Rachmaninoff Third, Part Five

May 27, 2011

“What’s it like onstage?”

Well, for most people, it is not an everyday experience. It feels out of the ordinary.

There you are in this huge room, sitting at the one end of a concert grand piano, staring down the shiny golden 9-foot length of its interior workings and often with a direct line of sight to the principal cellist sitting at the other end, a symphony orchestra on your left and an audience on your right. (If you do this often enough, you stop talking about the right and left sides of your body and instead refer to them as the “orchestra” side or the “audience” side.)

And actually, in this case, it was a 10-foot-long piano, a Bösendorfer Imperial Grand. Not only was it extra long, it was extra wide, with nine extra keys in the lower range, making the lowest note a C below the usual A. Considering the oversized concerto that I was playing, it was only natural that I should play it on an oversized piano.

Yes, there you sit, and time has run out. There is no more practicing, no more rehearsing, no more waiting in the dressing room for the minute hand to get to the starting time of the concert. People have paid money, everyone has gathered, and all other activities of daily living are on hold as a single responsibility comes sharply into focus.

In one way, that is a relief. There are no distractions from making music, and there is part of you that wants only that, and it is all that is expected of you by anyone else. In another way, it is a burden. You have to fend off all intruding thoughts of things that are everyday, or lightweight, or leisurely. There is a job to do.

–Jeffrey Chappell