Thursday, March 4, 2010

It is finished!

I gave my second Masters recital on Friday, which means that although I'm technically only half done with my degree requirements (I have an excerpt board and a written exam left), I have finished my recital requirements!

I'm fairly happy with how I performed. I frankly don't know why I programmed the music I did, given that my two main issues when performing are endurance and missing notes from nervous fingers, because my program was long and quite technical. Both problems did crop up in my recital, but I will say this. I loved all of the music I performed. I never got sick of it, and I didn't only like the music, I liked playing and performing it as well.

I had some dramatic reed problems in the week leading up to my recital, and although I made a very large number of reeds, I ended up playing my recital on a reed which my teacher helped me with. Although I'm disappointed about that, I was very happy with my tone throughout, even as I got tired. I did get nervous about endurance during the second and third pieces, but there were really only one or two places that it affected my sound. I was mostly able to keep in tune as well, though there were a few jarring notes. I feel that I communicated the affects of all the pieces and I was confident on stage. In general everything went well, and I didn't let my mistakes unduly influence the rest of my playing.

However, I can't say that I'm satisfied with my performance. I had some fairly dramatic finger issues in a couple passages, and I did get tired a little more quickly than I anticipated. My problem, really, is consistency. I took things too fast, I was messy, made a lot of mistakes I shouldn't have. Of course I played better when practicing, and in rehearsals. But the difference shouldn't have been so drastic. I'm disappointed in myself because I feel I didn't deliver a performance representative of my best ability. I was listening to some opera a few days after my recital, and I realized that part of the reason I feel so disappointed in my performance is that I've had an ideal in my head all quarter of the fantastic, flawless opera singers I've been listening to so much. I've been basing my performance, my stage presence, and everything else on the inspiration I've gotten from these singers. I had adjusted this ideal in my head to what I thought was feasible for me, but I still didn't live up to that. Mostly because I guess I just didn't practice my fingers enough, but also because I had a much less accurate idea of how stress and adrenaline would influence my playing that I though I had.

The trio, which ended my recital, went fabulously, though.

Now that I'm several days out, I'm actually feeling more ambivalent (in the true sense of the word) about my performance. I can't let myself be wholly satisfied with my performance, but I'm very happy with how I sounded for most of it. (One of the other oboists here, told me that my tone made her happy. Which made me happy.) Am I still kicking myself for missing all those notes? Yes. Do I recognize that most of the time I played very well, and if I hadn't missed those notes I would have been incredibly pleased? Yes.

If you're interested in listening to my recital (after I've said so many disparaging things about it!), I've uploaded it to Youtube here. It will come up in reverse order: my program, as listed in the post immediately below this one, is Sonata, Signor Bach; Concertino, Kalliwoda; Fantasia, Daelli; Trio, Dring. I'm having a very hard time being objective about my performances, so any comments are welcome, though merely "you missed a bunch of notes" would not be particularly helpful. I've also added two other recordings, from last fall and last spring respectively, which I'm particularly happy with.

And now I am very excited about getting to learn some new music (another minor Baroque sonata, another opera fantasia, a couple Bach arias) and playing bel canto opera scenes in orchestra with perhaps my favorite conductor of any I've worked with.

In non-oboe news, as I've said before, I applied for musicology programs for next year. I've been rejected from several, but I've been accepted to both Case Western and Tufts and waitlisted at Cornell. I'm still waiting to hear from Oxford. Now I must begin the process of deciding which school I want to attend!

Program Notes: Recital, Winter 2010

Sonata in c, "Signor" (Johann Jacob) Bach
Concertino, J.W. Kalliwoda
Fantasy on Themes from Giuseppe Verdi’s “Rigoletto”, Giovanni Daelli
Trio for Oboe, Bassoon, & Keyboard, Madeleine Dring

“Signor” Johann Jacob Bach (1682-1722) was one of Johann Sebastian Bach’s brothers. He was an oboist for the King of Sweden, and also played the flute. While it is not known for certain that he composed this piece, which is only signed Signor Bach, it seems likely that J.J. Bach both wrote and performed this work; contemporary sources provide versions for flute and oboe.

