Whenever it comes to planning a recital program, I end up with enough ideas for at least 5 different ones. Then comes weeks of mixing and matching to end up with a plan, from which I might end up actually using one piece in the final program or non at all. All that work might seem pointless but through the process I do come down to a clear message that I want the concert to give away. My ultimate goal is to share an experience – this incredible excitement, enthusiasm, and energy I feel while playing music. While it comes in different ways depending on what I am playing or listening to, the physical sensation itself is always the same. If I tried to describe it I would say I feel weightless, happy, powerful, confident, and creative. Not the slightest bit nervous or negative. It really feels like you have life completely figured out, that you found the key to every problem and what is most incredibly exciting about it is that you can share this with others. Countless times I am too excited after a day of practicing or rehearsing for an upcoming concert and I lay sleepless all night waiting to be able to grab my bassoon again and play, play for people.
I like to engage my audience. Communication between us is so vital, and it can add a whole new level of understanding to the concert experience - bring through that message and experience I am trying to deliver. I want them to breath with me, I want them to feel the music, I want them to find their own connection with and to the notes that goes beyond mere listening and acknowledging beauty or greatness. I want them to walk away remembering something that cannot be described by words, with feeling the same way I do.
The opening piece of this recital is on the program for this reason. These were the exact same notes thourgh which György Sebők, legendary pianist, found his own deep connection to music again, after the war, as an émigré. In an interview he rather poetically talks about his experience:
“I can say that as a kind of personal confession that after the war, there was a time when I was suffering from not suffering. I had the feeling that I inhibited all my feelings and my reactions to anything, not just music. One had to overcome all kinds of feelings, primitive ones like fear or being in danger of life and many times the aim was not to really feel deeply, the aim was the opposite. The aim was to survive and the price of surviving is not to feel. And that not to feel sooner or later includes music itself. And then, after the war, life started again, and I had the feeling that music is obviously something wonderful but the connection to the essence of it was lost. I knew obviously it’s wonderful, it’s beautiful, acknowledging beauty or greatness, and then I played that transcription. [Bach-Busoni: Toccata, Adagio and Fugue in C (BWV 564)] And after the long toccata comes: [plays the first few bars of the Adagio]. And I felt something very strange. My throat. Some strings, they were not functioning, started to vibrate.”
It is a perfect metaphor… for so long I have been trying to describe the complex and amplified feelings music makes me feel and here it is. Imagine that you don’t just feel something, but you feel every single overtone of that feeling as well. Music can bring the lushest happiness to us at any moment of time. It’s a miracle, and it is addictive.
The title of this recital comes from my favorite writer, Vladimir Nabokov, form a love-letter he wrote to his dear wife, Véra. It has to do with music's addictiveness and its miraculous effects.
"Heavenly paradise, probably, is rather boring, and there's so much fluffy Seraphic eiderdown there that smoking is banned, […] mind you, sometimes the angels smoke, hiding it with their sleeves, and when the archangel comes, they throw the cigarettes away: that's when you get shooting stars.”
I should hate to give too much away about the program this early, but I can say as much, that you have a lot of fantastic music to look forward to - including a world premiere composition for bassoon and percussion – that will hopefully get you just as addicted to the vibrant feelings music brings us as I am!
ANGELS SOMETIMES SMOKE
Wednesday, February 12th at 6pm Paul Hall, The Juilliard School 60 Lincoln Center Plaza, New York, NY
The concert is free and open to the public!