I had a recital last weekend. We played the first movement of the Schubert Cello Quintet. It’s a monster of a piece. Intricate, with interwoven lines, each part rife with technical difficulties. And it’s 15 minutes long–if you don’t take the repeat.
The real challenge of the Schubert Quintet is focus. You have to be present in the music, every single measure. There is no looking ahead, or mulling over past mistakes. You have to be exactly where you are, because if you’re not, your ensemble is toast.
I’m a worrier. I worry about my kid. I worry I won’t publish my novel. I have always been this way. I worried about my job. I worried about my grades. I probably had my own copy of “What to expect” as a baby and checked my progress against expected milestones to make sure I was on track.
To no one’s surprise, I was worried about the recital.
The beauty of chamber music is that you aren’t alone. I have a group, and I trust that group more than I trust myself. I know they are there and will be there for me at every point. It’s mutual. So I did what I had to do. I ceded control to the music.
I’m not going to say the performance was magical. Nor was it the best we’ve ever played. It was, however, the calmest I have ever been before, during, and after a performance. Why? Because I had no choice.
Usually, my focus is only 1/3 on the present. 1/3 is kicking myself over stuff I can’t change, and 1/3 is worrying about the mistakes I haven’t made yet. The Schubert has no room for it. It demands 100%.
What would life be like if it was more like the Schubert? If I didn’t brace myself for every screw up, prepared to defend myself afterwards. If I acted more than I evaluated or anticipated? I don’t know if I’d get more writing done, or play more in tune, but I’d sleep better. I really like sleeping.
So thanks, Franz. It’s one heck of a mantra. Hope you won’t mind if I skip the repeat.
p.s. The link is not my quintet. It is the Kontras quintet, and unlike their first violin, I am not a dude.It’s what we sound like in my memory. I have a vivid imagination
Words by J. B. Everett
Music – Schubert String Quintet in C Major – Kontras Quintet