The Sonata is simple and short, with four movements, each in simple binary form. Because it is so short, there is minimal space for development, but Bach tends to introduce each theme and then provide some gentle variation. His alternation between slow and fast movements, though there are not specific motivic links between the movements, also helps expand the form of the piece. The writing is characterized by echo effects and repeated motives, but his melodies, despite their naivety, are beautiful and evocative.

Johann Baptist Wenzel Kalliwoda (Jan Křtitel Václav Kalivoda) (1801-1866), born in Prague, was a composer, conductor, and violinist. After a touring career as a virtuoso violinist, he worked nearly his whole life in Donaueschingen, a town in southern Germany very near the present day Swiss border and eastern Austria. He was a prolific composer of symphonies, operas, masses, and, obviously, chamber works. David Hurwitz describes Kalliwoda’s music as “thrilling, and it strikingly anticipates or echoes so much of 19th century music--from Berlioz to Dvorák to Wagner, and even Sibelius,” and I can’t help agreeing. Written in the 1844, this Concertino seems to anticipate the music of Viennese operettas and waltzes some twenty or thirty years before their flourishing. Although the manuscript is lost, a contemporary set of parts exists, and the piece was evidently written for a friend, the oboist H. Reuthen.

Though it is not based on any specific operatic material, the highly theatrical sound of the Concertino cannot be denied. This is typical of Kalliwoda’s salon music, though his symphonies tend to be more dramatic and serious. Though the movements of the Concertino are all attacca, they are very clearly delineated. The first movement is a march made up nearly entirely of dotted rhythms which plod along until a passage of flurrying motion at the end; it exudes the slapstick humor of a comedic opera. The second, slow movement features beautiful and highly dramatic soaring melodic lines. In ABA form, the first theme is peaceful and calm, while the contrasting second theme is stormily but genuinely emotional. The third movement evokes nothing so much as the whirling ballrooms of Johann Strauss II and the many characters to be found within them. The movement ends in almost frenzied excitement while still maintaining the piece’s light, comic energy.

Giovanni Daelli (1800?-1860) played solo oboe at La Scala Theater in Milan, and also taught at the conservatory there. He lived in an age where copious amounts of virtuoso music, much of it in the form of opera fantasias, were being written for nearly every instrument except the oboe. (This was perhaps due to the fact that mechanical advancements had occurred much earlier for other woodwind instruments than for the oboe.) Like Pasculli some 50 years later, Daelli was perhaps frustrated with the lack of virtuoso music for the oboe, and so composed this Fantasia on Rigoletto.

The piece is undated, but was first published by Ricordi before 1855, when it was listed in a German catalogue of oboe music. Giovanni Ricordi and his son, founders of the publishing house, were close friends with Verdi, and Daelli likely knew him through his position at La Scala, so it is probable that Verdi gave permission for the publication of this piece. The fantasia consists of melodies, most notably Caro nome and Tutte le feste al tempio, and variations. Both of these melodies are played by the oboe in the opera, and are sung by Gilda, the unlucky daughter of Rigoletto. The piece ends in a dramatic rising chromatic scale and emphatic chords highly reminiscent of the opera’s final notes, but changed from a horror and sorrow filled minor to a triumphant major representative of the oboist’s efforts, if not the subject matter.

Madeleine Dring (1923-1977), was an English composer who studied with Gordon Jacob and Ralph Vaughan Williams. Most of her compositions are fairly small scale chamber works, but she also composed incidental music for the stage. According to her website, “she was also psychically gifted, which gave her a wider than usual perspective.” Dring’s husband was an oboist, which accounts for her numerous pieces for the oboe and their highly idiomatic writing.

The Trio will be played tonight with piano, but is written for either piano or harpsichord. Elements such as rolled chords and high, music box-like passages seem explicitly designed for the harpsichord, but others, such as the slow, legato second movement seem much more natural on the piano. This odd dichotomy is evident in much of the trio, which combines markings like “alla baroque” with harmonic language ranging from chant-like parallel motion to jazzily dissonant chords. The Trio is also characterized by short, overlapping phrases, and a very close partnership between all the instruments, but especially the oboe and bassoon. The abrupt endings of the first and third movement are typical of Dring’s writing, as is the light-hearted and playful sound.

For citation info, please contact me by leaving a comment on this post, or emailing racheloboes [at] gmail [dot] com. Please credit Rachel Becker if using quotes/specific information from these notes.