The world closed in on me. Or should I say... I fell down! And my worst nightmare came true. I had injured myself only fifteen days before my greatest dream: to play at Carnegie Hall. It was not possible to rewind a few seconds, to push the STOP button, just when the kid crossed in front of me, causing me spin uncontrollably to the left. I jumped, stumbled, and I finally “kissed” the ground. During the next few hours, the pain got worse and worse. That night I had to go to the hospital with a severe concussion to the ribs.
The cortisone shot hurt me more than the fall itself, and I cannot forget my wife's accusing glare: " Who could think of playing soccer at a time like this?" But who wouldn't play a quick game with my kids and brothers, on such a special day, with the family reunited to celebrate my brother's 40th birthday. He had just arrived from Germany. Well emotion is stronger than reason. Pain caused some sleepless nights and so did fear.
An unstoppable countdown began, and I wasn't able to practice for almost a week: seven hellish days without moving, coughing, laughing or playing the piano. The physical therapist could not work miracles, only time and patience would help me to overcome this challenge. They were the only threads of hope I clung to.
Very carefully, after several days of rest, I started playing again, reviewing the concert repertoire: Albéniz, Debussy, and several unknown works of Spanish composers. I had the audacity to try it, because I think strength and passion are necessary to succeed.
Later in New York, I felt a chill when I read "Tito García González" on the poster hanging outside of the temple of music, one of the most emblematic concert halls in the world. People on the street stopped to the look at the black and white poster especially designed for the event. Suddenly, I felt a great responsibility to play well, and as I started the rehearsal, everything began to flow.
That evening I arrived early at my dressing room. I had slept a bit at the hotel, and I felt really calm. I went through my preparation ritual that left me a few minutes to relax and breathe at the upright piano. I took a Selfie with my phone and I practiced a bit more. I played and made a short video of "Remembering Bernstein”, the piece that I had composed especially for the event. Then I thought: "The best is yet to come!"
Celia presence was calming. She gave me courage and a curious sense of strength and security. She seemed to encompass the wisdom of one who knows what the back room really means, and how success and failure can appear suddenly. She kept an eye on the clock and a TV monitor while eating her dinner:
-You're in luck. A lot of people are coming in! Look! The hall was gradually filling up. This doesn't always happen! A few days ago a pianist from Japan played for only ten or fifteen people. She was nearly in tears after she finished.
Helpful and timely, then she said:
-Now get out there and enjoy it!
And I did.
In classical music performances we do not normally get wild applause with loud cheers and shouting, but that evening the audience rewarded me with all of those. Sometimes standing ovations are priceless. This enthusiasm became gratitude on my part. As an encore, I improvised a piece with three random notes I solicited from the audience.
When the concert finished, Celia led me straight to the Hall's exit , where people from The Instituto Cervantes of New York, students, musicians and others were waiting to congratulate me, and hopefully take a picture or two. I was overwhelmed with happiness. For me, that evening was a unique, unrepeatable and magical experience. Although I cannot go back in time, remembering it will make it somehow, eternal.
I have fulfilled my dream. Thanks NYC!