After three days off from this concert repertoire, it is time to renew our preparations for the performance on Friday. This is one of the hardest working orchestras that Leslie and I have ever witnessed. After the two double rehearsals on my concert repertoire last Thursday and Friday, the VNSO had rehearsals on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday for Mondays New Year’s Night performance at the opera house. They had Tuesday morning off and then start again this afternoon with me. They will rehearse every day this week, perform on Friday, then maybe get a day off (depending on who you talk to) before starting again. I asked Thang when he thought the orchestra would get a break next, he thought the 18th of January!!!
Lan brings her daughter and violin soloist Nhi to our hotel for a rehearsal. The concerto has now been with Nhi for a couple of years and she has rethought much of her approach to the famous work. We then head out for lunch at a ramen place. Certainly Leslie and I have had ramen before, but not like this! The broth was thick, the noodles heavy, and quite filling. After lunch we pick up our ride to the hall where we have the first rehearsal on the Bruch violin concerto. The VNSO has added a new first violin, Leslie Stewart Kenney! On Sunday at the concert I noticed there were twelve first violins in the section and mentioned to Lan that we had not had more than nine at any rehearsal thus far. The conversation evolved on the way back to the hotel as far as availability of violins and suddenly, Leslie is part of the section! At the beginning of today’s rehearsal, she is introduced to the orchestra and now we have ten firsts.
We run the Bruch concerto with Nhi and the familiarity of the work helps the orchestra pull the music together quickly. Every orchestra has its own personality, often geared to the hall they play in. We have been rehearsing in a smallish rehearsal hall, but having heard the orchestra onstage over the weekend helps. The Dvorak is also coming along, but it is a new piece to the orchestra so there is much to teach them in terms of the style of the great Czech composer vs. the sound and music of Aaron Copland. It is a long rehearsal, lasting until 4:30.
After rehearsal, we gather up Nhi and head to a Chinese restaurant for some roast duck and many other dishes. Once again, we are whisked into a elegant private room and are waited attentively by a very friendly staff. We eat until be are fully stuffed–again. Our Wednesday rehearsal will be in the morning so an early night is a welcome one.
I show up to the rehearsal planning to sit last chair in the first violin section, but Lan insists that I sit on the fourth stand (out of five). My stand partner is a young man in his mid-twenties who joined the orchestra just a few years ago. He is extremely attentive to every detail in the music and marks all bowing changes as soon as they are made. It is a great pleasure to sit next to someone who is as serious as I am about playing in orchestra — and I feel that in spite of all of our differences (age, gender, ethnicity) we have an immediate bond.
To be continued…