This weekend I am playing John Adams's Harmonielehre with the Milwaukee Symphony. As usual, the orchestra sounds magnificent, conductor Edo de Waart is utterly inspiring, and I am pushing myself to play better than my best to keep up with those around me. I feel so fortunate to be able to sub in this orchestra, because their commitment to excellence, as individuals and as a group, is a rare gift.
I've said it before, but it is a tremendous luxury to put the time in on a difficult piece like this - not just the time necessary to get through it, but the time to learn it and play it well. As budgets shrink throughout the symphonic world, per-service orchestras like mine make do with as little rehearsal as possible. The norm has become juuust enough rehearsal time so the concert doesn't fall apart. We come as prepared as possible, and spend all of our time making sure we understand the transitions and the tempi, and then perform. In Milwaukee there is time to discuss balance, intonation, motivation, and blend. It is a treat to do this kind of work.