I was recently a bit stressed to premiere a work. By that I should clarify (or in my case CLARE-ify): I was overjoyed to be playing a brand new piece and excited to do so...but unlike playing Bach, Mozart or any other piece of music, this was for the very first time, and other than what was on the page, no specific references.
It was a small time frame, and nothing to refer to, no other recordings, and the first time I had played this composer's music (and I was to play this WITH the composer!)
Now, I consider myself a friend of the composer, and have seen one other of his works, for violin and chamber ensemble (I hope to weasel in on some performance of that maybe!) I went through and read the piece. Then I checked pitches. The rhythm was very hard. (Truth be told I should have taken a metronome to it - something I WILL do before my next performance of it.)
When we finally got to rehearse it, things were a bit rough - we started towards the end of the piece, the recap if you will (where the melody or theme returns - think endcredits or titles of a movie) and then went on to work it out. After some rough passages, the composer looked at me and wisely (and gently) said, "Let's not worry about the exact notes and rhythm - make music out of it."
Indeed I had been VERY worried about hitting pitches (and the rhythms combined with large jumps in notes) with the composer right there...I mean he actually hadn't heard me play before - and though we're friends, I do take some pride in my playing.
After his advice, things went much more smoothly.
It's a lovely piece and I hope you get to hear some day.
At the world premiere, it was a loud luncheon and a few folks may have heard different passages...it was introduced about 30 minutes before we played it. There's a sad tinge of irony that a piece written for the occasion was not heard. The composer and I know however, that it is a good piece and we made honest music.
One other small factor was that the composer hasn't performed piano in public in 16 years. I had taken the summer off, while moving and having a repair made on my fiddle - and am feeling much better musically. The composer played some charming Scarlatti, Beethoven, Chopin, and Schumann.
Also appreciated was a sign that he posted, "Don't shoot the piano player!" The oboist and I who were also playing Saturday morning wondered where our signs were...but luckily no volunteers or other staff members were packin' heat.