Haydn: Cello Concerto no. 2 - 1st movement
Eric Zaks (cello) with Dina Vainshtein (piano)
“We live to light people’s life, to make them joyful”
— Benjamin Zander
Wow. Wow. Wow. Wow. Eric, very impressive. Very, very impressive. Bravo. I’ve known you since you were this high. And you know, when he came into the orchestra, his younger sister was two years younger?
No, she’s older.
Oh, she’s older. You were even younger. You came in five years. She came in six years ago.
Right. So you must have been 12 when you came in. Wow. And I always felt you were a little bit under her shadow, because she’s a phenomenal solo violinist. Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant violinist and great. And you were always a little bit under that shadow. Your playing is now emerged as something very special. Very beautiful. Beautiful intonation. Beautiful control. It’s wonderful playing.
The only thing missing is that you seem to be miserable. That’s the only thing. So that’s the only thing we have to change now. This is some of the happiest music that’s ever been written, by anybody. Nothing happier. There’s no clouds. There are a couple of clouds later on, but there’s no clouds here. It’s just sheer joy. Could you go through (singing) and do it with as much exuberance as you can muster? (Singing). Right from that place, you know what I mean?
You see? See if you can, you do the first (singing). Right. And the point of that is to get more and more excited, (singing), like that. And you might actually look up and smile at that moment because you’ve got there. I do want (singing). Here we go. And the orchestra goes, “Yes,” (singing). They do. And you say, “You ain’t seen nothing yet. I’m going to do more.” So first one and (singing). Why did they have trills? Why did they play trills?
To elaborate on the music.
But for what?
Like a flourish almost.
What kind of flourish?
Joy. Like that. That’s what a trill is. And everything’s moving towards that trill. So everybody goes, “Yeah,” like that. That’s all it is. That’s brilliant what you’re doing. Can you do it again, one more time? I love the temper incident. It’s a little faster than you were doing before, which is great, because if you can play fast, why not do it? Why not? If you can’t play fast, then please don’t do it, but if you can play fast so (singing). That way, once more. 1, 2, 3.
Can I suggest, before you play, breathe? (Singing).
All right. Now do it without looking at your fingers.
What a thrill. That’s what a thrill is. It’s to get that reaction. And they won’t do that all the way through the piece, but that’s the way, that’s the to play.
Now, let’s take that same mood and put it in the beginning because (singing), a little faster. (Singing) three, four.
If you spent less time wrestling and more time engaging young women in wonderful, enticing conversations, you would play with a little bit more tenderness. This is char… Because this is very seductive music. A bit tender and loving. And you are a little bit, I got to win this round.
So see how charming you can make. And (singing). And then when you have this figure, it’s so beautiful. Wait. (Singing).
Like speaking. Once again, just do the last three bars before …
Now as charming as can be. Now take your … Beautiful. That’s much, much, much better. If you could do that with a little smile, it would be great. It would win many more young ladies.
I had a teacher, my teacher, this was in another era. There was nothing abusive or inappropriate, but he seduced a lot of young women, but with a very beautiful way. There was nothing unpleasant about it at all. It was just sheer charm, old world charm. And it’s been a bit lost. We musicians have become awfully serious and we forget to have the music smile and be light and winning and charming and seductive, actually. Like pleading. Play it a little faster, see if we can get that and take time. (Singing). And when you (singing), it’s bowing. Try again. You’re doing beautifully, but a little smile. See if you can smile. So three, four …
I can’t do that anymore. I used to play this piece, but I can’t do it anymore. But if I could, I’d be so happy. I’d go (singing). Do that. And just say, “Listen to me.” (Singing). Don’t look worried. Because if you look worried, they’ll think it’s difficult. You don’t want them to think it’s difficult. No, no. That’s like the magician doesn’t tell the children that it’s difficult. He’s always looking cheerful and happy and so on. And he’s doing all these things. So be like a magician. That was much better. Much better. Do from there. (Singing). Think of this as (singing). One … (singing). Sweetly. Joyful. Tender. (Singing). Yes. Now here. So happy. Easy, easy. Here we go. Ready? Ready?
