Sunday, January 23, 2005

warm ups

Getting to Bonneuil sur Marne is a pain. After the Vaseline smooth trajectory of the TGV from Avignon, I find that the Paris metro is a bumpy ride for fat ladies with a cello on their back and a suitcase preceding their bellies. Once in the infinite labyrinth of metro and RER I am confronted with several sets of clacking doors, which open an inch or two for a seductive second when I slip my little ratp ticket in, and then close. I manage to get my suitcase through to the other side but the frames lumber apart about the width of one of my buttocks and we, my cello and I, cannot squeeze through to recover the bag. I take the cello off my back and push it through but, having activated the barrier at an above average height for luggage, it has demagnetised my ticket and I am left alone on the other side. I am sweating through my moisturising cream as I watch several dozen potential criminals slip through and not steal my invaluable instrument. I scream at the man in the ticket booth who eventually lets me through with a touch of a button and I am reunited with my belongings. Then I discover that all the escalators are broken.
On arrival at the theatre, I set out to do my regular warm up and chuckle at the comic pair my desk partner, Hervé, and I make: I sit calmly, breathing into my bow-arm, trying to feel the nerve endings go right through the horse –hair (a tip I got from Paul Newman in ‘The Hustler’) and into the vibrating string; I do the rubber pencil trick on both arms to check for good balance and response at all points on the stick and fingerboard; and I plod up and down D and E flat major scales slowly in thirds. Next to me Hervé has zipped through a whole Piatti Caprice – all in a region of the instrument, which does not feature in our score – in the time that I have travelled zen-like from the frog to the heel of the bow. Next come a Boccherini Concerto and one by Servais, all repertoire which goes at the speed of the TGV and which I have always avoided. This is his only moment to show off as for the next hour and a half we only get to play tonics, dominants and sub-dominants, mostly at a walking pace. My warm up is geared to get them in tune, but more than that, to be as responsive to our chef’s, and Haydn’s gesture as I can. I do not know the purpose of his warm up. Secretly, I suspect that he is warming up to control rather than abandon, rigidity rather than flexibility, but that’s probably just me being dead jealous of his awesome prowess.
Hervé is, I suspect, somewhat of a closet misogynist, which is why I am not leading as stated in the programme. He sat comfortably in the first chair at the first rehearsal and I clocked immediately that even if I were leading he would never want to follow me so I chose not to challenge him. I clocked also that it pays to act a little coquettish around him to pander to his male ego. Unlike my experience in Lyon, however, this male is a good musician, comes with buckets of charm and humour and gives me a red rose for my birthday. The differences between us have the potential of a good team.
Our leader, P, is a cross between a Bee Gee and Gerard Depardieu. He always arrives late, usually because he has found the local Michelin star restaurant and is having a huge meal, but you forgive his puppy-sweet head immediately. He has tight spirally curls which bounce when he does, lively marine blue eyes and a square but humorous grin. He is a poet and in his solo I close my eyes to the marionettes on stage while he inflects his tender story.
Today our chef says she has an ‘ame romantique’, and so we go for full- bodied expression. Every performance is an invitation to a different feast, with different turns of phrase flavoured and savoured, and I look forward to each unfolding. What a joy it is to make music like this, and what a relief after three months of four-square Mozart in Glyndebourne under the baton of a conceited surf-bum.


Blogger Blandine said...


Just discovered your blog which I will try to read over the summer if I get too bored at work! The way I go around with my cello in the métro is that I either ask the person selling tickets to open the "real" door for me (the one for parents with strollers) or I do as a cellist friend showed me ie go through the tourniquet (sorry, no clue what the English word is!!) with the cello on my back. You have to stand up on your does and lean frontwards but it works, though I wouldn't recommand doing it with a soft case.

As for luggage, well, I usually have my cello on my back and a backpack in the front. Nice in winter, a bit too hot in summer.


1:53 PM  

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