Dear Maestro Robertson,
As I look forward to playing with National Youth Orchestra again this summer I also look back at the time I spent with them last summer. I have so many treasured memories of summer, 2014. I remember wonderful colleagues, helpful staff members, incredible music, and concerts that surpassed anything I have ever been a part of, but one thing I remember most is you.
You are the most inspiring conductor I've ever had the privilege to play under. You brought such
energy to the orchestra (not that we were lacking before!), incredible musical ideas, and such an invigorating personality.
By the first day, you knew half of us by name, and by the second day you knew all of us. You hung out with us, and you always had the time to discuss musical ideas before rehearsal and after rehearsal, and you even ate lunch with us! I hope you know how much it meant for us to be respected and treated as equals and colleagues by such accomplished musicians as you and Gil Shaham.
The incident that was the most touching to me happened after an early rehearsal of Pictures at an Exhibition, where we were first working on "The Great Gate of Kiev." During this rehearsal, when we got to the bassoon and clarinet chorale, you took it out of tempo and, I must say, you completely shocked me. I couldn't understand for the life of me why you would approach the chorales as you did, because I don't think I had ever heard the piece played that way.
After the rehearsal, I approached you, and I asked you what your rational was behind taking the chorale out of tempo. I think I may have been a little brash, and probably a little exasperated too because I was sure you must be wrong, but you seemed to take no notice and answered me happily and respectfully, and I thank you very much for that. You shared with me that you used to do both that chorale and one one that occurs a little later completely in time until a Russian conductor (I don't quite remember who you said it was) informed you that the chorale was derived from an Eastern Orthodox hymn, and wouldn't be sung in time originally, but would be performed with a lot of rubato and stretching of the tempo. We spent quite a while talking about this and other things, and you were so enthusiastic and excited about sharing your musical ideas and experiences with me that it was contagious! At the end of our discussion, you advised me to go listen to Rachmaninov's vespers, which you said would be a good example of what was intended with the chorale and how other, similar hymns, would sound were they sung. And so I did, and now, when I hear this type of chorale, I can approach it in a much more mature manner than originally I did before our discussion.
The reason I play music is because I love it more than anything else in the world. I love every part of it. The depth of ideas used in music are fascinating and one can find endless gems of information like this in music, which lead to more perspectives and views of music (and people) in a never-ending positive feedback loop. There are always new things to discover, hidden in pieces I have heard hundreds of times. Seeing that someone whom I revere, respect, and look up to can just love music, be so exuberant about it, and share that passion with me really showed me in a first hand way the power of music to connect people.
Thank you again for last summer, it was wonderful.
-Torin Bakke, clarinet NYO-USA 2014, NYO-USA 2015.