In just ten days from now, I will be realizing an ardent yearning that has persisted for about 32 years–which, not coincidentally, is concurrent with the end of my first marriage. One of the more positive things from “my other life” was that chamber-music was a fact of life for all of us–as essential as air and food. My ex-husband played the violin, and my children are both exceptional musicians. Our home was the scene of frequent ensembles, which then came to a screeching halt with everything else.
Of course, in the years that followed, I have given concerts with colleagues that have included chamber works, and my children have, themselves, had rich lives in music. They, two, are the most exquisite partners, but geography and life has made our getting together to play a rarity. Whenever my son visits with his family, we have played Beethoven and Brahms cello and piano sonatas, and Schumann, and he has been very humoring of me to play the pieces he knows I love most, even though he is lately more deeply involved with contemporary works.
When I was a child, I was invited to play with adult amateurs–trios, quartets, etc, and so the genre of chamber music has been part of my life forever. Sometimes I have felt like crying, when at a concert, and upon hearing a pianist enjoy the exquisite experience of this type of music-making. I so much wanted it to be me! So I finally took action and arranged to invite some fine players to my home to play the Brahms c minor Piano Quartet, for me, one of the greatest chamber works for a pianist. Brahms wrote equally challenging parts for the pianist whether it was a concerto, klavierstucke, sonatas, or quartets, so I have been busy practicing for this joyous get together.
I feel lucky that these musicians agreed to come–the problem always is that if you want to find a group that is fine enough to have a superb musical experience, chances are, they are professionals, and working in music every day, so that getting together “for the fun of it” may not have the same magical delights…But working in music, and playing for sheer love, are altogether different experiences. There is a dynamic of adventure and pleasure, a purer artistic energy that hovers over the ensemble that gets together for love. And if the players do not know each other well, the surprises that occur, the new chemistries, the musical-ball-catching and throwing, can almost be a game.
I will have to move some furniture out of the way to make room alongside the piano for three seats and stands. And then, maybe if it all goes very well, we may indeed, take the show on the road!
So we got together last week, and although there were rough spots within the ensemble (such a demanding work would not, necessarily, fall into place the first time four musicians play together)– we decided to do the entire quartet again, and the second time around provided the pleasure I had anticipated. So I spontaneously asked the trio whether they would care to come and play two movements with me at my Steinway book party, and they immediately agreed. It will add a surprise element and texture to the event, and even without practicing together, it will be good enough.
“Good enough” is good enough for a casual party–not, of course, for a formal concert on stage in an important hall. It’s a celebration, and we will wing it and certainly have fun.