“The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.” ~ Eleanor Roosevelt
All professions, and passions, are a never-ending journey of learning and discovery towards mastery. No matter how good one becomes at their chosen craft, there are always more mysteries and deeper meanings to discover and learn. And that is especially true of music, and classical music in particular.
In classical music, one learns from three sources: the original scores, recordings and videos of others playing their interpretations, and finally your own individual experience in playing that particular piece of music. Take, for example, Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet in A Major, considered by many to be one his finest pieces for clarinet and strings. It has even infiltrated modern culture with the piece being featured in the final episode of M*A*S*H, the popular television series. The final episode, “Goodbye, Farewell and Amen“, was the most watched television episode in U.S. television history at the time, with a record-breaking 125 million viewers, and featured the character, Major Charles Winchester, teaching the Mozart Clarinet Quintet to a group of Chinese prisoners of war.
The week we are at the Festival Musique de la Vallée du Cougain in the south of France and Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet was one of the featured performances at the concert in Limoux last evening. All the players were aged 25 or older, with the exception of the second violin, who was just 14 years of age. A budding amateur playing with seasoned pros. And the clarinet part was played by Julien Herve, principal clarinettist of the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra.
So how does it work when a young musician is paired with older and more experienced professionals? Naturally, it could go horribly wrong, or it could be great for everyone, players and audience alike. And it really depends upon the “character” of the musicians, perhaps even more than their ability. Technical skill determines one’s ability to play the right notes at the right tempo, but character determines a performer’s capability to integrate with others in such a way that the composer’s vision reaches and moves the audience. As one of the players commented, “we all must learn to get ourselves out of the way of the music”.
Good advice for all of us non-musicians as well!
Tight Lines . . .
John R Childress