Okay. Second theme. All right, do just before the second theme. I’ve been spoiled. I’ve been spoiled forever because my teacher, there’s a different teacher, not Casanova, I had another teacher and I studied this with him when I was a little kid and he knew that I had a girlfriend, that I was interested. There was another girl I was interested and he came up with these words. Stella is my girlfriend, but Mary is much nice. Every time I hear that I can’t help the words, but it was clever. Stella is my girlfriend, but Mary is much, much … Try the second theme.
That’s pretty good. I would do much, much nice. That was beautiful. That was really beautiful. And there was a lady in the front who was quite touched by that. Try to be …
Here it is. Now playful. Bravo. Joyful. What comes next? You can play this. Do this phrase once again because it’s so tender. Where is this? Here. Here. This is what I meant, here. This is so tender, the two voices. But remember, the bass has to come in the middle. (Singing). Can you hear the bass three? Now she says … you are saying this is more difficult than that. I say this is more tender and more deeply felt than that because of the harmonies. (Singing). But this one (singing), those semi turns make it very sad. Poignant. Once again, the first one. Now the same. There we go. Bravo.
You are great. So now you’re going to go do wrestling, which is fine. And he’s the only person I’ve allowed to miss the rehearsal this afternoon, ‘coz we’re doing Mahler 9th, and people came up with all sorts of excuses for missing because they had auditions. And so I said, “No, no, no, no.” And then he said, “If I’m not at my wrestling match, my school will lose.”
I said, “Okay, go. But take a thought with you. You are no longer the younger brother of your sister. You are no longer a careful, studious, serious young man. You are an expressive artist from now on. And everything you do should be artistic, the way it was just now. And you’ve enlivened, just look at the few of the faces are out there. They’re just so lit up by you. They’re so excited and so moved. And so, it’s life giving when you play that way. When you are just playing and you’re looking serious, it’s commendable. But commendable is not what we live for. We live for to light people’s lives up, to make them joyful, to make them see their lives in a different light. But in order to do that, you have to see your own light, your own life in a different light. Not as a burden, not as something to push and work and struggle and compete and do all that. Just compete in the wrestling, please do and win.
“But even some of this you could bring into the wrestling. I’m not quite sure how, but I think …” My brother went to a football game of his son and when they were leaving, he said to one of the other parents, he said, “Wasn’t that a great game?” The other parents said, “How can you say that? We lost?” That was not what he was talking about. He was talking about having a great game, not about winning and losing. It’s about having a great game. Life is a game and then you die. So you might as well have fun. And this could be a big thing, just like for Carlos, he walked away with a totally different concept of the bar. And Sarah walked away with a totally different concept of the Hayden. For you, it may be a totally different concept of your role in life. That smile is so beautiful and we don’t see it often.
So here’s the thing. Could you walk about, everywhere you go and think of yourself as a contribution to the world? That’s who you are. Don’t say, am I? Just say, I am. I am a contribution in everything I do and have the world react to you as a contribution. And it’ll change everything. And you’ve got this miraculous thing in the magic fluid. There’s a moment in which Papageno tries to kill himself. He’s so upset because he can’t get a girlfriend. Papageno, he hasn’t noticed is just around the corner, but he hasn’t found out that yet. So he’s miserable. So he decides to kill himself. So he throws a rope over the tree and tries to pull himself up, which doesn’t work.
So he’s doing that for a while. The magic thing, is the bells, which the boys were given, they gave Tamino a flute and they gave Papageno bells and the bells are magic. And he forgot. He said, “stupid fool that I am. I forgot the magic bells.” And once he has the magic bells, then he rings the bells, and then Papageno shows up.
So if you could think of cello and music as the magic thing that you have that none of your wrestling friends have, and very few people in the world have, this beautiful instrument which you play wonderfully and this incredibly joyful and tender and beautiful music. And never forget it. And it’ll take you through life and give you joy and give you endless satisfaction. And then you’ll die, like the rest of us.