Today was our one and only performance of our program of Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto and Dvorak 9. I've played these pieces so many times and playing them again brings back memories of the times I played them in the past, especially the earliest ones, when they were so unknown. Such a contrast to my familiarity with them now. What would it be like to know the whole orchestral repertoire so well?
I still enjoy hearing new things in them, and as canonic as the concerto is, every violinist brings something new to it. But I remember the first time I played it, in my youth orchestra with the concerto competition winner, Caroline Lee. It was the most beautiful thing in the world, specifically one passage, from measure 162, "molto sostenuto il tempo, moderatissimo." Something about her touch and timing was so perfect and I've never heard another violinist understand this passage in quite the same way. I think about it every time I play the piece, wondering if this soloist will get it the way she did, but as beautiful as they all are, my memory preserves her's as the most beautiful. Perhaps it's the nature of being in high school. Perhaps she captured something in her playing at that time, and I was in a place to hear it.
No work is ever the same. The last time I played Dvorak 9 was with Sado-san and it was a completely different concept with a completely different orchestra. There was something new to it this time, despite the countless times I've played it. It is less a matter of coming to know a piece than of experiencing it, the sheer sensation of it. How does it feel, in what ways does it resonate? And this can depend on so many human factors that change just as naturally as people do.
So I'll never be done. I used to have a list of pieces that once I had played I could retire from cello playing, and I've discovered how useless that is. It is an itch that can only be changed, not purged.