Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Mozart Preparation

I'm working on Mozart this month.

On March 24, I'll be playing the Mozart Oboe Concerto with the Northwest Indiana Symphony.  It's a piece I've performed many times, but it never gets easy. Working on it in my room was feeling more like a chore than a pleasure - all those scales!  All that busywork!

Last week I went in for a lesson with a colleague, which was intensely inspiring, and exactly what I needed. It was a stand-out moment - I've known the Mozart for a long time, but I've been out of the habit of thinking of it as a big deal.  I started at the beginning and immediately she stopped me and demanded MORE.  More energy, more quality, more sparkle, more PLAYING.  We spent two hours working through the entire piece and I was glowing with effort and joy the whole time.  THIS is what working on a concerto is supposed to feel like.

The soloist's job is to be the hero.  To bring the appropriate energy to the piece of music, to set the tone for the orchestra, to fill the hall with sound, emotion, and intensity, and to take the audience on a real journey.

It's a difficult thing to practice, in your own familiar practice room in your own home - or at least it's difficult for me.  So that's been my project this week. I'm honing my interpretations, and working at managing the energy I need - I can't over expend it and run out by the end, but to use less than my potential would be un-heroic.

Specifically, this week I am doing a mental run through of one movement every time I go out for a run. I'm working to be mindful about my musical choices, without overthinking them - because in the moment I still reserve the right to make changes!  I'm doing a physical run through of one movement each day, focusing on being BIGGER in my ideas, my dynamics, my intentions.  I'm making sure that I am using my energy actively throughout each movement and never backing off and "phoning in" the notes.

I'm still a work in progress...

Here's the great Francois Leleux tearing up this piece with the Frankfurt Radio Symphony.




Friday, February 17, 2017

CD Release Concert!

My studio has turned into a black hole for sheet music.  Two weeks ago I lost - completely lost - an envelope of music that I'd been sent to prepare for a gig.  Fortunately, that envelope was full of photocopies, that music was public domain, and I was easily able to print it off from the internet, learn my part, and then play from the orchestra's originals when I showed up to work - but this was unprofessional and unlike me.

Then, today, I searched through three large stacks of material for my Gershwin and Debussy arrangements.  I have another CD Release Recital this weekend and I thought I'd brush them up, you know? My focus had been on the solo Bach pieces as I performed them last Monday for a South Bend Symphony press event, and somehow the other works went entirely missing.  Fortunately, they are MY arrangements, and I have plenty of copies and could even have just printed them off from the computer again - but still.

What's the next thing to go?

Possibly my brain.  Or my entire head.

BUT now let me tell you about my next event.  Paul and I will be at First Presbyterian Church in Michigan City, IN, next Sunday at 3.  That's Central Time.  I'll play some of the material from my CD (Music That SHOULD Have Been Written for the Oboe, available at Amazon, iTunes, CDBaby, and jennetingle.com!)  I'll play a great Bach duet with violinist Nic Orbovich, founder of the Michigan City Chamber Music Festival.  It clearly should have been written for the oboe.  AND I'll offer a movement of Mozart's terrific Oboe Concerto, as a preview of my performance in Northwest Indiana next month.

The concert is free and open to the public.  There will be a reception afterward, and PLENTY of CDs to purchase if you are so inclined.  I can sign them.  I'd love to chat.  This will be FUN.

Please come out and join us!

Friday, February 10, 2017

Upcoming Concert

Northwest Indiana Symphony is performing tonight out in Schererville.  I'm enjoying this concert quite a lot.

Dvorak's 8th Symphony is a classic of the repertoire.  Like everyone else, I've been playing it since I was in youth orchestra, and its not a work I usually get excited about.  But there's something really pleasant, sometimes, about playing a piece that is uncomplicatedly, unironically lovely, and well written for the instruments, and full of catchy tunes.  It surprised me how much I enjoyed the first rehearsal on it.  And the second. In general I prefer a darker work, with edge and grit, to challenge my ear and my technique - but this is a nice piece and it's nice to just play something nice.

My favorite part of the concert, though, is the concerto.  Manuel De Falla's Nights in the Gardens of Spain is a terrific piece that I did not know before.  It's impressionistic, rich, lush, delicate, danceable, and just a real joy to play.  Our soloist, Yana Resnik, is outstanding.  She's got a beautiful delicacy to her sound and touch, and yet plays strong, beautiful phrases and uses her rubato masterfully.



Come out and join us!  Details HERE.

Friday, January 27, 2017

A Christmas Miracle

Right at the end of last year, right as I was sailing into the last Holiday Pops concert of a long season, I made a reed.  It was a good reed - one of those reeds that is good right away, so I didn't have to wonder or waste time fussing.  I liked it as soon as I made it.  It had a perfect balance of resistance and response, the sound was rich and vibrant, and it did what I wanted without having to be forced.  It was even colored just right for a holiday pops concert.







I played four services on that reed - one right after another, for three days - and it never required an ounce of maintenance.  No cleaning, no polishing, no refine-the-corners-again-and-clip, no worries at all.  Just soak it up and play all the music.  I called it my Christmas Miracle.

Subsequently I took a couple of weeks off, and when I came back in January it was STILL a great reed.  I recorded an audition CD on it.  Played it on a Mozart concert.  Put it away for another few weeks and then used it for our exciting Muses's Workshop chamber music concert last weekend.  It was still gold Monday night and I played it for my CD release concert.

It's incredibly rare for a reed to be that good for that long, so although I am not a measurer or a saver I decided to record this one's specs for posterity.

Let me say, I'm very much a math person in my life.  Numbers are my friends. I LOVE a metronome.  But my approach to reed-making is much more intuitive, and much more about reacting to the individual piece of cane I'm working on.  I don't generally take any micrometer readings at all, and use my length benchmarks only as a guideline.   The numbers I'm going to cite here would mean more to me if I was more aware of my norms - but I'll be interested to be able to look back on this during a reed slump sometime, or to hear from other oboists as to how these compare to their own standards.

The reed was wound on a 47mm brass Sierra tube.  I would have wound it at 73mm (that's a number I stick to) although I didn't make specific note of that at the time.  Who knew it would be so good?

As you can see, the cane cracked just above the thread on both sides.  This is a thing I don't like, but I don't automatically discard a blank with this issue - and a good thing, too, in this case!

Shape: Samson+1
Finished length: 70.5 mm
Height of rooftop (at the gutter): 65 upper blade, 65.5 lower blade (It is NOT intentional that the upper blade sits lower than the lower blade.  Don't know why it happened.)
Bottom of heart: 60 upper blade, 60.5 lower blade (Again, the  asymmetry is unintentional - if this had been a reed I had to fuss with I would have fixed it.)
Thickness, center of heart: .51 mm
Thickness, center of tip (a little back from the very tip.  How do we indicate that spot, people who measure things?): .15 mm
Thickness, corner of tip: .08 mm, quite symmetrical for all four corners

So interesting, right?  At least, I mean, to the five people who are still reading, not to all of the people who clicked into this post expecting a heartwarming story of some sort...