Generally, at some point between being solicited for a performance and the performance itself, I am asked for my approval of a date and time. Typically this is done by email, and the novelty of sending that conclusive communication, that decisive dispatch, has worn off somewhat. There are times, though, when hitting "send" is accompanied by butterflies in the stomach, which indicates something must be afoot!
With this in mind, I have agreed to perform Messiaen's Livre du Saint-Sacrement in its entirety on May 4th, 2019, at 7:30 PM. Confirming that date and time is tantamount to setting a time bomb. Actually, a little more subtle than that. Allow me to quote my new favorite TV show:
"It's like, you know, death... You accept that it's coming, but you get kinda uncomfortable when people start talking dates." - Steve, from Coupling
The implication here is that I need to learn and memorize almost two hours of complicated, emotionally demanding, and breathtakingly unusual music, and that at some specific point, that process needs to culminate in a performance.
But the flip side is so tantalizing. For those of you who have never encountered Messiaen's last masterpiece, there is so much to say, and believe you me more words are coming on this blog. Suffice to say this is a unique piece, on a uniquely bewildering scale, traveling to emotional places I have never encountered elsewhere. Writing a piece of music in the 1980s must have been a real task; perhaps the future of classical music was a surety, but the nature of that future music was the subject of fierce argument in some corners and crippling doubt in others (the same can be said for today). The best works of the 1980s—Nixon in China, Ofanìm, Earth Dances, Penthode, An Orkney Wedding, La Terre est un Homme, Akhnaten, Prometeo, Angel of Light, Lichtbogen, and these are only the ones that come to mind—show a confidence and facility that is, frankly, intimidating. I have a private opinion that Livre is part of that upper echelon, if not the peak, and am happy to tell you exactly why. But right this minute, I need to practice. After all, I only have 238 days, 7 hours, 21 minutes, and 52 seconds left on the clock...