Friday, July 17, 2009

"Do not give my secrets away to conductors! ... [diabolical laughter]" -Tabuteau

Last week I played 3rd oboe/EH in the first movement of Mahler 2 (the other half of the concert was Beethoven 5, which I was a little sad to miss out on, though I have played it once before), again under Mr. Schwarz. I was really happy to play the EH again, and Mahler (unlike some composers such as, say, Dvorak) seems perfectly capable of writing a good doubling part. Although there is a lot of very rapid switching, I'd rather that than two measures of EH somewhere in the middle. And while it's nice to play with new people and under new conductors, it was nice to have two weeks in the same orchestra. I've gotten to really like Mr. Schwarz. He's picky without being mean, offers specific compliments and suggestions, and is a fabulous rehearser. We didn't ever run out of things to work on (certainly not in a week!), but I didn't ever feel like we'd run out of time either. He also seems to work very well with students; he managed to drop a lot of information, both about the pieces and about the workings of orchestras, into rehearsals.

Our concert went well, and I got some very nice compliments on my EH playing. I feel like I'm playing much better here than at school, on both oboe and EH, and my reeds are turning out surprisingly well also. (Knock on wood!) I don't know what, if anything, I'm doing differently, or even if the difference is only in my head. I think the change in location and humidity has given my reeds a boost, though. Regardless, I'm enjoying it. I love being able to play in orchestra every day; if I could do that forever, I would. I also like the fast turnaround of new music. I'm going to be very sad to leave and have a month and a half until my next orchestra rehearsal.

This week I'm in the other orchestra, working with Jose-Luis Novo. He's a very good conductor as well, and I must say a lot easier to follow, particularly immediately, than Mr. Schwarz is. I do feel like we're a little more rushed in trying to get everything done this week, but some of that is due to having a pops concert in the middle rather than to Mr. Novo's rehearsing skills. My favorite thing about working with him is that he's incredibly evocative, both in his analogies and in his conducting. He's very dramatic and emotional, and it works for him. The fantastic thing about orchestra this week is that we're playing Shostakovich 5, and I'm playing principal. The piece is gorgeous and sarcastic and so, so sad. Plus, it has some great solos, and is a lot of fun to play. I think my favorite movement is the second, a twisted Viennese waltz.

I will say that I have never played so many tuning As in my life. I give 5 every rehearsal (winds, brass, basses, low strings, violins), which I feel is a bit much...but I bow to the will of the conductor! We had an interesting discussion in masterclass one day about giving the A; Mr. Ellis feels that it's fine to have a little bit of vibrato in your A, as long as it is still clear and on pitch. I STRONGLY disagree. I find it incredibly distracting, and also much harder to tune to. I'm curious what other people's opinions are, though.

Last week in masterclass we did excerpts; we were given several to work on, and then each were assigned one to play in class. I ended up playing Tombeau (first mvt only), and it went better than I think I've EVER played it. I wasn't expecting to bomb it, but I was surprised by the fact that it went so well. I got all of the tonguing in, all the low notes spoke properly, and I even managed to add in some phrasing and musicality! It made up for the fact that in my lesson on Tuesday, Randall handed me the principal part on Shosty 5, after which I proceeded to become completely incompetent.

This week we had a brief history of the oboe and the Tabuteau lineage, and we got to try several shawms and similar instruments, including one with a quadruple reed. It was fascinating, and a lot of fun. We got very, very silly, though. :-) The most interesting part for me, though, was getting to try a French scrape reed. It was actually very easy to play nicely, much easier than the German reed I tried. That reed had a gorgeous crow, but I had a lot of trouble controlling it and having any sort of tone. On the French reed, though, I could get a sound very similar to my own using my normal embouchure.

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