Thursday, July 30, 2009

"Up is up and down is down" - Caldwell

My least favorite place to get water? Probably the G key (or the A key, if you name that way). The one that allows you to play a tuning A for the orchestra. In rehearsal the other day, I went to tune, and instead played "ffffgurglethp AAAA gurglesdffffffff AA ffthss". I actually had to have the second oboe tune for me.

The Shostakovich 5 concert, was pretty amazing. There was a full, enthusiastic house (so much stomping on stage, and shouting in the audience), and we played really well. We did have some tuning issues, but the performance turned out to be so emotional and forceful and musical that it hardly mattered. I was really happy with my performance. I hadn't played badly in rehearsals, but I'd never really been happy with my solos. I had a hard time getting the glassy, smooth sound needed for the first and third movements, as well as finding the proper depth of emotion. At the concert, though, I absolutely could not have played them better. I was really satisfied with my performance, and I got reassuring feedback from my teachers and fellow orchestra people. It's certainly among the best concerts I've had, or maybe even the best performance; it's rare that everything goes the way you want it to. I had one person tell me that my solo in the fhird movement made her tear up, which is an incredible compliment, and very unexpected.
(The oboe does not fare well in Shosty 5: after getting "punched in the face" in the second movement, in the third movement I was to play as if I'd been stranded in Siberia and was contemplating committing suicide before I froze to death. I spent all afternoon trying to figure out how to play the solo so it sounded like I wanted to die. But it seemed to work.) It's amazing how powerful music can be.

Last week I played second in a Mozart double piano concerto and in Rachmaninoff's Symphonic Dances. And let me tell you, I got some payback for being so pleased with myself about Shostakovich. The Rachmaninoff is probably the hardest piece I've played in orchestra, aside from Daphnis et Chloe. I spent most of my practice time last week making pained and frustrating noises. That said, I loved the piece, particularly the second movement, which is a Tim Burton-esque waltz. The Mozart was obviously much simpler, but we had a lot of tuning troubles which only ended up half resolved. Or, rather, they were resolved until my reed cracked on stage immediately before the concert and I got water in all my keys. I feel that the Rachmaninoff was a poor choice for this situation, but while the concert was certainly not the best we've played, it was still fairly hypnotizing. I only wish we'd done the piece justice.

Mr. Ellis left camp early to perform in the Mostly Mozart festival, so Katie Young is replacing him these last two weeks. I had a funny moment in last week's lesson where she complimented my sound by telling me "you don't sound like you play a Howarth!" I was a bit non-plussed. I was hoping to work on reeds with her, but unfortunately didn't have a chance. I enjoyed my lessons with her; she was very nitpicky, but in a nice way. She was complimentary of my tone, but told me to work on being more expressive, particularly in Bach. I have a problem finding the middle ground in Bach. I tend to either switch off and play far too squarely and pedantically, or to go to an extreme. And while I'm perfectly comfortable with being dramatic in, for example, the unaccompanied Bach piece I played on my recital, I'm much less able to interpret cantatas correctly. I also discovered that my interpretation of one of the phrases in the Vaughan Williams concerto is something that only I do. I'm not sure how I feel about that.

I'm taking a class here called "The Business of Music," taught by Karen Birch Blundell, the EH faculty. The class is really fantastic. We've covered resumes and publicity materials, community outreach, freelancing, orchestral auditions, and keeping your orchestral job once you've won it. On one hand, I can practically hear people's bubbles bursting, but on the other hand, I find the number of jobs, the number of quality gigs, the fact that so many people are able to play music in a way that makes them happy all very reassuring.

Last night we had an oboe studio dinner, which was pretty awesome. So much insanity in so small a space. If you have never tried playing excerpts (for example, Haydn Variations, Concerto for Orchestra, Don Juan) on only your reed, you are missing out. Plus, Susan Eischeid, the 2nd oboe faculty, made us all personalized oboe reed cupcakes.

Lastly, if you have not listened to the Curtis commencement speech by Robert Levin, you should as soon as possible. "The real question is, “what do you have to say?” [...] Your job is to keep people up at night."


C.J. said...

Up is up and down is down is actually a Tabuteau quote, but details.

Congratulations on playing a concert you are 100% satisfied with! Enjoy it, relish it, and cherish it, because it rarely happens!

Sounds like you're having a lot of fun over there. Wish I could be there, but I'm baking here in Phoenix. Only a mild 111 degrees today!

C.J. said...

Hey there! So where'd you go? Did you disappear from blogworld?

racheloboes said...


Yes, I guess I did a little bit...I used to be so good at this whole blogging thing. But either I replied to you in my sleep or it got lost somewhere, because I swear I replied to your comment!

Thanks for the quote correction.

Oh I know that rarely happens. But I will take it when I can get it!

Wow- that is TOO hot.