Sadly, you don't often play pieces more than once or twice in the new music world. Most of the time, we pour ourselves into learning an intricate web of rhythms and timbres for a piece that evaporates from our muscle memory only a few weeks afterwards.
My first experience with Mario Davidovsky was 10 years ago, when I learned Festino with my talented colleague and guitarist Dan Lippel for the Look and Listen Festival. It was a first on many levels: my first piece of contemporary repertoire with guitar, the first where the violist was the highest voice, and the first time I played with double bass in a quartet setting.
We spent hours and hours of slow, fast, and every-notch-in-between practice just to get everything lined up. When Mario came to visit a rehearsal (which always happens when logistically possible) it was just starting to hang together....just. The performance itself was a bracing roller coaster ride as we strained to hear each gesture as it flew by, further complicated by that bathroom-like acoustic particular to NYC art galleries below 34th Street.
Fast- forward to last week: I found my decade-old part in storage, and was thrilled that my fingers still remembered much of the piece. It was no surprise, however, since Davidovsky's pieces are very idiomatic for each instrument. On Memorial Day, instead of jetting off to the beach or a park, Dan and I munched on bagels while bassist Tony Flynt and cellist Karen Ouzounian set up their music stands (such is the musician’s life).
During the first hour of rehearsal we shared our war stories about this piece and our concerns, but they soon vanished. By hour 3, to our pleasant surprise, much of the piece was pretty tight. We looked at each other and there was a moment of recognition - a giddy feeling that comes along every so often when one realizes most of the remaining rehearsals will not be spent mechanically "shedding" in order to just be in the right place at the same time. Instead, we'll be exploring Mario's palette of sounds, his dynamic interplay of rhythms, and expressive shapes of phrases.
So....how exactly did this happen?
Is it because of this specific combination of people, or our collective of experiences?
Maybe a little bit of both.
Though getting older can be unkind in many ways, this is a situation where the opposite is true.
It can be an assuredness,
a sense of freedom,
and a privilege.
Happy birthday, Mario. It is a privilege to celebrate getting older with you.