An MFM tour is to performance what the Marlboro School is to rehearsal. During a Marlboro summer, a chamber music group gets the unique experience of delving into a piece in the greatest detail possible, perfecting, discussing, experimenting, and ultimately coming together in a convincing interpretation. However, it is sometimes during an actual performance, during those most open-hearted, vulnerable minutes, that the most inspired musical insights reveal themselves. During a tour, there is the great pleasure to collaborate with stellar colleagues, but most importantly to me, it is an opportunity to experience the evolution of the special onstage musical intimacy through repeated performances.
A slightly embarrassing MFM episode comes to mind. It was our umpteenth performance of the Shostakovich Piano Quintet, which was at this point so well-oiled, we could play it in our sleep (or so we thought!). Sometimes it is dangerous to be so complacent: that night, in the famously gnarly second-movement fugue, our most wonderful and dependable cellist missed his entrance. A slight lull in the music followed as the other players made efforts to find their place, at which point I, most over-confidently, attempted to “mark” the cellist’s tune on the piano in the hope that he would catch on. In my panic I had not noticed that I had been reading his part in bass, instead of tenor clef! This was probably the least helpful thing one could do, and the whole thing ground to a piteous halt. The audience was treated to 1.5 fugues that night. I am relieved to say that somehow, I recall the rest of that Shostakovich performance to be one of our best!