Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The longer I go without posting...

...the longer I think it will take me to catch up here, and thus the longer I put it off. Many apologies, my quarter this fall has been truly crazy, and will most likely continue to be.

I'm in orchestra, of course, and also playing in an opera (technically the opera is from another rotation, but that orchestra has so many concerts this term that they ran out of oboists!), plus I'm playing both the Poulenc trio and sextet for someone's recital. Oh, yes, the opera is also Poulenc (Les Mamelles de Tiresias)- luckily he's one of my favorite composers! I really do love playing operas, and I can't wait until next week when we begin to rehearse with singers.

In my free time I've been doing things like playing in all-day conducting workshops, and filling out applications for musicology PhD programs. For the workshop, I had to learn Daphnis and Chloe on English horn, and the principal oboe part to Bizet's Symphony in C. Luckily I'd learned parts of both before, but I had to relearn the third movement of Bizet with B naturals instead of B flats, which was pretty hard! Muscle memory is a chore to unlearn.

Oboe-wise, the quarter has been going really well. I bought a new knife and a sharpening stick about a month ago, and they have completely revolutionized the way I make reeds. I've always been fairly happy with my rather idiosyncratic reed-making style, but I had no idea that a large part of my style was drawn from limitations imposed by my truly awful knife. I have so much more control now, and I find that I'm actually able to make reeds similar to my teacher's. The amount of precision and definition that I can get from my knife is shocking to me. I'm still working on changing my style, and getting used to having a knife that's actually sharp the way that it should be, but I'm really excited about the progress I'm making. (My teacher told me the other day, "You sound like a grown-up now!" which was pretty fabulous to hear.)

I bought both from Roger Miller, his sharpening steel and own brand knife, which looks very strange, with a very tall blade, but is actually very easy to sharpen and not too hard, though fairly different, to scrape with.

My teacher heard me play both Poulenc chamber pieces this week, and was very happy with how I sounded, which is really gratifying to hear. I do feel in general that I'm a better player this year. Some of this, of course, is run of the mill improvement- theoretically each year you should be a better player than the last- and my summer at EMF helped too. However, as I mentioned, I'm applying to musicology programs for next year, and I feel that that has also been beneficial for my playing. I feel like a weight has been lifted from me. Last year I was so very stressed, as I was trying plan a career in performance, and although applying to another round of grad school is stressful in its own way, I feel that the lifting of the "oboe performance" weight has opened me up to enjoying the oboe more and thus playing better. I feel more like I did in undergrad, when more of my energy was put towards musicality and playing the oboe rather than stressing about my career options.

Obviously I am still invested in the degree I'm currently seeking, and I under no circumstances mean to give up the oboe. But I feel this path is better for my continued mental health. :-)

Speaking of this degree, I'm trying to plan my repertoire for my second recital, which will be in February. I will hopefully be playing either the Poulenc trio or another oboe/bassoon/piano trio (perhaps the Dring?), but I'm having a lot of trouble coming up with the rest of my program. I'm looking for melodramatic, dark pieces. and also contemplating playing a Pasculli. We shall see.

Obviously a lot has gone on that I have not mentioned in this post, like my fall audition for orchestra rotations and the first orchestra concert of the year, for which I played principal on Bolero and Berlioz's Overture to Benvenuto Cellini, but this is at least some of what I've been up to lately.


Patty said...

I'm confused! Why did you learn the Bizet one way and then have to learn it another? Was your part wrong? Do tell!

racheloboes said...


There are two accepted versions of the third movement solo from Bizet's Symphony in C, and editions are roughly split on which version they print. The solo can either be played with B naturals or B flats. For our audition, we were given an excerpt with B flats, but the conductor had decided to use B naturals in orchestra (the orchestra parts had B naturals too.)

Upon learning both, I've decided that I prefer the B natural version, and that it's easier to play. Having to learn the new version, though, was really hard.