Maria João Pires Plays It Cool Under Fire

May 27, 2012 § 1 Comment

What are a performer’s worst fears? How about being ready to play one Mozart concerto and hearing the orchestra start a different one?  This video shows the fine pianist from Portugal in just this situation. She shows amazing aplomb, calmly switching from one concerto to another, without the score or visible anxiety.

Something similar once happened to me. I was  playing in the orchestra as a last minute addition. The piece was unfamiliar to me (a trombone concerto) and in those days before YouTube I had never heard it. The orchestra started playing and I was counting my rests, getting ready to come in, but-what the heck were they playing? It was nothing like what was in my part. They were in a completely different key, a different tempo and a different meter. Was this piece really that far-out? Did I miss something?  Maybe I was not as good a musician as I thought. And why was the conductor flashing the peace sign at me so insistently?

Oh! Not peace-TWO! Second! Second movement! It seems that everyone but me knew that they were skipping the first movement and starting with the second. Surprise!

Luckily I was just playing the piano as part of the orchestra and the spotlight was on the soloist. But I can break out in a sweat any time I want just by remembering those first few moments of confusion. How Ms. Pires pulled off this calm switcheroo is beyond me.

To return your pulse to its normal serenity, here is Ms. Pires playing the lovely second movement to the fifth Bach keyboard concerto, BWV 1056.

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