In my piano studies, both independent and formal, I have struggled a great deal with choosing repertoire. There are so many factors to consider - It is important to play to your own strengths as well as to your weaknesses. It is good to play music in a style that you do not excel in, as well as playing music in a style you know and love. It must not be too easy, and it must not all be too hard. And, as a relatively mature musician who performs from time to time, I consider it important that the the pieces can cohere as a program. This consideration, how a program, both in its individual selections and as a whole, appeals to an audience, how it must take them on a journey through different moods and styles, is the one I give the greatest weight, and the other considerations, while essential, have to fit into a scheme of programming a recital. Other factors such as preparing auditions, working on an etude, having a "party" piece as my teacher calls it, I think all fall under this heading of programming.
I played a gig today for the Pasadena Women's Club, with my excellent violist friend Camille. (Unclear? No worries, she is both an excellent violist and an excellent friend.) In choosing what to play, and the order in which to play it, I was inspired by the French composer Alkan's opus 76 - three etudes, the first for the left hand alone, the second for the right hand alone, and a grand finale for the hands united. We each would play a solo piece before delivering the coup de grace together. I got more inspiration from attending an LA Phil concert conducted by Salonen - a program of Hindemith and Wagner. The second to last piece on the program was the Magic Fire Music, which is grandiose and deeply moving to the point of leaving the listener feeling quite spent. By the time singer Bryn Terfel returned to the stage for the third round of applause and the audience began to stand in appreciation, Salonen realized he had to reign us in, and launched into his clever preparation of an entr'acte from Lohengrin, which was delightfully light, but being Wagner, not a complete non sequitur. It was a very pleasant way to come down from the emotional heights of the Fire Music.
So that experience helped me develop the form of today's thirty minutes of music: Camille opened with the first two movements of Bach's G major cello suite (transposed up an octave for the viola, of course), I then played the Impressionistic "Jeux d'Eau" by Ravel, then we joined forces in the centerpiece of our performance, Telemann's viola concerto in four movements. After the rousing, joyful Presto finale, we closed the concert by bringing them down with Saint-Saen's The Swan. Then we were treated to one of those pleasant moments when the applause continues longer than you, as an performer, were expecting, and the realization dawns that your listeners feel they've been treated to something special, and we bowed a second time. It was a brief moment, lasting less than the time I took to write this paragraph, but it felt good.
Now what remains will surely be a fulfilling weekend - Pasadena Symphony tomorrow afternoon, LACO tomorrow night, and chamber music at Caltech on Sunday! I'm starting to think Los Angeles might be an acceptable place to live after all.