When Steve Copes (who, by the way, has finally revealed his great hair to the world) asked me to write a blog for the upcoming Accordo concert, I said no. Why? Because it's terrifying! But in an effort to push my limits, here I am.
Dvořák is one of my favorite composers. Perhaps it's because I feel an inherent connection to Czech music being that half my heritage is from the land of pork, sauerkraut, and dumplings. (The other half is a few miles off: Japan.) Maybe it has to do with my father playing polka and various other styles of my people at the piano throughout my childhood, that my grandfather played the accordion, that I play a random Czech viola, or that Dvořák and I have the same birthday! Maybe none of the above, but one thing that I do know about Dvořák is that he wrote from his heart and for the people. His music is grounded yet expansive and he has his own distinct folk-tinged flavor. When he came to the States, he was very intrigued by the original music of America, which stemmed from Native American as well as African American music.
When Ruggero Allifranchini(who, by the way, also has great Italian hair) suggested we play this piece, I had the same response as anybody who has had any experience with it. 'Great piece! But . . . but it's so hard! And we have so little time!' The quartet is in C Major which implies that it's an easy and manageable key to work with, except that Dvořák turns the corner harmonically within the first four bars of the piece and keeps turning for the rest of the piece. This is challenging instrumentally (i.e. uncomfortable), but it's thrilling for the listener as well as the performer.
I've been asked to write about the process. It's something I've been thinking about for days because it's not something one can simply state. If I were to give a simple answer, it would be that we come prepared to play our notes with a point of view, understanding the style of the composer, a good idea of the score, and then we cook the ideas together, let it simmer, then perform. But no artistic process is that simple if you were to investigate. There is the individual process and there's the group process. Most performers have their own way of preparing and every group has a life of it's own. Every person will change the dynamic.
I guess the most consistent goal of a group is to get on the same page and to trust each other. To speak the same language so we can musically keep each other on our toes. Every composer and performer has their own language and sometimes rehearsal feels like one person is speaking Chinese and the other speaking Italian, but the piece is in French and your mother is Jewish. Music is amazing because there is almost an endless amount of discovery to be made and one can search for the meaning of the piece, passage, note, articulation, bowing, etc, or in what ways to do it, for hours on end. The process is never over. The art of performing is interesting that way because a piece will keep revealing new things through searching and time as well as through your own growth.
That being said, there is something to be said about overcooking a piece. If you over analyze a piece or pick at one thing too much, it might backfire on stage. But on the flip side, if you take it too lightly, it will have no texture or depth. But then again, what was painfully taken apart once, could give you knowledge and depth for the future performance. Mmmmmm, this sounds like a cycle. I guess it's all about balance, just like anything else.
It's really always thrilling to play with Accordo and I hope everybody enjoys this concert. We are all appreciative of our dedicated audience members and looking forward to this Monday!
~Guest post from Accordo member Maiya Papach
(Photo credit: Tim Rummelhoff)