Tuesday, September 25, 2007

To my reed pal: your reed, which I will mail out tomorrow.

(I'm sorry for the blur. Hopefully you can see them well enough- I tried to make them large.)

Made from Jeanne, Inc. cane gouged .60-.48, Pfeiffer-Mack scrape, tied on a Chudnow S 47 mm staple. At A=440, it crows a 20 cents flat C. About 70 mm total. The side that the string crosses on goes on your bottom lip.

This is a more Philadelphia-style reed (as opposed to Cleveland), because of the very thin back, but the heart and tip extend rather lower than on a true Philadelphia reed.

This actually turned out to be quite a nice reed, so I'm a little sad to lose it. I hope it still plays when it gets to Germany.

Unrepentant oboe geek. :-)

When I last ordered something from amazon, back at the end of August, I also bought the Tabuteau lesson CD. It FINALLY came at the end of last week. I haven't actually listened to it yet, but I'm very excited to.

After last week's lesson, when I ran out of things to play, I was assigned a Gillet etude, the first movement of the Mozart Concerto, and Paladilhe's Solo de Concert as well as working on Le Api and the Berio Sequenza. (I'm kind of just humoring my teacher with that last one.) I really like the Paladilhe, although I'm having trouble with some of its phrasing, but the Mozart is pretty much just really hard. If there's one thing that's not my strong point, it's graceful fast tonguing. (Plus I'm just not a Mozart person in general.) But my lesson will be helpful with that.

Of course, I'm not particularly looking to my lesson. Not because I'm not prepared, though certainly not everything's really ready, but because all of my reeds spontaneously died today. They all became very spongy and unable to play above a mezzo-forte. This, plus I'm trying to get a really good reed together to send to my "reedpal" in Germany. I tied on more today, but they won't be ready to play on in my lesson tomorrow.

I did have an exciting musical experience this weekend, though. I went and saw a free simulcast of the Washington National Opera's La Boheme. I was really excited to see it, both because of my experience this summer and because I'd heard that it was a really edgy production.
My impressions of it:

First off, you could tell that the director was from Eastern Europe. The costumes!

Second, well, it was certainly edgy and unconventional. The cafe scene was staged with lots of cross-dressing and sequins and whips and two guys who had neon tennis balls glued all over their suits. And I think it's pretty cool that they put the opera on staged like that. But...I didn't really like it, at least during the second act. (I feel traitorous to liberal artists saying that, but it's still true.) Because the director was being shocking just for the sake of being shocking. The second half, though, I really enjoyed- I was actually kind of surprised, because of how the first act really rubbed me wrong, but sometimes it just takes me a bit to get over being shocked. Also, the second half was a lot less noticeably "modernized".

They did a really good job with the simulcast. I mean, I wished that they had had more comprehensive subtitles (an opera pet-peeve of mine), and sometimes the camera work was a little much, and it was unfortunate that the singers were overloading the mics, but still.

Plus, the singers were good. Rodolfo, Marcello, Musetta, Mimi (I liked her voice even though it wasn't quite as good as Musetta's and though I didn't really care for her acting.), everyone was very, very good.

And the ending always gets me. It's so sad.

All in all, I just love La Boheme. It's such a fun show, really, but it's emotional, too. All the benefits of both comedy and tragedy, in one. :-D

I also watched parts of Porgy and Bess, but the DVD was having problems, and wouldn't play after about halfway through. It was interesting to watch, because I'd never seen it, though I was familiar with some of the more well known music. However, my experience was disrupted by two girls in my class who snickered at everything.

Another very cool oboe book: The Oboe, by Geoffrey Burgess. It's full of the history of the actual instrument, performance practice, and the use of oboe in solo, chamber, and orchestral music. Plus, it has some pictures of old and experimental instruments.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Another orchestra Wednesday, here at UVA.

I love Wednesdays, even though they're 12 hour days for me. Why? Because on Wednesdays I have orchestra. (As well as 3 times a day to practice and sometimes a sectional. This last sentence may make you think I'm being sarcastic, but I'm really not.) And even though I got cheated out of 15 minutes of playing in my piece because the children's concert music went over, it was still lovely. We sound good, and we're more together, I think, than we usually are on our first concert. I suppose it's those sectionals. Anyways, I'm playing in Chadwick's Tam O'Shanter, which is a pretty cool piece- very Symphonie Fantastique or Night on Bald Mountain, what with it following along with Tam as he meets the reveling witches and devils- Scottish and demonic and ending in a gorgeous brass chorale of utmost sentimentality.

I was listening in on the children's concert rehearsal- they're playing Candide and Samson and Delilah, which speaking of good oboe parts..., among others. But I'm content not to be playing in that, despite how much fun they are, because it means I'll be playing in all of those songs I desperately need to play in.

Ah, orchestra, how it tends to make me so very, very gleeful.

In other news, I have somehow lost my reed knife inside of the music building. There aren't that many places for it to go, so I figure either a custodian picked it up and didn't know what to do with it, or someone else found it and took it.

My reeds today were all oddly resistant, as if the cane were suddenly very spongy. But there's not been any weather change to account for that. Hopefully they'll change back tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Oh, my music department...

They almost did something right. The practice rooms are open now, albeit with temporary doors, and you know? That's infinitely better than lessons in practice modules, and better in some smaller way than lessons in abandoned offices upstairs. But...the temporary doors are REALLY not soundproofed, and the acoustics are pretty bad. My reeds sound about 10 times brighter than they do in the practice modules. But, eventually there will be new doors, and I'm going to try to get the Music Dept. to put in some stuff on the walls to help with the acoustics.

