Sibelius at the Freo Eisteddfod

All yesterday, I was just riddled with nerves.  I had that weird sick feeling in my stomach all day at work, knowing that my Freo Eisteddfod heat was later that day.  I did try to calm down, clear the worries out of my head.

As my Wifey told me, I shouldn’t need to have nerves.  I mean, I hadn’t even played yet!  No-one is going to die, no-one is getting injured, the audience aren’t there hanging on the edge of their seat waiting for me to make a mistake, they’re there to enjoy music.

But that still doesn’t help.

So I turned up after 8pm and found that there were still 4 or so to go before me.  Bad.  It meant I had to wait.  I didn’t want to watch the others so I hung out in the main hall.  There was no real place to warm up as the whole building has so much echo that it would leak into the main hall.

But all that circulated through my head for that hour was the thought of having a memory lapse.  I was replaying the concerto in parts in my head and would find a part that I “forgot”, rush to the music to check what’s next.  Bad.  My hands were cold and clammy which would make it harder to shift and play the fast passages mroe agile.

The other players before me played really well.  Pianists, violinists – I resigned to the fact that I couldn’t compete with them.  Many are Uni music students.  I wasn’t there primarily to compete anyway.  That was not my prime objective.  But that still didn’t stop the adrenalin from rushing in my head.

Then it was time for me.  I was called up, I walked to the bare stage at the Freo Town Hall, a place I hadn’t played a solo on since my Saint-Saens Introduction and Rondo Cappricioso with WAYO so many years ago (is it 14-15 years ago?).

I tuned up and tried to loosen up, listen to the acoustics in the hall, playing some long notes on open strings.  I looked out on the audience, saw the judges sitting in the upstairs gallery seating.

A thought went through my head that I was going to forget some part of the concerto again…  but I took a deep breath, looked at my accompanist, gave him a small nod and we started.

I was going in cold – not having warmed up.   F1 drivers have that warmup lap where they try to get their tyres to the right temperature.  I was thinking – why couldn’t I?  Oh well..   The nerves definitely died down once I had my bow on the string.

I played my heart out on that violin.  It was definitely more passionate and had more feeling than I usually play.  I really “milked” it.  But my intonation was a bit more shaky in parts.  And my left hand was still stiff from adrenalin, making runs not as crystal clear.  Luckily I did get the huge interval jumps and most of the double stopped octaves and sixths were OK.  The cadenza part came off better than I expected.  It was weird, at times I almost felt like I was observing myself play.  It wasn’t in “automatic” mode, but almost like my soul had lifted out of my body and was watching from outside myself.

All of a sudden, it was coming to the 2 last pages in my head.  No memory lapses so far – good.  But I started my run into the high E trill a little too fast because of nerves and so my accompanist thought I wanted to go fast.  But no!  I didn’t mean to!  I tried to pull the tempo back but too late, the horse had bolted.  I stressed – I knew I couldn’t play the last runs at this speed, but I had to try.  We got a bit of out sync with each other with all the action and passion and notes speeding by, and my last fingered octave scale run was not good at all. And then it was all over so quickly!

I was disappointed.  I know I can play those last 2 pages MUCH better.  My performance was definitely not indicative of how well I could play this piece.  But a different setting, nerves – it all adds different elements than just playing in trackies in the comfort of my lounge room.  But then, all competitors are in the same boat – it’s your performance on the day that counts.  It’s not just who can play, what you can play, or how you play it – it’s also a test of how well you can play in public under stressful conditions.  Not having played like this in public for 14-15 years wouldn’t help.  Maybe I need to do some small public recitals for Musica Amica or the Royal Schools.

I was so relieved.  It was over.  No more nerves or sickly feeling in my stomach.  What a blast!  My Wifey and my Dad who came along thought I played really well, better than they expected 🙂   Wifey said I even put a tear in her eye and didn’t realise how beautiful the Sibelius violin concerto is.

I didn’t get through to the final 4.  Interpretation and passion are not the only factors adjudicators judge by.  Ensemble and my last 2 pages definitely was a negative.  They did say that they were clear on 3 of the finalists, but not the fourth.   I’m going to live with the hope that maybe I was a potential candidate.     I was disappointed, but I keep reminding myself that that wasn’t my goal.  My goal was to work on the Sibelius first movement and play it at the Freo Eisteddfod, as something to work towards and because I LOVE the Sibelius violin concerto.   Actually, I am relieved that I don’t have to go through all the nerves again to play it on Friday night!  But it would’ve been nice to play it in front of a larger audience.

So from here, I get to put that aside and work on something new.  I think I’ll do the 2nd and 3rd movements, then move onto the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto, and then the Brahms.

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One thought on “Sibelius at the Freo Eisteddfod”

  1. Jase,

    I remember being in the orchestra accompanying you but moreso listening to you play the Rondo Capriccioso… and you were awesome. Good to hear that you’re still playing!

    I’m sure it went well.

    Pak

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