Sometime in February Mr. Lutkin had indicated that he was intending to reward the north shore with a spring festival at which time I was to play the Mendelssohn Concerto in E Major with orchestra. The Evanston Musical Club was to sing Mendelssohnís Hymn of Praise and miscellaneous numbers were to complete the program. There were but six weeks in which to memorize and get the score in my fingers. The prospect scared me but adding another concerto to my belt made me full of intoxication.
Because of musicís pied piper quality I had often to break away from its spell. One cannot live on ambrosia. There was an exhilaration in the mastering of a piano concerto that defied description. When the first try-out with orchestra occurred and unfamiliar counter themes, like fairy voices, floated against billows of stringed volume, all the hours consumed in piano technic became mere trivia. Playing a piano concerto was strictly, for me, an out of the world experience. I seemed to drift away from reality and when the piano, clear and incisive, cut in on seductive strings, I knew again that music was, for me, the one thing that could make everything right in the world.
I was very nervous when the April night arrived. I remember telling the Dean how frightened I felt. His reply gave me courage. It was always his confidence in me rather than my own that carried me through. Fortunately, once the initial steps were taken and I felt the keys under my fingers, fears that had possessed me gave place to an exaggerated sensitivity. No sound in the hall escaped my ears and I found it difficult to hold my attention to the score as my hands automatically followed the themes across the keyboard. Then, when woodwinds and strings began their ceaseless piping, I was lost to earth until the last notes died away.
I remember well on this occasion a passage where a phrase is given simply the first time and elaborated the second. I played the second first. It was a momentary slip and we finished with an accelerated verve because of the momentary tension.