Blog: Cutting Through the Noise

Blog of Cellist Joshua Roman

Haydn: Rozsa. San Francisco: Tulsa. Ishiguro: Murakami.

Connections. They're all over the place. I love connections. In fact, I'm probably obsessed with them. Which I consider a healthy obsession, considering one of my greatest pursuits is to connect with people and share a meaningful spirit with them through music. Sometimes connections are obvious, and sometimes they are hidden and waiting to be discovered. Sometimes they might  be there only by virtue of the fact that there is an observer, searching to find a link (this is somewhat akin to the "observer effect").

This may be the case in my attempts to connect the last couple of weeks, although there ARE naturally many connections as well. I went from a debut performance with the San Francisco Symphony, playing the Haydn Cello Concerto in C Major, straight to Tulsa, Oklahoma, where I performed Miklós Rózsa's Cello Concerto with the Signature Symphony. Two completely different experiences, both rewarding in their own ways! The music was extremely different: The Haydn Concerto is Classical to the core, and a beautiful celebration which spends most of it's time in the playful, fun, sweet, or even jubilant. Even the cadenzas I wrote for the Haydn were intended to be in the Classical Style, and quite light. On the other hand, the Rózsa Concerto is a tour-de-force of concerned melodrama evoking colorful landscapes and hero-driven scenes (yes, Rózsa was a Hollywood film composer! You can hear his music in Spellbound, Ben-Hur, and other famous films).

The experiences, too, were set up to be contrasting. In San Francisco, it was an introduction to a new musical community, and I expected to only know a handful of people at the performances. In Tulsa, it was a homecoming. Having grown up in Oklahoma, I have a lot of family there, and family, friends, and old colleagues were all in attendance.

But, back to the connections. Of course, there are the obvious ones: while San Francisco was a new musical community with many introductions, like in Oklahoma there were lots of people important to me that came to the concerts. Many friends and supporters from Seattle flew down to see the performances, and Mi Ryung (my better half) actually lives in San Francisco and over the last year I've gotten to know many of her friends, who were also at the concert. Then there was a colleague in the SFS who was in my cello section when I first went to Seattle. Match that with my sister, who played in the violin section in Tulsa. It gets even wilder, the son-in-law of Signature Symphony (Tulsa)'s orchestra manager/bassoon player was sitting in the principal second violin chair in San Francisco! Musically, the Haydn AND the Rózsa were both first brought to the attention of audiences in the 1960's (Many people don't know that the Haydn C Major Concerto was not discovered until 1961).

But aside from all of those, I made my own connections. In preparing the Rózsa, I definitely drew on my experiences of the week before. The Rózsa is a very technically challenging work, and it had been several years since I played it for anyone, even in private. It was nice to be able to think about the week prior, when I performed the Haydn for the first time. Both pieces require a lot of confidence and leading, often the orchestra drops out entirely, or accompanies with brief punctuations rather than consistent collaboration. In those two weeks, I definitely felt that I was finding the connection for myself, the soloist mentality. Spending time alone with the music, really thinking about the characters, and discovering how I can pull them out of the cello. Then, getting up in front of an orchestra and communicating these characters, first to the conductor and orchestra, and after that in performance sharing them with the audience. These are the most rewarding times, the collaboration that takes place between musicians, listeners, and the composer.

So that explains Hadyn: Rózsa. San Francisco: Tulsa. But what about Ishiguro: Murakami? Both are authors of books I read during these two weeks, Nocturnes and Kafka on the Shore, respectively. Very different stories, but ironically enough, both of them mentioned the cello! The last story in Nocturnes - a collection of five short stories - is "Cellists". And Kafka on the Shore also went into great depth about various pieces and composers and interpretations, even mentioning Haydn's C Major Cello Concerto! See? Connections everywhere...