Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Depth of the soul

"Our painting will only be as deep as the depth we uncover in ourselves."
Ian Roberts in Creative Authenticity

I had just played Chopin's Nocturne 20 in a Master Class for Dr. Bela Nagy. When I finished, I could hear the sound of pages turning in the auditorium. Others in the class brought their scores to follow along as I played and to write down Dr Nagy's comments (to me) on their own music.

"Fine," he said. "Now, tell me what were you thinking while you played?"

"Thinking?" I faltered. "I guess I was thinking of the notes and trying not to be distracted by sounds in the audience. I was thinking that for once my palms weren't sweating while playing for you and I was hoping I wouldn't make bumbles on the runs at the end."

As I spoke, Dr. Nagy shook his large head at me, so that his shock of gray hair fell over his forehead. He forced it back with an impatient raking motion.

"No!" He nearly shouted. "No! No! No! These are the very things you must NOT think of when you play the Chopin." His thick Hungarian accent was more pronounced when he spoke with passion, as he did then. "You must reach inside yourself and feel the cold winter night. You must reach inside and feel the sad longing for a lover who has left you. Maybe forever. But, maybe not," he raised one eyebrow and then quickly winked. "This is how you play. More than the notes. You play your soul."

And with that, he opened the lid of the concert grand piano so that it was fully open on its long support, he walked off the stage, sat down, and swept his arm in a gesture for me to begin.

I was about to start when he jumped up, "Wait! Wait!" I put my hands in my lap and drew in a deep breath. "You, " he said, pointing to those sitting in the auditorium. "Put away your music. All of you. Away. Away! Do not open it! And close your eyes and listen." There followed a low murmuring and rustling as they complied. When all was silent, I began. Again.

Tears streamed from my eyes as I played the second time. By the time I finished, I was nearly sobbing. Dr Nagy came up to the stage and held me in a long embrace while the audience stood and clapped and clapped and wept.


Nancy Van Blaricom said...

Oh Katherine, what a wonderful story. I love it. More, more, more..... Thank you so much for sharing this with us. My mind is still reeling with your words. Such emotion ....

loriann said...

Hi Kvan, you thumbnail is what attracted me and your story made me stop....think and feel. What a perfect story that tells it all so well. Thanks for sharing. I really like the stark winter feel of the painting too.

SamArtDog said...

Beautiful painting, beautiful story, beautiful soul. .

p.s. I ordered "Creative Authenticity".

B Boylan said...

You must be pretty proud for having the chance to make such an emotional impact, many lessons in one performance. Wow.

Nick said...

Every time I hear this piece I think of the movie "the Pianist" where after four years of living in abandoned buildings in Poland and Germany, the main character is caught by a German soldier in a mansion where he was scavenging for food. The soldier asks him what he did for a living before the war. "I was a pianist."
"Play something," says the soldier, gesturing to a grand piano.
This is what he plays.

Ruth Armitage said...

Thank you for wonderful inspiration for the studio and for life

Suzanne said...

Thank you for sharing the emotional story and for including Nocturne 20 that we could hear with a click, while thinking of you at the grand piano.

Katherine van Schoonhoven said...

Nancy: thank you. Music has been my first language since I was seven. I forget to speak it into my art most of the time. But, I'm learning. Thanks for your response. It's very encouraging.

Loriann: I am glad that the thumbnail attracted you and invited you to look more, and read the story, too. Thank you!

Sam! That's great! I think you'll love the book. I have read it several times, and keep underlining different phrases each time I do.

Katherine van Schoonhoven said...

Brenda: you live with a musician, so I'm sure you can imagine all of that scene and know what it meant. To all of us. Thanks for the comment.

Nick! My son, the amazing trumpet player (and all 'round great guy)! I'm practicing again, so get ready to play next time you're down! Thanks for the comment. Love you!

Ruth: thank you so much for looking and reading and commenting!

Suzanne: as you know from your own musical experience, it touches us very deeply. So good to be able to share it and have it resonate with others, too. Thanks for the comment!

Suzanne said...

After listening to your music ,I forgot to add, Thank you for the link to "Creative Authenticity"! My book order has been placed.

Kitty Wallis said...

Your story moved me to tears.

Anonymous said...

I love that piece... and I like the painting, too. Alaska? Very cold, very pure. #4