Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Risset Concerto premiere in Japan

On Sept. 5th in Tokyo, I had one of the best musical experiences in my life, giving the world premiere of Jean-Claude Risset's violin concerto written for me at Suntory Hall in Akasaka, Tokyo. I also played my own cadenza which Jean-Claude let me write --- I am so very grateful for the honor. The concerto is the first one in the world using Subharmonics all over the place, aside of my own Concerto I wrote and played in 1999 for a Mexican orchestra. (I like the first 2 movements but desperately need to rewriting my 3rd movement. And exactly when do I have time to do that....)

I said in a speech I gave at a small toasting backstage after the concert that Jean-Claude made a history in violin concerto literature that night.

If you are a violinist you might shiver hearing what I am about to tell you, but the day before my big Concerto premiere in Tokyo, the tip of my bow BLEW OFF. The ivory that holds the hair simply came off. I was loaned a wonderful bow, but at the end I had to use my own second bow priced Canadian $5 bought in a flea market about 20 years ago! It has a fake "Tourte" engraving---but somehow I felt I could control it better. But all worked, although it was SCARRRRY!

Anyway, my biggest challenge was to create a Cadenza worthy of this monumental concerto (it's nearly 25 minutes long), compositionally sound so that I don't ruin Jean-Claude's music (!!) but also, as a violinist composing my own cadenza one needs to SHOW OFF your ability, right? So what I did was in fact -- believe or not -- first systematically making a list of what I want to show off (!) unrelated to the concerto itself---I want to show that: 1) I can play one octave below on the G string, while playing normally on D string thus creating a ultra-wide double-stop like diminish 18th :) etc; 2) I want to show that I can play the Subharmonic 3rd--which is to say if I play an Open G I get the E (3rd below); 3) then I want to show that with those Subharmonic 3rd I can still play normal notes on D string, so again a double-stops with Subharmonic 3rd nobody has ever done before, etc. etc. Then I went back to Jean-Claude's 1st movement and went through it compositionally, picking materials that I can use or modify and made the 2nd list. When I combined these two lists, I pretty much had put together the Cadenza.

Also, since Jean-Claude Risset is world famous for using Shepard Tone: so-called "un-ending glissandi" in his compositions, I made my version of an extremely long glissando from one octave below open G (cello's G) all the way up, SIX octaves up on the E string while switching the fingerings seemlessly as possible, and sliding up on the fingerboard at the same time. It is quite tricky but again, "Wow" factor + "Homage to Risset" factors both accomplished. I thought first that this is where the orchestra should come in to end the 1st movement. Then I had thought that coming in after the long glissandi must be a bit unnerving for the orchestra+conductor, and also I wanted NOT to be jumped or cut short of this glissandi by accident. So I added a three-measure pizzicato phrase using both hands (in 4 vs. 3 rhythm, in homage to the melodic segregation technique Risset uses, I did the rhythmic one--plucking in 4 with the right hand, while plucking in 3 with the left hand on the fingerboard) after the glissandi, a kind of a way to 'get back to reality' from the Cadenza, back to the final part of the 1st movement. These are all the compositional creative process. Then I moved onto my performance process, which is an entirely different one. In any performance, even in improvisation, I typically frame myself with some kind of an 'emotional logic', to be able to deliver the music to the audience while I remain emotionally committed but also able to be objective -- that is to say that I will not break down and cry or laugh while performing since that is the job of the audience :) -- it's what I learned from reading Stanislawski's "Actor Prepares". But this is a topic for another day....

This must be hard to understand without listening to it, so when I get a recording I will try to post it somewhere... But I got so much reaction from this Cadenza and people really liked it, and so says ever-gentle and kind Maestro Risset... in any case I thought that those who really liked the cadenza maybe interested in how I composed it.

Another news is that my new solo CD of electronic music for violin came out from Bridge Records, officially on 9/18 in the US. ( In fact I was able to sell nearly 50 copies while in Japan already, thanks to YAMAHA which came and opened a little booth for me at the concerts in Tokyo. I guess I work so slowly in terms of recording -- everything in this CD was recorded in 2004-5 (!) but it was like a baby that I couldn't give birth waaaayyy past the due date :) It took me forever and ever to finish mastering. My resolution (as if that means anything!) or my hope is to start working a little faster, a faster turn-around on recordings which I really want to do a LOT more in the coming years... It was such an honor, pleasure and a learning experience working with everyone at Bridge. I had never really understood the art of recording, which I am absolutely convinced now that it is a very, very different art from performing live.... I learned SO MUCH from working with the wonderful recording engineers for this project.