I accompanied approximately twelve snillion recitals in undergrad.
I had agreed to play for Eric’s senior violin recital months in advance. He had even been good enough to give me his music long ahead, too (extrememly unusual for him): the Mendelssohn concerto in E minor. Great piece, and one I had played before. Fine and dandy.
Two weeks before his recital, as I sat in my office (i.e. the bench outside the girls’ bathroom, which I referred to as my office) one day, he slid onto the bench next to me.
I always know when Eric wants something. He approaches quietly, hands in pockets and head a little sunk into his shoulders, and starts with “Heyyyyyy – ” and a shamed look on his face. Only a little shamed, though, because he knows I will always say yes. Damn it.
So he sat beside me and said, “Heyyyyy…” and I thought Oh, Shit.
“What’s up?” Gird your loins, Sadie. Well…it’s Eric. So loosen them a little.
“So…how would you feel if we did a Beethoven sonata instead of the Mendelssohn?”
Before I could start hyperventilating, he handed me music. Number 4, Op. 23, A minor. Good news: I had played the first movement before and loved it. Bad news: That was three years before, with a different violinist. And I’d never even seen the other two movements. And March was a really, really busy month. And this was going to be a high-profile recital.
But because I’d battled through 33% of it with moderate success, and because Eric turned on the big brown puppy eyes, and possibly also because I am an idiot, I said Yes.
His full program consisted of a Mozart concerto, a few movements of one of the Bach partitas, our Beethoven, and the Habañera from the Sarasate Carmen Fantasy. Aside from the Beethoven, I also played the Habañera. It’s great. Total cheese. Gratuitously showy and fabulous. Easy-peasy for me, a bitch for the violin. And using his fucking charm, he sweet-talked eighteen people, including two professors , into playing in a mini-orchestra for his Mozart concerto. Kill me now, why don’t you?
It is, I believe, a human tendency to avoid danger. When threatened, we run. And my fight-or-flight reflex is very heavily weighted towards flight. With this knowledge in mind, I still don’t quite understand why I agreed to play a piece I didn’t really know at the most well-attended recital of the semester. Seriously. It was a music department showcase, and the back section in the recital hall was a Who’s Who of music faculty. Everyone, their brother, their dog and their dog’s brother came.
Because the Beethoven was third on the program, I decided to sit in the audience and watch the Mozart and then head back and warm up in the green room during his Bach. I grabbed a seat near the door and sat down before the recital started. I had grabbed a program but wasn’t really reading it because I had helped edit his program notes. There was a tap on my shoulder. Dr. Adams leaned forward and asked if he could borrow my program. I said, “Sure. You can take it, actually. I have to leave after the Mozart.”
“Oh, thanks.” He took the program and sat back. A second later, he leaned forward again. “Where do you have to go?”
Instead of openly assaulting his intelligence by pointing to my name emblazoned across the top of the program right beneath Eric’s, I was kind. This is unusual for me. “I’m playing for the Beethoven and the Sarasate.”
The Mozart was epic. So damn good. Eric was a smartass – not shocking – and quoted two or three choir pieces and Scheherazade in his first cadenza. The whole concerto came off really well. His little baby orchestra sounded wonderful. Somehow we pulled the Beethoven together into coherent sense. I have never enjoyed accompanying as much as I did for that recital. Eric’s fun to work with, and in spite of the high stakes, I loved it. And then the Sarasate was hilarious because I couldn’t keep a straight face, and Eric can never keep a straight face, and so I could hear some people chuckling in the audience, and that just made it funnier.
Possibly the best part of the whole thing: after the Sarasate ended, we stood up and bowed together as usual – the crowd was going nuts – and stepped offstage. He was going back out for Bow #2, and I stood back to let him go (my singers usually take their second bow alone). But he turned back, grabbed my hand, and pulled me onstage with him. The crowd got even louder. Probably because they know we're meant to marry and populate the world with young prodigies. But across the board, I’ve never played for someone more gracious.
And my own piano teacher, at my lesson the next day, said the Beethoven was, hands down, the best part of the whole recital. MADE OF FUCKING WIN.
Overarching lesson of this experience: Do not agree to play a Beethoven sonata on two weeks’ notice. Not even if it’s for a cute boy who uses big brown eyes and a charm smile on you. JUST SAY NO.
“But Sadie, if I say ‘yes’ and play really well, maybe he’ll finally understand how much I really care about him and he’ll finally realize that we’re meant to be together, because he’ll appreciate how hard I worked.”
My response to you: turn off the Taylor Swift. I tried it, remember? Right now, he’s more than 2,000 miles away. AND it took him three months to pay me. So nope, it doesn’t work.
Thanks. It was fun.