Wednesday, October 15, 2008

A whirlwind of a week (and a half)

Last Sunday I got sick, last Tuesday I started working at my non-music job (I do research for a company that creates websites), then I had to run around like crazy to get all of my homework done because my cousin came on Friday to visit me over her fall break, and left on this Tuesday, the day of our first orchestra concert.

On top of that, I've been under the impression from Friday until about 15 minutes ago that I had a rehearsal today on oboe d'amore (I'm playing in the Bach B minor mass), so I've given myself a crash course in making d'amore reeds. I'm glad that I have some more time to get my reeds polished, because I really like to make good impressions on new conductors but I also feel a bit cheated.


Last Monday we had our first "real" oboe masterclass (since the first was mostly an oboe petting zoo), and I played part of the Strauss concerto. From rehearsal 9 to rehearsal 17, to be precise, which is the B theme and recap in the first movement. I felt absolutely dreadful, but I was fairly happy with how I played. I need to work on not playing the 32nd note runs too fast. They turn into lazy glissandos in which you can't hear individual notes. I also need to work on bringing the high notes into the phrase. I'm pretty happy with the bell-tone sort of sound I'm getting on them, but they don't connect across the bar.

I also have my lessons on Monday. I'm not thrilled about that, because Mondays are by far my busiest day (I have my first class starting at 9 AM (8 if I go and practice, which I have been) and my last ends at 9 PM), but my lessons have been going pretty well. The last two we haven't been working on reeds, which I prefer, since while I love my prof's reeds I haven't been able to make reeds anything like them on my own, and instead we've been working on the Strauss: the portion I played in class, and the second movement. He has a computer program (I believe called Smart Music) which plays a piano accompaniment along with you, with a huge list of repertoire. It doesn't follow your tempo changes generally, but it does wait at ritards and cadenzas and the like. Plus, because it doesn't follow you, it really gives you a chance to pay attention to the accompaniment while you're playing without having to worry about leading. Obviously that has some negative aspects, but it's nice to do a few times. I've also been working on a Gillet, which I'm trying to get musical and melodic, without losing my fingers. My prof wants me to prepare it for a masterclass, but I'm not sure I'll be able to get that comfortable with it. I suppose I did play one for my auditions, though.


On Sunday I met for the first time with my woodwind quintet, which was fun. We just read through a few pieces (Neilsen, Ibert, and one other I've forgotten), but the others are all really fantastic players, and we'll be able to do a lot together. We have another rehearsal on Friday, so we'll get to do a little bit more work.


Last night, then, we had the first Philharmonia concert, which was both the gala concert opening CCM's season (with $150 seats and a champagne intermission to accompany them) and the start of our Tchaikovsky festival. It was incredible.

I was up in the balcony for the first piece, Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto 1, and when the piece opened I was struck by so many things. That sound was coming from from the group I play in. That's what we sound like. I get caught up in being busy, and frustrated with classes, or reeds, or my fingers, or any other number of little things, and I forget that I'm here, I've made it this far. And while there's so much farther to go, this is my dream, and exactly what I want to be doing with my life. I don't know how to express it in words, exactly, but it was an intense moment, both the music and that on top of it. That sort of sigh exhale where your hands come up over your mouth.The pianist was fantastic. She's a student here, either masters or doctoral, and she played beautifully. She was confident, polished, and musical, and managed to lead the orchestra exactly where she wanted to go. It was perhaps the first solo I've heard that made me think "Wow. I want to do that, to play with an orchestra as well as just in one." It was inspiring.
Romeo and Juliet was the best we've played it, and I know that if it wasn't my personal best it was at least very close. It's a woodwind heavy piece, between the opening chorale, small passages throughout, the large melody section in the middle, and the closing chorale, and we managed to be very well in tune with each other. And we played our hearts out. While 1812 wasn't consistently the best we've played it, the end was certainly powerful, in the way that 1812 is, and the opening cello chorale was beautiful and intense. At that point there was nothing to save ourselves for, and we ended with a bang. Literally, since they had cannons rigged to shoot confetti into the audience at the end of the piece. Plus, we had an approximately 20 person brass choir standing in the aisles of the auditorium for the last section of the piece.The intermission was interminable, and the stage was boiling hot, but the concert was such a wonderful experience. I realize a lot of my reaction was because I hadn't had a concert since the middle of April, but I was very pleased with both myself and the orchestra.

Oh, I also was able to go hear a concert by the Cincinnati Symphony. They did Rachmaninoff's Rhapsody on a Theme by Paganini and Shostakovich's 8th Symphony, which I'd never actually heard all of before. It was very good, though there were some odd acoustics issues. However, I was on the floor, rather than in the balcony, so perhaps some of it was just my seat. I also don't approve of their concert dress, which is white tie and tails for the men, and either all black or black skirt/pants and jacket with a white shirt for the women. It tends to look very uneven in terms of level of formality, since the women have much more lee-way in their dress and the men are wearing the most formal outfit possible. Still, that's not particularly relevent to their playing, which was really great.



My next projects, other than learning my new orchestra and quintet music, are to make some English horn reeds, and finish my d'amore reeds. I ordered some gouged and shaped EH cane staples, so I'm going to see what I can work up. Although my d'amore reeds (which, for those who don't know, can conveniently be made with oboe cane and a d'amore shaper) aren't finished, I'm hopeful that they will turn out well. And if not, I now have much more time before I need them for a rehearsal.

Plus, now that my schedule, with me now working and all, has settled down, I'm going to try to regularize my practice schedule. I'm not getting as much done as I need to be, and I want to be able to play the Gillet in my next lesson. (The fact that my reeds seem to have settled down a bit- knock on wood- after having returned to my own way of scraping will help with this too. There was a while there where I felt that every spare moment I had was spent merely trying to get reeds I could play on.) I also need to find an EH piece to work on. Any suggestions?

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