At morning rehearsal, the conductor probably had no idea that his favorite moment in Elgar’s Enigma Variations was documented as such in the violin part. Yet his sentiment was etched above the 6th measure of the variation titled Ysobel by someone sitting on the first stand of the Detroit Symphony.
I enjoy coming across these little forensic gifts or memories shared by the last violinists that played the parts. Sometimes you get lucky in photo copies of well used parts; like a CSI investigation you can uncover previous thoughts, mishaps or hilarious points in past rehearsals or performances.
But seeing “Conductor’s Favorite bar” handwritten into this particular part a made me have another listen to the movement I’d normally written off as innocuous. I thought it was interesting enough that I shared my find with my Facebook friends in a status update:
And then the mystery began to solve itself as my friend and colleague, Emmanuelle Boisvert, Detroit Symphony’s former concertmaster wrote inquiring if there was a list of conductors names on the last page of the music. I responded to her with the name written at the end of the piece: Wigglesworth.
“Yes, Wigglesworth,” Emmanuelle replied. “Not too long ago, maybe 2008, Kim Kennedy and I wrote that in our part because he was so emphatic about the harmony of that bar….if the conductor really liked a bar, Kim and I would also just draw a heart! But I do recall writing these words in the Elgar!”
And there it was, mystery solved, but more importantly a personal reminder of how legacies enhance the music world. How beautiful that this favorite measure of music was shared, and how beautiful there was a tradition on the first stand of preserving these thoughts and keeping a log of who conducted a work.
Sharing personal favorite bits of music is something many musicians do. There have been many rehearsals where either my standpartners or I, would tap the music in a particular spot and say, “that is my favorite moment.” And upon coming to that distinct spot during concerts, there would generally be a shared smile or knowing wink.
Many times, these favorite moments are nothing more than fleeting cadences or innocent lines and phrases that somehow affect individuals for no particular reason. It could be the way a clarinet and bassoon harmony floats over the orchestra, or how the cellos engage in a terrifying crescendo. Whatever, it’s the sharing that is special. And each time a little favorite spot gets shared it is listened to and re-appreciated with fresh ears creating a mini legacy.
There are many moments in various orchestral works that trigger thoughts of particular individuals from over the years. Within an instant of hearing a small phrase or harmony I recall the person I’d sat with and remember how the musical gesture moved them so much they decided to share their feelings. The sharing of a special moment in any given piece immediately reignites the importance and power of music.
New York Times critic, Anthony Tommasni , wrote an article about this topic and even shared some of his favorite spots. At the conclusion of his article, he invited everyone to share their own personal favorite moments. So far, there are over 700 comments from people sharing and explaining why they love a particular moment in their favorite pieces. I’d wanted to share some of the comments but there are so many good ones, I’d just recommend reading them and adding some of your own.
Music is special as it is, but the added sharing of loved passages creates a beautiful legacy. Wouldn’t it be a pleasant trend to see orchestras inviting members of the audience and the members of the orchestra to share their magical moments on either the website or in the program notes in the same fashion that book stores or restaurants do: have a “staff picks” or “daily specials” listed on the shelves or menus?
Do you think inviting people to share their favorite musical moments would enhance a concert going experience and even bring more value to the orchestral world? I’d love to hear your thoughts.