Tokyo, Japan


Dear Readers,

Of all the extra noises I’ve heard in a concert, the most unusual and unexpected occurred tonight. Unusual because it happened out of its natural context. Unexpected because Japan is the one of the most polite places I’ve been in my travels. But maybe I’m missing something? No one else in the hall seemed to flinch: After I announced my encore in Japanese, a wild but brief burst of applause erupted, at the tail end of which, a distinct, fat, bass, masculine, full-belly burp rang out from the audience. It was an odd welcome to Japan. I mean no disrespect to the concertgoers, not even the burper; they were very enthusiastic and attentive, clapping loudly and shouting their approval when appropriate and, during the performance itself, so quiet that they almost weren’t there. A model crowd, by most musicians’ standards.

I had some other “firsts” today. My girlie side kicked in a few days ago so I painted my fingernails for the first time in my life. I figured it might actually help if my nails received some reinforcement, since the strings chew them up. I also invented a new hairstyle for tonight’s concert. The biggest novel experience, however, was playing the first concert of a tour on the same day that we started rehearsals. That was not supposed to have been the case, and the process was a little nerve-wracking. We were originally scheduled to do some preliminary rehearsing in Manchester, where the orchestra is based, at the tail end of my recital tour last month. The conductor would have come in for one day, commuting between opera performances in Italy, but that tight turnaround proved impossible with the airline workers’ strike that began the day before our planned rehearsal.

In the end, the maestro had to stay in Italy to avoid missing his concerts. There was no point rehearsing without him; I’d filled the time between then and Japan with other commitments; and there wasn’t time to work in Japan before this afternoon. So the BBC Philharmonic and Gianandrea generously gave me nearly their entire rehearsal here. The total amount of preparation time came out about equal to the norm, but since there were only two hours between today’s rehearsal and performance, the adjustment period – when everyone sleeps on the work that’s been done – was curtailed. It didn’t help that I realized five minutes before walking onstage that I hadn’t performed the Sibelius since I recorded it about a year ago. Needless to say, my heart rate was a little higher than usual when I walked onstage this evening.

There was one more new thing to adjust to tonight. My bow grip is a work in progress, and I’ve made some substantial changes lately. This was the first time I tried them out onstage. The alterations have more to do with future technical development than with any current problems; I’m constantly assessing whether my physical setup is the most ergonomically correct for my body. Every now and then, I notice that something isn’t working or that I’m adding undue strain to a weak spot. Then it’s revamping time.

I’m glad to be writing again. I’d taken a break to rest my hands. Now I’m back on the road and traveling nearly every day, so I hope you’re ready to be inundated!

Yours from Tokyo,

Hilary