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Suddenly stricken on the stage

Julian Lloyd Webber

 

 

One question I am constantly asked is whether I still get nervous before concerts. The answer is a definite ‘yes’. And it doesn’t matter whether it is the Royal Albert Hall or a performance in someone’s living room. In fact the larger the audience the less you are aware of it! I have played to 40,000 people in London’s Hyde Park and not been especially nervous and played to 100 people in a room - where I could see each and every one of their faces - and been VERY nervous!

 

One of the beauties of live performance is its unpredictability. No matter how well prepared you are, the unexpected can happen on the night. All kinds of distractions can knock you out of your stride: a bad acoustic, a terrible journey, bad lighting and, of course for string players, breaking a string. There will be days when nervousness seems to be getting the upper hand and even the most experienced musician can suddenly be stricken.

 

At his debut in Vienna the great cellist Pablo Casals was so nervous that he dropped his bow before he had played a note:

The Musikverein was packed—not a seat was vacant, but the first stroke I made with my bow I felt it slip from my fingers. I tried desperately to regain control of it but my movement was too abrupt. The bow shot from my grasp and, as I watched in helpless horror, it sailed over the heads of the audience and landed several rows behind! There was not a sound in the hall. Someone retrieved the bow. It was handed with tender care from person to person still in utter silence. I followed its slow passage toward me with fascination - and then a strange thing happened; my nervousness completely vanished. When the bow reached me, I immediately began the concerto again and this time with absolute confidence. I think I have never played better than I did that night.’

 

It would be a curious artist who never suffered from nerves. The trick is to get them to work for, rather than against, you so that the extra flow of adrenalin sharpens the reflexes and gives each performance a special edge.

 

我經常被問到這樣一個問題:在音樂會前我是否仍然會緊張。我回答得很明確:“是”。無論是在皇家艾爾伯特音樂廳,還是在某個家庭的客廳裡,事實上,觀眾很多或者是很少,都同樣令人感到緊張。我曾在倫敦海德公園,面對4000觀眾演奏,我感到特別緊張。但是當我為室內100位觀眾演奏,也並沒有感覺輕鬆,他們每個人的臉,我都看得很清楚,我同樣感到非常的緊張。

 

 

做現場表演,其中最大的特點,就是它的不可預測性。儘管你為各種可能發生的情況都做了準備,但是料想不到的事仍然有可能會在當晚發生。各類突發事件會擾亂,令你分心:一個走音琴聲,不愉快的旅程,不好的燈光,當然,弦樂演奏者特有的問題 – 忽然斷了一條弦。會有那種時候,當緊張的情緒佔據上風,即使是最有經驗的音樂家,也可能突然發生狀況。

 

 

當他首次在維也納亮相 – 偉大的大提琴家帕布羅·卡薩爾斯,他非常緊張,在演奏第一個音符前扔飛了琴弓:“維也納金色大廳座無虛席,但是當第一下運弓的時候,我覺得它正從我的手指間溜走。我試着拼命恢復對它的操控,但是我太用力了,弓完全不受我控制,我驚恐無助的眼看着它飛過觀眾的頭,在後面幾排降落。全場鴉雀無聲,有人找到並撿起了那弓。它被人們小心的,沉默的傳上來。慢慢的,似乎那弓產生了一種魔力,一件奇怪的事發生了,我的緊張完全消失了。它的魔力傳遍我全身,我立刻再次拉我的協奏曲,而這次,我絕對的自信,我想我從來沒有像那晚演奏得那麼好。”

 

 

這是一位藝術家前所未有的奇異經歷,這個故事說明了當過度的緊張而產生壓力,刺激了腎上腺素的加速流動,由此而生的逆反效果,激發了每一位演奏者特別的潛能。

 

Translator: Terrie Dai