Sunday, September 12, 2010


Spending 5 weeks in Italy playing beautiful music with talented people was a truly amazing experience.

It was the first year of the festival, so there were a few wrinkles; our housing was disappointing as the festival staff had been mislead as to what would be available for us, we had no cooking facilities, internet was spotty, and schedules sometimes very last minute. But the town of Spoleto is very excited that we've based the festival there, and so they are on our side to make next year run more smoothly. There were some personal wrinkles, too. I, and the rest of the oboe studio as well, had some very trying reed times, in part because of the airplane trip, in part because of the slightly different climate and altitude, and in part, I think, because we all felt so frantic about the whole thing. It's always harder to make a good reed when you feel like you need one immediately right now or else! Of course, by the time I returned to the US, I had some really beautiful ones which were in turn ruined by the return flight. A shame, but I'll just have to make some more!

However, the negatives of the festival were overwhelmingly eclipsed by the positives. There's really too much to say, but I will try a little bit. I played an orchestra concert in a 19th century opera house, chamber music in a chapel-turned-recital-hall, and an opera in a 17th century opera house. I was also able to sight-read a ton of woodwind quintets with some really great players, sneak in a few extra reed lessons with my teacher, and go on trips to Rome, Assisi, the beach, and a vineyard, not to mention exploring Spoleto and mountain behind it.

I think that Annunziata Tomaro, who conducted the orchestra concert I played in as well as the opera, is fantastic and inspiring, so I was very excited to get to work with her again. I was also excited to play The Rape of Lucretia again; it's a beautiful and incredibly moving opera. I actually had a chance to watch part of it in a piano dress rehearsal, and it brought me to tears. Credit to Britten, but also to our singers. 

I got to do some reed work with my teacher with some last minute "wait! before you leave..." tips and hints, and although I'm still struggling with my English horn reeds, I've never made better oboe reeds - "grown up reeds," as my teacher calls them. The halls helped with that. The Teatro Nuovo, where the orchestra played, has a tall and deep stage with no shell, and reeds have to project and ring more than anywhere I've played. Of course, Caio Melisso is completely different. The pit has an extremely low ceiling (perhaps 5 foot 10?), and as such, everything ricochets off the floor and ceiling; reeds have to be extremely covered and very, very soft. The latter is much more challenging for me than the former! In the end, I was able to spend some time in the pit working on reeds, and I'm not sure I could have made the reeds I did otherwise. I'm not quite sure what I did differently - I was more careful around my tips, I think, and my tips were longer, with a hint of the "double tip" my teacher prefers. My definition was more pronounced, and my rails more even. I suppose what I really did was concentrate and do the right things, rather than the wrong things. Easy, huh?

I loved playing in orchestra, and I loved playing in the opera, but one of my favorite parts of the festival was my woodwind quintet. I didn't have a regular quintet this year at school, and I missed it! I loved playing Summer Music, and I also loved the time we spent reading quintets for fun. I probably played more quintets in those couple of sessions than I have in the whole rest of my life! Well, perhaps not quite. But I had a lot of fun, and I got to read through pieces like Ligeti 6 Bagatelles, D'Rivera Aires Tropicales, some arrangements of Mozart and Rossini overtures, Milhaud La cheminĂ©e du roi RenĂ©, and other pieces with really fantastic chamber musicians. 

Spoleto is also, of course, home to the very prestigious Festival dei Due Mondi, founded by Gian-Carlo Menotti.  There is a distinct, and very exciting, possibility that in the future CCM Spoleto will become more strongly linked with the Festival. However, this year although we picked up about a week after the Festival closed, and were only in our first year, our chamber music concerts were consistently standing room only, and we had very good turn out for the opera and for our final gala concert. I intent to return next year if at all possible.

I will put up a few of my pictures so you can see the city and concert halls!

Unrelated to Spoleto, I have two new recordings on my youtube, both Bach with soprano, one on oboe and one on oboe d'amore. I played on the singer's recital in the spring, and I had a lot of fun. Beautiful music.