Behind my Carnegie Hall STANDING OVATION

We are used to reading and sharing on social media only about our successes and great experiences, hiding what is all around that. So here I share with you some of the things happened behind the stage of my American week. 

One week ago I was leaving New York with the feeling of great satisfaction. That is true!  But I will not write that it was easier, because actually, it was not. 

First, the difficult weather conditions, that changed in a night from a warm sunny Autumn day to heavy windy and freezing cold Winter atmosphere, had a significant impact on my violin. And on my bones too...! Plus, I had an annoying infection on my right ear, from the previous week, that didn't want to heal. Our apartment seemed like a sauna, as I steamed water all day to compensate for the very dry air.

The first meeting with the cultural journalist Ilona Oltuski and young talented pianist Albert Cano Smit preparing our music visit at a public High School (for GET CLASSICAL IN SCHOOL) was very interesting, but also challenging. There were so many questions regarding the organization and repertoire. How to get teenagers' attention? How to "sell" classical music to who never heard about it? Should we make more "cover - soundtrack - contemporary" music, or should we stick on the classical repertoire? Confident in our strong interpretation and point of view, Albert and I agree on presenting very traditional classical musical pieces by Vivaldi and Bach. We would eventually manage the situation at the moment, depending on the students' reactions. 

At the end of our visit, we were astonished by students' behavior: they were the most incredible audience we ever could imagine. We were amaz ed by their replies and interactions, and we received incredible notes afterward (watch a little trailer here and found the notes below). It was a great teaching for us as classical musicians. We are told mostly by our environment that classical music is old-fashioned and difficult to be understood by the new generation, so we question ourselves and try to make it "cooler". But this is not true. Classical music IS cool without forcing it, if we are convinced enough of what we offer and if we do it in a deep magical way searching for meaning and connections as the composer conceived it. In that way, anybody would be enchanted, I bet. And that is the magic of music. 

During the week I followed a bit the activity of 7 members of my family who came to visit NY with the occasion of my concert. Took the time to share some moments together was challenging too... but also very much moving to have everyone there.

I would never ever imagine it! 




While I was preparing for "Get Classical in School" and meeting here and there my family, I had rehearsals with the Chamber Orchestra of New York and Maestro Salvatore Di Vittorio. I was glad to greeting old friends from our 2016 collaboration and making new ones. Then, time for rehearsing came. My interpretation of Vivaldi Four Seasons is definitely unconventional, including very personal phrasing and musical effects, managing with freedom and a little craziness.

The moment where an orchestra meets my interpretation is always a bit scary. My question isn't if they will like it or not, but about if they will do things with me... or against me! It could sound silly, but it isn't and that's why. Especially on very known and millions-of-time-played pieces, orchestras have their own way to go - which is normal -, but they are not always available to questioning it. I was relieved to feel very soon a great curiosity from M° Di Vittorio and his musicians, and we started building up our collective interpretation with a wonderful spirit of collaboration. 

The morning of the concert was maybe the hardest moment of the week. I remembered very well the feeling in 2016, and I was scared that it would come again. It did. I am rarely stressed before a concert, but with Carnegie Hall that definitely happens every time. The feeling is a sort of complaining-mood going from "why am I doing that" to "I need to be rescued". Fortunately, once I quit the apartment to reach the hall, the focus came back to the music and so I found back a comfortable feeling. The Four Seasons were like home: once I put a step in them, I felt chez moi. 




About nerves, Steve Isserlis wrote a very interesting article on his website, check it out! http://stevenisserlis.com/nerves/ "...Well, giving concerts is a scary activity! It’s the price one has to pay; but when it all goes well, it’s worth it…"

In conclusion, my concert performing Vivaldi Four Seasons at the prestigious Carnegie Hall in New York ended with a generous and spontaneous standing ovation, a memory held deep in my heart. Those are the moments where all efforts, sacrifices and hard work (some of them you just discovered above) find their meaning. 

Last point. Maybe some of you saw my post on social media about that famous D# or D natural in the Vivaldi Spring Concerto. We all have in the ear famous recordings with D# but based on the score and on harmony analyze, it should be probably D natural. So in the end... did I play D# or D natural??? That is the funny part. I played for 15 years D#. Dozen of concerts. This time I decided to play D natural. I practiced it for months and rehearsed it. All went good until the concert came. ... My finger played D#! At the moment where I've heard the first D# I was so surprised by myself that I was tempted to play the following one D natural! Obviously I didn't, although it would have been so funny. End of the story: muscle memory is much stronger than we could imagine... be aware of that. 

Hey, I had a fantastic time in New York !!!





© 2020 Irene Abrigo | Photo credits: Sophie Robert-Nicoud www.sofy.ch