Rachmaninoff Third, Part Eight

May 30, 2011

“Were you nervous?”

I don’t get nervous for a performance in the sense of being frantic or having the shakes or anything like that. But I do notice that I sometimes start behaving a little differently right before a concert. I’ll find something to do until the concert begins, like fiddling with my cuff links forever or adjusting my collar too many times. Then I’ll notice I’m doing it, and I’ll think, “This is my way of being nervous.”

On May 7, I was backstage pondering the huge weight of responsibility ahead of me and the fact that a moment was approaching when I would have to walk onstage and leave behind any further opportunity to get ready for the performance. Since there was about half an hour remaining, I left my dressing room and went for a stroll. And here is what happened:

After I had stopped studying Rachmaninoff’s recording of his Third Concerto, I was still curious to hear more of his playing. In the weeks before this concert, I started listening to a CD of him playing his own compositions.

This is a recording that I had owned for years and had listened to previously. One of the tracks is a short work entitled “Daisies”. I had never paid much attention to it before. It just seemed like a short, ephemeral work of lesser substance.

But now I fell in love with it and listened to it over and over again, like a found treasure. I finally got it: the slow, unusual key changes supporting the sinuous blending of melody and countermelody. And there are those four measures right in the middle of the piece that just luxuriate in a bath of D flat harmony. Miraculous.

Backstage on May 7, I returned to my dressing room after my stroll and found a bouquet of daisies on the table. The conductor had left them for me. No, I had not mentioned “Daisies” to her.

I just touched them with my two hands and thanked Rachmaninoff. I felt like this was the sign that the performance would go well.

–Jeffrey Chappell

(Here is a nice performance of “Daisies”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SHO448q9Uns )