Sunday, July 5, 2009

"The [tuning] A should be the Voice Of God" : John Mack

We had our first concert of the festival on Friday, a joint concert between the two orchestras. (There are two student orchestras, and one faculty orchestra. We rotate between the two student orchestras, and fill in the faculty orchestra if necessary. The nice thing about this is that it means there's no "top" orchestra, and we get to play with more of the studio. Plus, it gives the teachers more power to assign us to specific pieces. Normally one orchestra plays on Thursday and one on Friday, but since this week was abbreviated, we shared.) This concert was Roman Carnival and Foote's Symphonic Prelude to Francesca Rimini by the ESO, and Copland's El Salon Mexico and Ginastera's Four Dances by the GSO.

As I mentioned, I played EH in the Berlioz. I felt really solid about my solo all week, a few cracks here and there, mostly on the first G, but my reeds were behaving and I tried to follow every nuance of Mr. Schwarz's interpretation. The rest of the piece I was a little shakier on; tonguing is not my strong point, and that piece is nearly made up of only tonguing. But I did my best. Plus, the orchestra was having a lot of trouble staying with Mr. Schwarz. I know that many of the winds were playing by ear to find the tempo and the beats, rather than going off of the baton. I watched really closely one rehearsal, trying to figure out why we were having such difficulty, and I have to say, I'm not sure. Taken out of context, Mr. Schwarz's beat pattern is clear and precise, and the problem is certainly not a lack of personal force. But for whatever the reason, every time the tempo picked up, we became uncertain and confused. This isn't to say that we were falling apart every rehearsal. We certainly weren't. But there was an uncomfortable undercurrent in every run-through.

The concert went well, though. We rushed a bit in places, and ended up rather dragging the slow section, something which may have been my fault, but we sounded flashy and brilliant and completely in style for Berlioz. All in all, a very good performance. I was pretty happy with my solo; I didn't crack the opening G, and the acoustics in the hall are brilliant, but I got a little cocky and cracked that first slur to the F#. Still, I think I sounded pretty nice, and had I not cracked that note, it would have been my best performance. I know that Mr. Schwarz was very happy with my playing in general, at least. (And I got some great applause, particularly from the orchestra, which really made me feel good about it. Of course I want the audience to like my playing, but getting recognition from my peers means so much.) I've gotten out of the habit of thinking of myself as a good EH player; there are so many people in my studio who are better than I am, or who I at least percieve as being much better, but I really enjoy playing EH, and I think that I'm playing it better here than I ever have.

Speaking of orchestra, I have never played somewhere where they were so considerate of our ears! Every wind player sitting on the stage left end of the row has a sound shield, as do the back row of violas, protecting us from the brass. He also had the brass move from two rows to one for rehearsals so that it wasn't as loud for them, and he told the percussion to move over so they weren't playing directly at the horns. I still wish our strings sat 1st/2nd/vla/cello, rather than 1st/cello/vla/2nd, but at least I won't go deaf! :-)

Each student here plays in a chamber group, and I'm doing the Neilsen quintet. I'm a little disappointed to be playing the Neilsen, because I played it in spring quarter with my quintet at school, but it is a great piece. The first rehearsal was a little bit awkward, since it was coached and we hadn't received the music beforehand. I think it would have been much more productive to either have time to look at the parts before having a rehearsal or to have a coach the second rather than first rehearsal. However, our second rehearsal was much improved, and my quintet is pretty great. The flutist in particular is a really good player and a fantastic rehearser and leader. This piece does make me miss my quintet, though! Two of them graduated and are moving away.

I got to have a short EH lesson with Karen Birch Blundell before the concert. She looked over my reeds and fixed one up a bit (though I didn't end up using that one for the concert).I played the solo for her also, and while she didn't really give me any musical/interpretive advice for the solo, that was all right. I wasn't really interpreting it myself anyways, just following the heck out of Schwarz. But she gave me a few tips for making notes speak more easily, and double checked my adjustment.
She suggested that we have an EH reed making lesson after the concert when it'll be okay if I completely screw up a reed. I'm looking forward to it, because my EH reed advice has pretty much been "It's easy! Go do it!", and her reeds are fantastic. Very unique also, with a very long tip, much longer than I've ever seen on an EH reed. I'm interested to try making one.

We have masterclass once a week also. We didn't play in class this week, but we've been given several excerpts to learn for next time. He's going to draw excerpts out of a hat and have us each play one. I found out also that Mr. Ellis has subbed a bunch in Wicked on Broadway, and that the Wicked book is oboe/EH/bass oboe. Now I really want to play that show! You know how much I love playing in pit orchestras. :-)

My work study here is ushering, which I actually enjoy. All of the patrons are so excited to see us, and it's of course nice to have such an enthusiastic audience. Plus, by ushering I automatically get to see any faculty performance for which I'm working. So far I've worked a piano concert and last night's faculty concert, and attended a chamber concert. I'm trying to go to as many as I can, though sometimes I just have to take a night off and make reeds.

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