Rachmaninoff Third, Part One

May 23, 2011

This is going to be a multi-installment blog about my experience performing the Rachmaninoff Third Concerto in Maryland with the Frederick Symphony Orchestra on May 7, 2011. It will answer the questions that audience members asked me afterwards. It will also answer my own question, which is: why was this the best concert I ever gave in my life so far?

I had performed the same piece with the Baton Rouge Symphony in 2007, but there was something different about the May 7 concert that set it apart from all the others. The audience was amazed (that word was used over and over) by this concert. People even brought flowers to me a week later, and when audience members speak about the concert up to three weeks later (the date of this writing), the energy with which they speak of it is undiminished.

I am going to say that this was not because of the excellence of the piano playing. People kept telling me afterwards that they were very impressed when they had heard me perform before, but that this was something surpassing.

Excellence, in fact, is what I have always held as a measure and a goal in my music making. But there is something else that can come to a person, something that I had never imagined, and that was made possible by an unusual set of conditions that drove this performance of the Rachmaninoff Third Concerto.

When people told me how amazing it was, I felt that they were talking more about themselves than about me. It was as if we were sharing the experience. They had witnessed lead being transformed into gold, excellence being transformed into—something else.

–Jeffrey Chappell