One of the most rewarding musical experiences I had this year was playing Auf dem Strom, the only song Schubert wrote for horn, tenor and piano. It is a gorgeous piece, with a lovely horn part, and a fairly cheery mood, for Schubert. I performed this song with two very fine musicians. We played it as part of a larger recital of Schubert songs and then again at the Schubertiade sponsored by the Pianoforte Foundation in Chicago. This was especially exciting as we played in the Fine Arts Arts Building, a beautiful landmark building on Michigan Avenue. Arnold Jacobs, the legendary tubist of the Chicago Symphony had his studio in the Fine Arts Building for years.
It was exciting to see how many people came out to hear Schubert; there were multiple performances going on all day. We were in a small room that held maybe 25 or 30 audience members. My husband told me that the El could be heard clearly several times during our 11 minute performance, but I didn't hear it!
In my experience there are oftentimes personality problems when working on chamber music. Sometimes one person feels that he is the leader, which cuts down the collaborative nature of chamber playing, or the players have different levels of commitment to the group, or any number of other problems. I love playing chamber music and I will play even with problems, to a certain point. My experience working on Auf dem Strom with tenor Henry Pleas and pianist Helen Raymaker was perhaps the best chamber music experience I have had. Both were deeply interested in the music. We looked at different translations of the text, listened to multiple recordings of the work, and discussed changing moods, phrasing, balance and other aspects of the music. We experimented with different tempos. The first recording I had heard was Dennis Brain's, which turns out to be the fastest. Our tempo at the second performance was a middle tempo; about 11 1/2 minutes total.
The horn part is not difficult as far as range or even technique. The difficult part, for me, is that the piece is 11 or 12 minutes long and there are hardly any rests for the horn player. My main problem with this was worrying about the accumulation of condensation in my horn. Towards the end there are three bars of rest, enough for a quick dump out of water. Of all the things to focus on, this may seem trivial, but when you've worked hard on interpretation and technique, you don't want your performance marred by gurgles.
These two performances brought on a sudden performance anxiety, which I had not had for years. As soon as I started to play, I started to shake, and naturally, I didn't play as well as I could have. I was particularly annoyed at the Schubertiade, because I had been giving myself pep talks and the sudden shaking seemed like a reaction out of nowhere. There were many really nice aspects of that performance. I felt we played very musically and thoughtfully. If I can figure out how to post audio in this blog, I will add a sample of our performance sometime in the future.