Saturday, November 28, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

I hope everyone to whom it applies had a lovely and not-too-stressful holiday! (And to everyone else, I hope you had a lovely and not-too-stressful couple of days.)

I don't suppose anyone comes to the blog not knowing any thing about the oboe and these crazy reeds we have to deal with, but I thought that this was the best and easiest to follow description I've seen of what making a reed is like.

The Poulenc opera (Les Mamelles de Tiresias) went off very well. I was a little nervous going into the performances, because we did not have very many rehearsals for the orchestra, and we didn't even have a real hell week (just normal orchestra rehearsals). However, our conductor was really fantastic, really impressive considering he's a grad student rather than a professor, and we pulled it together well in the end. I was really pleased with how it all went. Though to be fair, the vast majority of credit goes to the singers. The opera and musical theater programs are the best we have here, and I'm consistently blown away by how talented our singers are.

I absolutely love playing in opera pits, and this show was short and sweet, surreal and comical but with really great music, a few nice small oboe solos, and the staging and costumes were fantastic. Very French Cabaret, in fact. It was done with the orchestra onstage and with minimal staging for the singers, and the costumes were all berets and scarves and stripes and tulle, with everyone (both male and female) wearing heavy eyeliner and red lips. The orchestra was promised berets, but sadly the budget didn't allow for it. I hope that there's some way for me to get an audio or video recording of the show. I'd love to see it.

I also had an orchestra concert - my schedule was pretty hectic for a while, as I was in effect playing in two rotations while doing the opera- which went pretty well. We did Sibelius 2, which I unfortunately did not get to play in, and Bartok's Two Pictures, for which I played English horn. I always love playing English horn, but that piece really has a beautiful part. There's a duet in the second movement for EH/clarinet which is low and hollow and so very eerily icy. You can listen to both movements here: one, two.

So now I'm done for the quarter, except for the family holiday concerts. I really don't mind playing those, though I think I'm the only person in the whole school. :-)

In lessons I've mostly been working on Ferlings. I thought that after doing the Gillet etudes for the past two years that Ferling would be much easier. And, to be honest, the slow ones are pretty easy for me. I'm glad, because this means that I can really concentrate on being expressive in them, and I'm pretty happy with how I've been doing. But the fast ones are hard! I've actually been having quite a bit of trouble with some of them (for instance, #12), though of course some of them fall much more easily (for instance, #10). Still, I'm glad that I've decided to systematically go through the whole thing. It's far too easy to decide, as I have in the past, to "just skip that one..."

I've also planned my second degree recital, which will be at the end of February. Well, mostly planned it. I'll do a Sonata in c minor by Johann Jacob Bach, the Kalliwoda Concertino, Daelli's Fantasia on Rigoletto, and Dring's Trio for oboe/bassoon/piano. There's a chance that I will play Lovreglio's Fantasia on Un ballo in maschera instead of the Daelli, which I heard a recording of and fell in love with, but I've discovered that it's actually a clarinet piece, so it will depend whether it's worth the trouble to transpose the whole piece or not. I also have fallen in love with Bissoli's Sonata in g minor, another baroque piece, but it's rather long, and I think the Bach is a better fit for my recital in terms of how much music I have and the endurance needed. Bissoli was an oboist, though, so the piece falls very well, and it's really gorgeous.

I wish that I could link to recordings of these pieces, but they're all pretty scarce. None have a decent recording on youtube, and I can't even find a recording of the Bissoli on Amazon. Perhaps some day I will put up some clips for you to hear.

I've been listening to a lot of opera music lately, mostly Baroque opera, and it's really inspired me musically in terms of my oboe playing. Particularly as I'm working on both Baroque and opera music right now. I wrote a paper on trouser roles (women playing men in opera), which led me to youtube, and, well, I sort of got stuck. Of course there are a ton of fantastic singers out there, but I thought I'd share some of my favorite discoveries. I was really (pleasantly) surprised at how well acted a lot of operas are now, and the musicality of all of these singers is just impeccable. I'm particularly impressed by Ernman, Mijanovic, and Galou. I listen and just think, "That is what I want to be able to evoke with my oboe. What must I do to get that depth of emotion and ease of expression?" It's really frustrating to me at times, but it's really inspiring me to push myself to get the results I want rather than only the results I think I can get.

But rather than me going on and on (which, believe me, I have been to anyone who will listen), I'll just post some links to youtube.

Natalie Dessay, "Air des clochettes," Lakme (Delibes).
Joyce DiDonato, "Crude furie degli orridi abissi", Serse (Handel).
Frederica Von Stade, Moon Song from Rusalka, Dvorak
La mort d'Ophélie (Berlioz), Anne Sofie von Otter
Bach, Erbarme dich, mein Gott (Matthäuspassion), Delphine Galou.
Vivaldi, "Svena, uccidi, abbatti, atterra" from Bajazet, Marijana Mijanovic
Handel, "Ah ! Stigie larve" from Orlando, Marijana Mijanovic (There are several more clips of this opera on youtube, and they're all amazing.)
Handel, "Come Nube" from Agrippina, Malena Ernman
Strauss, "Chacun a son gout" from Die Fledermaus, Malena Ernman

In other music news, I have submitted my first PhD application, and will soon submit several more! Now for the waiting...and quickly deciding if I want to apply to more places- it's a tough market out there!

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