I just came back from a week of masterclasses at the beautiful Franz Liszt Academy in Budapest. As always, it was a joy to meet wonderful people and to visit a city which I hadn’t seen in twenty years. Budapest played an important role in music history and I also felt a little personal connection as my father’s family came from a German speaking part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire called Bukovina, which later became Rumania.
Two weeks earlier, Guitarist Shani Inbar and I, aka Duo BassGuitar, toured in Latvia: Five days, four concerts and three masterclasses. While we were there I came to realize how many great minds came from Latvia.
Just to name a few, Mikhail Tal, World Chess Champion, Architect Eisenstein, father of Sergei Eisenstein, the famous film director and others. I suddenly realized that Marc Lavry was also from Riga. What is it about this tiny city that nurtures so many great minds?
Lavry was a composer who immigrated to Palestine in 1935 and stayed for the rest of his life in Israel. Among his vast output is the first Hebrew opera Dan the Guard. In collaboration with the National Library of Israel and with a lot of help from Lavry’s daughter Efrat, I had the honor to revive this opera after 70 years it had not been performed. The libretto was written by Max Brod who was a prolific writer in his own right but is mostly known to the general public as the rescuer of Franz Kafka's writings, as he disobeyed Kafka's request to burn them all after his death.
The opera describes the times before the establishment of the state of Israel and the many difficulties and conflicts of the people who came from Europe escaping from the Nazis. For example, the older generation who is still religious is trying to keep its orthodox lifestyle while the young generation prefers to work in agriculture and to “wear short slacks”.
As Dan the guard is spending nights alone in the watchtower, he experiences conflicts with his own shadows. Being so devoted to his mission to guard the village, he does not address his inner conflicts. Throughout the opera he talks, or rather sings about his shadow haunting him but only towards the end of the opera is there a direct dialogue between Dan and his shadow. The shadow, played by me, as I leave the conductor’s podium in my assistant's hands, actually speaks for the first time and is trying to convince him to shoot his best friend, (who is in love with Dan's wife).
After a short moment of inner struggle, Dan surprisingly shoots his own shadow (me).
Don't we all have shadows, or inner conflicts? As Dan sings in the opera: “the enemy is inside”.
Someone once told me that problems are like wild animals: If you run away, they will chase you but if you look them in the eyes, they'll just turn around and go away.
My next trip is to Pennsylvania for the Art of Practicing Institute summer program.
This workshop is directed by Madeline Bruser, author of The Art of Practicing.
In this book, which is a must for every musician, Madeline shows different physical and mental methods to cope with our shadows. During this week we will explore our inner self and gently face our wild beasts through meditation, awareness and sensitivity which are the key to an artistic way of life.