There are some pieces that exhilarate you when you play them. And then when you finish you feel like leaping around like a springbok. It’s the most wonderful feeling – the Dvorak cello concerto does that for me. Some Vivaldi too.
There are other pieces that leave you very satisfied after you’ve lowered your bow at the end of them – like you’ve sat down and eaten a really good meal of just the right amount of food. And the food was just what you wanted. And there was some really lovely wine there as well. I get that with a lot of Bach.
And then there are other pieces.
I had one of them in my last set of concerts that happened on the weekend. We played a piece by John Tavener called ‘Svyati’ – ‘O Holy One’ in Russian. It’s incredible. It’s for cello and choir – the choir sings a Russian Orthodox chant, and the cello ‘sings’ over the top as a priest would do. It’s the chant used in most funeral services – the priest leads the coffin out of the church, and the mourners follow, carrying candles. It’s really hard. It’s very slow and atmospheric. It requires nerves of steel from the cellist, and very long breaths from the choir.
I played this with the choir of St James, down in a very dark crypt on the weekend. I had practised and practised it. I had thought about it, sung it, worried about it, loved it. And at the end, when it was over, and I was placing my music on the floor I was hit by a wave of emotion. Really hit. And it was all I could do to not cry. Not from relief, although I was relieved. But by this very powerful grief.
The next two songs the choir sang by themselves, and I had to sit and piece myself together. And I was amazed at how this music had affected me. I wasn’t thinking of what it represented as I played. I was thinking phrasing and sound production. But yet it had that effect. I knew what was coming in the piece. I knew it backwards – yet it took my heart and changed it.
What an extraordinary thing music is.