I have an excellent friend who is a self-taught flute player. He’s a good player, and is a very clever man, so approaches his playing with great intelligence. He listens to all sorts of music, and really thinks about what he hears, so his ideas are always developing. But he’s had very few traditional ‘lessons’. I coach him from time-to-time, and last year I played continuo for him in a Bach sonata.
As we were rehearsing, I didn’t say a lot, as I didn’t think it was my place. I was his continuo player, and he was the main voice. But I played for him as I would a professional performer. I came to the first rehearsal with everything ready to go at tempo, having pulled apart my part and was ready to really rehearse. This is the way I was trained by my teacher in London. I believe it shows respect for my fellow musicians, and also the music I am playing. Some people don’t approach rehearsals like this, but I do.
This week, over dinner, he was talking about the effect that my playing had had on him and how it had really hoicked him into shape – it had raised his playing to another level. I was delighted. And it got my thinking about the musicians that have raised my playing to a new level, or the things I have done to raise my playing – recording, playing Bach suites with a percussionist, touring, learning to re-arrange things and then perform them.
It made me realise how important it was,for any musician, professional or amateur to allow themselves to be totally lifted up by their bootstraps by another player, or an experience, and how important that is. To not play with players who don’t think. Or who think they are better than they are. To try new repertoire and new playing combinations. To perhaps play with a baroque bow. To not grow stagnant.
Thank you to the players who did this to me. Who forced me to do things I didn’t want to do. Who suggested pieces that terrified me. Who took things at tempi I wasn’t comfortable with. Who hoicked me into shape.