The typical narrative we think of for a concerto is one of striving, which is perfect for Beethoven. It's an epic story of one lone voice, crying out against the tumult of the rest of society. It's the hero's journey: starting off on an adventure, surmounting obstacles, and coming home triumphant in the end. Sometimes composers choose to color in those adventures and obstacles by setting the orchestra off against the soloist - fanfare of brass section, solo violin melody, massive orchestral tutti answers soloist, soloist comes back with a cadenza all by herself, etc.
There can be a weird level of reality to this "battle" between soloist and orchestra, if the large group players are not aware of how to balance with the individual player; as a soloist, it's possible to find yourself fighting for sonic space with the much larger army of the orchestra, and that can be exhausting and futile!
But the most humbling, beautiful realization of this narrative is what can happen, and did happen for me last Saturday night, when an orchestra is full of generous hearts, skillful listening, and inspired playing.
The talented and wise musicians of the Yakima Symphony didn't just produce the right notes with the right characters, but they did it while opening their hearts in support, creating this beautiful, compassionate wave of sound that I got to surf on. I am so moved every time I think of this. As a soloist, you are standing up there alone, but when an orchestra is generous in this way, you feel like they are the ground you walk on, that every note you play has support, and that you are utterly safe in their hands.
There is a scene in the movie Whale Rider, where the main character summons all her courage to finally climb on the back of one of these gargantuan, legendary creatures, not sure what will happen, and it plunges her into the depths of the ocean. You fear she has drowned, when suddenly the whale surges forth into the air, with her triumphant on its back.
Riding the whale of Beethoven's music, surrounded by the ocean of the gifted and benevolent musicians of the Yakima Symphony was an experience I will cherish and remember always. Thank you, fellow players and listeners, for taking this journey with me.