Working Rehearsal

One of the supposed perks of being (mostly) self-employed is the flexible and somewhat un-orthodox schedule. As a piano teacher and musician, I am hard at work weekday afternoons, evenings and weekends. Weekday mornings, however, I am left to my own devices. Most of the time, this simply means catching up on an endless stream of emails, doing some household chores and dealing with the week’s inevitable rescheduling of lessons (basketball game, soccer practice, baseball team photos…does the fun never end?)

Well, today I actually made good use of this “free time”! I spent the morning attending one of San Francisco Symphony’s Open Rehearsals. I am a little ashamed to admit that this was my very first time going—so many opportunities missed! But it certainly won’t be the last. For a ticket price of only $22 (admittedly, a $9 fee is added on top of that) you show up at 8:30am for coffee and donuts, hear a pre-concert lecture at 9:00am, and then at 10:00am hear the orchestra rehearse their program. Admittedly, I was a bit late and missed out on the donuts and only caught part of Scott Foglesong’s energetic synopsis of Sibelius’ 2nd Symphony. The whole event is open seating (though Loge, Boxes and Front Orchestra are “reserved”- I assume for subscribers?) and the orchestra level was already quite full by 9:15. Knowing that what I really came for was Yundi Li playing Tchaikovsky’s 1st Piano Concerto, I made my way up to First Tier where I had no trouble finding an entire empty front row with a perfect view of the keyboard. There were plenty of seats to go around, and considering that for a regular performance my seat would have run me $65, I was a happy girl!

And I have to say, I got considerably more enjoyment out of today’s rehearsal that I have out of many a concert. Maybe being a musician myself gives me such great affection for seeing all our esteemed symphony players in their jeans and khakis,  marking their scores as they play, periodically getting up to adjust their chairs. The first part of the program was the Sibelius D Major symphony. First and second movements were played straight through, though Blomstedt did give some notes in between. One the bassoonists, whose chair had been conspicuously empty, walked in about half way through the Andante. Having finished the movement, Blomstedt took them through the opening again- turns out it is a bassoon duet, not a solo!

That second hearing gave me even more appreciation for a piece that is brand new to me. Just listen to this: timpani, low strings, and bassoons (two of them!)

The second half was Yundi Li (in jogging pants and a t-shirt!) on the Tchaikovsky Concerto. His technique really is breathtaking. Perhaps he was holding back a bit expressively without a true “audience”, I don’t know. At the conclusion of the run-through he didn’t acknowledge the audience at all and just leapt right up to talk to Blomstedt about a transition in the Finale. They then ran that section two more times.  I loved that he had a score on the piano the entire time and every time the orchestra was playing, he would be flipping over to the appropriate spot. There really was a sense of the work being done. Thus the term, working rehearsal. I’m a teacher at heart I guess—I  like seeing the work.

All in all Yundi didn’t quite win me over as much as I had hoped, but I did buy his latest CD of the Chopin Nocturnes. And I am definitely won over by SFS open rehearsals and plan on attending whenever I can. Next up: Sasha Barantschik plays the Mendelssohn violin concerto…