“We are approaching San Antonio; it is beautiful evening, clear sky northeast wind twelve miles per hour, eighty degrees… thank you for choosing Southwest airlines, have a pleasant evening”…

It all started with me putting myself out for sale on the Musical Bridges auction last spring… guess what? Drs. Michelle and Eric Miller bought me for a solo recital for their Wedding Anniversary Celebration that will take place this weekend. I have not played solo since my postgraduate recital in Moscow in 2000. I got extremely exited to get back to solo piano and picked a very romantic program for the occasion. I started practicing Chopin, Liszt, Schubert and Rachmaninov. The Millers are a very forgiving audience and I did not have to sweat too much for this concert, I thought.

BUT… THE PERFORMANCE TORCH LIT ITSELF ON FIRE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
My being went into performing preparation mode without asking for my permission–mind working 24/7 playing pieces in my head–images of the pages while I am driving –body remembering performing durability one cannot survive without in the professional performing world…I clearly remember sleeping in the luggage area of the Rome airport on the way from Venice to Gressoney Italy. I was heading to Gressoney to play the Frank violin sonata and other chamber music with French violinist Pierre Hommage the same evening of the travel day. I was sleeping like a baby, sitting up with my legs on the suitcase surrounded by smokers and screaming children.

Another memory- arriving in Lausanne, Switzerland ninety minutes prior to the concert after a six-hour drive from Avignon, France.  I cannot find parking in a very beautiful but very car unfriendly historic downtown, I park in the middle of a pedestrian mall in front of some lucky boutique, check in to the hotel and fall asleep immediately for about 45 minutes with open windows, no air-conditioning (in the middle of July mind you) and a lot of happy tourists celebrating something outside. My body knew that if I did not get some sleep, there would be no concert and it did its job. Normally, the only way I can sleep is with no light, no noise, in perfect seventy two degrees on goose feather pillows arranged in a specific manner and preferably on MY bed.

It finally hit me I was playing a solo program this weekend for a very special audience! The first in twelve years!!!…And I flew Tuesday to Houston to play for my former piano professor Slava Gabrielov, who luckily for me has resided there for many years now. I was fortunate to study with him in Moscow many years ago. I’ve known him for over 35 years and have enormous respect for his impeccable musical taste. I arrived at ten in the morning and after catching up and having breakfast together we embarked on a musical journey. It took 3 hours to work through my program. We talked about stylistic differences between Chopin, Liszt, Schubert and Rachmaninov. We discussed the weeping intonations of Rachmaninov and soft acceptance of Schubert, the underlying sadness of Chopin and the pianistic brilliancy of Liszt. This lesson took me back in time and reminded me the nature of the TORCH I and other musicians carry with such dedication.  We are chosen people; we have the honor of reading into the souls of incredibly talented beings- great composers from somewhere in time, we can touch their thoughts. Music is our shrine that purifies us, the shrine that we enter barefooted filled with great humility and there is  OUR TORCH of pure intentions and unending dedication that leads our way.

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