How it Felt to Perform With Flutist Paul Renzi


How it felt to perform with flutist Paul Renzi.

I was only 22, conducting three compositions by my father: Musical Sketch for Flute and String Orchestra, Passacaglia for Trumpet, Trombone, and String Orchestra, and Meditation for French Horn and String Orchestra.

This was my first time conducting. I had training with my father, several times, but no “formal” studies. Luckily, I love my father’s music and compose as well, which definitely helped me with the score.

One of my many vivid memories from the time frame of rehearsals and concert was the time spent with the great Paul Renzi. At the time, he was the principal Flutist with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra. We were performing Iosif Andriasov’s Musical Sketch for Flute and String Orchestra. My father was, coincidently, only 22 years old when he wrote this masterpiece.

From the first note, Mr. Renzi had such a bright and positive sound. We worked on the most important places in the score and then understood one another that it is not necessary to drag out the rehearsal. We would make jokes sometimes and enjoy each other’s company.

He loved this composition very much and took a diligent approach to it. Many self absorbed musicians like to put on a brave face and act as if the music is easy to show off how good they are. In my eyes, people who do this make themselves look like idiots. Instead of having respect for the music and really working hard on sharing the composer’s thoughts and soul, they want to put down what they think “looks” easy. Once they begin rehearsing, they then fall flat on their face and go home with a battered ego.

Paul Renzi was never such a way. He knew that my father’s Musical Sketch for Flute and String Orchestra is so difficult when playing with depth is concerned. I have since encountered and performed the piano version of this with many Flutists and have heard many perform this piece via YouTube. The best performers are always those who listened to advice given by those who know way more about the composer. Those who acted on their own bravado have always failed miserably.

The key to this dilemma is that the Flutist (and pianist for that matter) has to become completely selfless when performing this piece. Looks can be deceiving. The score might seem “simple.” The language might be simple technically, but the meaning is so hard to interpret wisely.

Paul Renzi chose to perform this masterpiece positively, without much hint of sadness. That is why this performance will always be dear in my heart. It is not the way I heard it as a child, but was always so proud to be a part of such a beautiful event.

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