Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Nothing like the oboe...

...to knock you out of Oboe Angst. Recently I've felt entirely unhappy with my time management, reed making, playing abilities, and musicality. However, a good practice session, helpful lesson, orchestra rehearsal and a successful masterclass shook me right out of it. Thank goodness.

Last night in masterclass I played the first page of Gillet etude 20, which was quite a kick of adrenaline. I was pretty pleased with how it went, especially since I was actually able to play it through twice. The first time my nerves really got the better of me, but the second time I was able to be expressive, and not too pinched on the high notes, and really emphasize and be musical at the spots where I wanted to be rubato. So all in all, a success. I actually played last week in masterclass as well, the first two of the slow movement excerpts from Beethoven 3. Those went very well- they're some of my absolute favorite excerpts, and I try to be incredibly sensitive to the mood of the movement and express all of the little changes. I got a compliment from one of the other oboists on being appropriately gloomy, and really evoking that the movement is a funeral march, which was lovely, but a little bit funny to me. I've never had a problem with not being melancholy enough in those excerpts; I actually tend to get too bogged down in it and have trouble sticking around the proper tempo.

We're doing the excerpts out of John Ferrillo's book, though, and I think that having the piano play along with you on excerpts is actually incredibly helpful, both for the person performing and for those listening. I find that I am frequently guilty of not really knowing how my part fits in to the orchestra as a whole.

Yesterday I also finally had orchestra again- all of last week my orchestra only rehearsed Tchaik 6, and I'm playing 2nd in two excerpts from Tchaik's Eugene Onegin, and 1st in Tchaik's Rococo Variations instead. I appreciate the need, but, well, I was already jealous of the people playing the symphony, and then to not have orchestra for a week! Plus, we have a concert next Wednesday, and this was the first rehearsal for two of those three pieces. Unfortunately, Rococo Variations was one of those two, and yesterday was also our first rehearsal with the soloist for the piece. And our first rehearsal with the student conductor who's conducting it. It was a bit nerve-wracking all around, but tomorrow's rehearsal will be much better. Still, it struck me as a bit unprofessional, and rude as well, to not have even looked at the piece as a group before bringing in the soloist.

My classes have in general been entirely boring and uninteresting. However, we did have one thought-provoking article for my music history class, "The Good, the Bad, and the Boring," by Daniel Leech-Wilkinson.
Honestly, it made me furious. Here's why:

"But it is hard to see what can be the purpose of musicology if not to advise people on what to hear and how to hear it."

"...the work of "primitives"- composers deliberately ignoring mainstream compositional principles in favor of something equally consistent but less refined."

"[A good piece]...stretches established notions of good style just far enough to be recognizably new, without going so far beyond the norm as to alienate the listener."

My comments to that are pretty much that the second quote there has invalidated, to me, any point that this author ever has made or will make in the future. Yes, because the purpose of analyzing literature is to make sure that nobody ever reads pulp fiction, the avant garde isn't real art, and anything that doesn't conform to the exact bounds of mainstream Western-European art music is "primitive".

Unfortunately, due to the nature of the class, we couldn't really have a good discussion about the article.

In my lessons, I've mostly been working on reeds. While I find my teacher's method of reed making very easy to follow when he is demonstrating, and I absolutely love the results, I find it both very difficult to duplicate and very difficult to completely ignore when making my own reeds. As a result, I've been spending a really large amount of time on reeds recently and been quite frustrated about my results. However, my teacher's comments have been getting more and more positive, so at least I'm improving. I'm confident that eventually it will all start working together, rather than at cross purposes. We've also been working on reeds because I've had to make reeds for oboe d'amore, and also started making English horn reeds. While I was incredibly frustrated by my d'amore reeds, which my teacher helpfully rescued for me, I have to say that I was blown away by how easy it was to get a functional English horn reed. Now I just have to make a functional English horn reed that doesn't leak copiously. :-)

I'll fill you in on all of the d'amore goings on on Friday, after our workshop performance of excerpts of the Bach B-minor Mass, but I will put up a link here to some pictures showing off the school's d'amore and some rough recordings, for anyone who's never heard a d'amore, to give a feeling of the difference between it, oboe, and English horn.

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