Miles Davis said it best- that “writing about music is like dancing about architecture, and as the Mahler Journey enters its last 24 hours, I find it harder and harder to write anything meaningful.We had only the shortest of breaks between the string sectional and the dress rehearsal, which two days earlier would have seemed like a recipe for disaster, but worked out just fine. Musically, one might think of the rehearsal process as moving from chaos to order- that is when we first read there is a lot of uncertainty and a lot of confusion. People may not have completely mastered their parts, everyone is still figuring out who to listen to, what to look for, where the repeat signs go. As we reach the end of the process, we’ve hopefully removed any uncertainty that leads to insecurity, and left only room for spontaneity and improvisation.
More than any of our past concerts, this has been true of this piece. The reason for this is in Mahler’s music. His music has such a unity of style and idea, of materials and construction, of meaning and feeling, that it quickly reveals the clarity of his intent. I would say that for this reason, and because he was himself such a great conductor, his scores are among the easiest to study for a conductor in spite of the fact that it is music of great complexity, sophistication and duration
However, the surprise of the hour is that the same process has taken place in our work environment. Whereas two nights earlier there were chairs and stands being moved until the A sounded, tonight, all is ready and organized. Technicalities of video monitors, recording equipment and lights have all been resolved to the point that they are no longer points of conversation.
So, as it turns out, I’m able to grab dinner at the Chinese place behind the hall and be back in time to give a few words of encouragement to the choir, talk over a few spots with the soloists and actually take a deep breath before the rehearsal starts