Our soloist this week is incredible. Lise de la Salle. Judging by her website, this 26-year-old is being marketed for her looks (judging by the pictures one might wonder, does she really play the piano?), which is often the case with soloists, especially of that age. It isn't uncommon that they walk onto the stage in jeans and messy hair after a redeye flight from Europe and we don't recognize them. Lise de la Salle was no exception. But in place of her captivating soft-focus photographs emerged a strong and graceful beauty, a direct gaze and assuredness, both demanding and understanding. It was the mind behind her face which caused her gestures and expressions to disclose a beauty that perhaps most photographers would find elusive to capture. Of course they might resort to something the public can more readily understand.
Her rendition of Rachmoninoff's Third Piano Concerto is completely understandable. She seems to have a truly complete concept of the work, one character moving to the next, an entire drama unfolding over the course of three movements. The way she touches the piano, the colors that she finds in each section, her tempi and rubato, and her incredible sense of ensemble playing with the orchestra make it extremely thrilling and convincing to play with her. She is so sincere, trustworthy, and committed to what she is doing.
And her curtain calls to a very excited audience (and orchestra) are endearing a little awkward. Not the glamorous hair tossing and smile one might expect the woman on her website to practice. More of a courteous thank you, with a short bow and then a slow walk off the stage, again and again.
And then, of course, the encore. Yesterday she played a solemn Sicilienne in G minor by Bach. It was beautiful. And afterwards, someone on the left side of the balcony began applause immediately following the final cadence, giving no time for the pensive air to lift. A few others joined but quickly stopped realizing that she hadn't finished. It was a disruption of the mood. She was still in the space of the Sicilienne. And then her hands lowered and the audience began their full applause and she rose and bowed.
And again, the same courteous short bow, walking off-stage and back on again. There was no part of her that held offense at the interruption. It wasn't a part of her. And it wasn't a part of the audience. Such a small portion of these two thousand people. A soloist cannot be upset by such a thing. It must melt away.
What if we could see each person as a whole audience, made up of two thousand people? And what if we could offer such grace to them in the face of such errancy, to bow to them after an offense, to offer courtesy to all their better selves?
It's been real pleasure to work with her this week. She is a truly inspiring musician and human being. One more time, and then another thing that must be let go.