This, plus the fact that it appeared for a while that they didn't own a copy of the Mozart concerto, means that they have not quite succeeded. At least, though, it turned out that the Mozart was just hidden in a place that was not the oboe solo sheet music or the oboe concerto sheet music. Go figure.

HOWEVER. I did find David A. Ledet's Oboe Reed Styles in the music library, and I have got to say, this is a pretty awesome book. It's from the early 80s, so it doesn't have many current players, but it has basically an illustrated history of the oboe reed in England, France, Germany, the US, and a few other places. (Some of the more famous players (more well known to me at least) included are: Evelyn Rothwell, Peter Graeme, Robert Bloom, James Caldwell, Fernand Gillet, Marc Lifschey, John Mack, Joseph Robinson, Tabuteau, Richard Woodhams.) Seeing all of the European reeds makes me very curious to try making one in a French or German style. However, I've been chatting with an oboe player in Germany with whom I might do a reed exchange. I think that would be really interesting, and probably provide me with a more representational reed than from trying to mimic the pictures in the Ledet book.

Speaking of reeds, I haven't posted in here much about them recently, partly because I've been doing less experimentation. I seem to have settled down, at least for now, in a fairly Philly-style reed, with a higher heart and thinner back than my reeds through most of the summer.

I only had a half hour lesson today, though we spent the rest getting the music library to order a couple pieces and looking through the oboe solos. Mostly this was because I'm learning the Gillet etudes, which are incredibly hard. Thus when I'm learning one of those, doing a further brush up on minor scales and double-thirds, getting to a reading familiarity with a duet, and slowly going through Le Api, I don't have a lot of time for another solo piece. But for next week I have three to look at, so I suppose it balances out.

Going along with finishing/re-learning Le Api, I'm supposed to be working on my circular breathing. It's rather tough going- I've gotten to the point where I can circular breathe on a held note, but once I add any finger movement other than a one key trill, I lose it. But that's okay...I have until, um, April?
I've also been given the Berio Sequenza, which, frankly, I hate. But it's one of my teacher's absolute favorite pieces ever, so I'm pretty much learning it, or at least working on it, regardless.

I've had a few "sudden realizations," by which I mean things that people have been telling me for years, like my posture, or my thumb position, or my tonguing, or my wrong fingering for high D, finally clicking into place. I'm really glad it happened (I wish it'd happened when they started telling me), but man, it's hard going fixing it. Well, that's what all of my practicing is for.

I'm rather looking forwards to orchestra tomorrow night...not that I'm ever not. But it'll be the third rehearsal, and seeing that last week was the second rehearsal of the first concert, and therefore the roughest rehearsal all year, I just want to see how everything's coming together.

I continue to think about my recital program and my audition program, which I must start picking. Also, holy cow, I must start looking at summer things ASAP.

I've started my research for my recital program notes. (The least amount of writing you can do for a Distinguished Major is program notes, and while I plan on writing fairly substantial notes, I really don't have time for more.) This means I've been reading from Taruskin's History of Western Music, which is fascinating and frequently quite amusing- I just finished the section on Neo-Classicism, with crazy Stravinsky, and the early 20th century's "sexy androgeny."

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Back from exile: my computer has been repaired

I had forgotten that my music library only owns one piece of English horn sheet music, the one (Hindemith Sonate) which I played on my last recital. I need to get them to order me some, because I absolutely want to play an English horn piece on my recital. If there are any suggestions of early or mid 20th century English horn solos (with piano or unaccompanied), I would much appreciate it. My teacher doesn't play EH, and so is not very much help.

In other, better, EH news, I will be playing in TWO pieces in the next orchestra concert. I'm a little surprised since we have 5 oboes this year, but one (a community member) is apparently traveling with her husband on his sabbatical, and one is singing instead. (This is great news for me, since every single one of our "big" pieces is one that I am absolutely dying to play- Carmina Burana, Firebird, Tchaik 5, Symphonie Fantastique.) This leaves me, a sophomore, and a new oboist, a community member who's very good. I'm doing EH on Ravel's Daphnis and Chloe, and either 2nd or EH on Carmina Burana. (The choir has started rehearsing, and I start grinning widely every time I hear a note of it.) This year winds have mandatory orchestra sectionals, but our pieces for this concert are pretty easy, so my teacher, the new oboist, and I (who, it seems, will be the core group this season) started rehearsing the Ravel. I'd never heard it before, but I think it's pretty gorgeous, and also boy am I glad I have the music a month early. Twelve-tuplets! I'm glad to be playing it, though, and to be doing it as well as Carmina is wonderful.

Technically the music dept has a double reed ensemble, but this tends to end up as trios if that, and this year apparently was no different. My teacher has suggested, though, that the new oboist and he and I play trios weekly or so. I definitely hope this works out. I really like chamber music, and with our department, I rarely get a chance. (Other attempts at double reed ensemble have been...memorable.) I feel like our sounds and ...personalities will match nicely. Also, having the new oboist there gives me just another little push to sound better in orchestra and sectionals and small ensembles. Plus, as a former music major who has played in orchestras and ensembles for, I think she said, 15 years, she's a good additional resource for me in terms of schools and pieces and such.

After about a month of practice room air-conditioning woes, they have finally been fixed- no more 90 degree, humid practice rooms! Of course, now they're absolutely frigid, but it's still much better.

I'm feeling rather despairing of my ability to get into any grad schools right now.
Oddly enough, I am also very pleased with my playing in orchestra. I'm managing to blend nicely, play in tune, and be musical on top of it all.