“It was better” I said to the student. “It was the second time” said he, trying not to give me all the credit for the improvement. We laughed about it a few times in our lessons and I kept using it again and again during the three days at the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki. Just as I was packing to go home my mind was going through all the lovely experiences I had. I was thinking about the great people I met and about the amazing students I had the honor to work with. Just then the phrase came back again: “It was the second time”. What suddenly hit me was the fact, that in musical performance, just like in sports, there is no second time. Performance is about here and now. The idea of a second time comes from the world of video and record industry. There you can do the same two minutes over and over again until things are (artificially) perfect. The great conductor Sergiu Celibidache was known for the fact that he never agreed to make recordings. Luckily enough, his concerts with the Munich Philharmonic orchestra were recorded and released after his death. He was also known to have said once that listening to a recording is like making love to a poster. I just feel that the idea, that there is no second time, is scary to anyone. It is scary in sports as much as it is in music. When we practice, we always go back and fix things, but how much do we really practice performance? How much do we practice the Art of Here and Now? How much do we practice concentrating on this very moment? How much do we practice pulling out all our stops and giving everything? Do we practice quick recovery when things go wrong? Yes, every performance is a onetime event, but I find comfort in the words attributed to the famous cellist Mstislav Rostropovich: “every concert is a dress rehearsal for the next one”.
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Lasse Lagercrantz is Professor of Double Bass and the Head of the String Department at the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki. He is the author of Colorstrings Doublebass ABC.
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