Greetings from Paris! Tiny flakes of snow are falling outside my window. Last night I played the Sibelius concerto at the Theatre des Champs-Elysées. Having endured an encounter with some sort of stomach flu, I gave the concert my best shot. There’s nothing like the combination of adrenaline and a fever to rev up a performance!
I’ve brought another concerto on this tour: Prokofiev 1. When my teacher, Jascha Brodsky, was a student of Eugene Ysaÿe in Paris in the ’20s, he entered a competition in this city. He was required to provide a repertoire list with his application. Ysaÿe urged him to include that Prokofiev concerto, which was very new at the time. When Mr. Brodsky protested that he didn’t yet know the piece and, moreover, had never heard it, Ysaÿe said not to worry, that the judges would simply be impressed – they’d never select it for him to play in the competition.
Of course, once Mr. Brodsky got through to the final round, they asked him to perform the Prokofiev with orchestra. This left him just a few days to learn the whole concerto (no mean feat!). When he peeked out at the audience from backstage before the concert, he saw no one less than Prokofiev himself sitting in the front row. Despite the shock, Mr. Brodsky got through the competition. Afterwards Prokofiev introduced himself. He and Mr. Brodsky liked each other, and they wound up working together a couple of times during Mr. Brodsky’s stay in Paris. This particular concerto of Prokofiev’s became one of Mr. Brodsky’s favorites, and he made sure to teach it to me. Since I can’t actually go back in time (if I could, I’d pick Paris in the ’20s and early ’30s), the next best thing would be to play that concerto here. That would be a great sentimental moment for me.
Paris is my favorite city to walk in. I feel like I can go forever, on and on and on, through back streets and neighborhoods and museums and along the Seine, and get lost, and just keep walking, and it won’t matter: there will be yet another street to turn down, yet more architecture to admire. A couple of days ago I almost made it to Montmartre before turning back for rehearsal. To see everything I’m interested in seeing in Paris, I’d probably have to spend a year exploring. I’m happy to take it a couple of days at a time.
From the road,