in the moment rather than getting so darn picky and pessimistic after a concert. I promise! 🙂

    Having friends like you helps me, too. You — and others as well — are so encouraging and supportive and I appreciate that greatly.