Today’s email from Composer’s Datebook discusses Bartók’s Violin Concerto, and this passage struck me:
It was only in America, some years later, in 1943, that Bartók first heard his Concerto at a New York Philharmonic concert. He wrote, “I was most happy that there is nothing wrong with the scoring. Nothing needs to be changed, even though orchestral accompaniment of the violin is a very delicate business.”
Wow. This is what jumped out at me: “I was most happy that there is nothing wrong with the scoring.”
He actually was flying blind, not really sure that what he had inked in on the page would work in the concert hall. This is a great relief to me, because heretofore I had assumed that the great composers before this era knew how to write down precisely what they heard in their head, or if they didn’t hear it in their head they at least knew exactly what would produce the sound they wanted.
Not so much, it seems. I’m sure Mozart is the exception, but I’m going to go with a self-serving belief that many composers had to jigger with their pieces after hearing them played for the first time. At least I have a computer which will allow me to hear an approximation of what I’ve written.
Which actually ties in with a post I thought about writing this weekend after attending the Wadsworth concert. After hearing all this magnificent music (and some Chopin) played, I conceived a powerful desire to hear my music played live. I want to hear whether it actually works. Because of ‘the curse,’ of course, I’ve never heard any of my pieces played, but now I really have a hankering.
This puts me in an embarrassing position, because I have no more means now than I ever have had to have my music performed. Someone recently suggested that I pay local artists to play through the cello sonata, for example, but what if it’s too hard? That gets me nowhere, other than to put me back where I started 30 years ago, limiting my writing to the forces I have at hand.
It’s a conundrum.