Skip to main content

Exciting Upcoming Concerts

The South Bend Symphony has a great concert this weekend that I've been really excited about. If you are in town you should definitely try to attend, as it features Prokofiev's thrilling Symphony no. 5 AND our marvelous concertmistress, Zofia Glashauser, playing the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto.

However, I will not be there. This Friday and Saturday I am playing Strauss's Ein Heldenleben with the Milwaukee Symphony, and loving every single minute. This orchestra sounds spectacular, and here's why. They rehearse. They have plenty of time to really listen to each other and get things right. This morning, our service was a wind sectional, which blew my mind. Almost 2 full hours with only the winds and brass, just on this one 40-minute piece. The conductor worked with us on every detail. Intonation, articulation, ensemble, balance, style. And still we have another full orchestra rehearsal tomorrow as well as the dress.

I haven't sat in a winds-only rehearsal since playing in the Civic Orchestra of Chicago, a training orchestra that I worked with right after college. It's a student-y thing, NOT because professionals can't benefit like CRAZY from breaking things down and focusing on ensemble and intonation, but because orchestras at the level that I usually work in do not have the time or the resources to really dig into those details. We run a piece through once, have a "working rehearsal" in which we make sure it won't fall apart at the transitions, and run it once more at the dress, and that's often all we get.

I haven't been asked in a long time to examine my part this closely, and to re-explore my role in a chord or really blend with an Eb clarinet for the two notes we suddenly unexpectedly have together. I ask this of myself, of course, but what a splendid change to be taught and to have the time to work at it! To have to really concentrate and focus for two hours on the complexities of this fantastic piece. I felt like I'd just run a hard 10K - the same sense of concentration and work and triumph though a lot less sweat.

I'm sorry to miss the SBSO concert - it was the one I most wanted to play in our season - but I am so delighted to be subbing up here this week. I love my life.


  1. I know this is late, but I attended the Ein Heldenleben performance by the MSO on Friday (and the concerts last week, too). It was phenomenal. I can only imagine what a winds-only rehearsal would sound like. The final chord in Ein Heldenleben is blissful live, and it must've been amazing to literally be inside the chord.

    Do you know if you're playing in any other concerts that require at least three oboes and an English horn?

  2. Why, yes I am! At least, I'm playing Die Walkure this weekend, and enjoyed our sectional rehearsal today despite the threatening weather...

  3. I'd love to attend the Die Walkure concert, primarily because of Emanuel Ax, but I've been to the past three concert series and forty minutes driving both ways takes a toll on money.

    Once again, the winds-only rehearsals must sound wonderful. I can't help but pry by asking if you auditioned for the principal oboe spot recently. I'm curious, because Stephen Colburn is retiring after forty-four years and a new timbre, I think, is in order.

  4. I did take the audition; I did not win. What a lovely orchestra this is, though - if an opening appears again I'll try again.

  5. Ah, yes. I actually heard that nobody won. It's a pity, because the MSO deserves a new oboe sound in that first chair. Believe it or not, but Stephen Colburn doesn't sound "ducky" enough. His timbre is, I think, too bright, but his technical ability is still there. I'm looking forward to seeing what the new season looks like, especially the Carnegie Hall concert, both of which should be announced soon. I wonder what dramatic oboe pieces are to be heard.

    (same person, new username)

  6. The Milwaukee Symphony's 2010-2012 classics season has been airing on WPR (Wisconsin Public Radio) and WFMT (in Chicago) since the beginning of June, and I just wanted to say that this week, the Ein Heldenleben concert was aired. I have to say, the entire concert was extremely exhilarating and the Strauss was much better than I remembered (simply because I've heard the piece more since the actual concert). I listened to the oboes when they were exposed and you really sounded great in the high register (which is where you were a lot).

    I have to ask, as a violist: what was it like sitting near the violas during Ein Heldenleben, especially in "The Hero Goes to Battle"? That section is probably Strauss' most difficult string writing and the MSO's strings, especially the violas, are some of the best in the nation. Were you too engulfed in the sound to hear them?

  7. You know, it was fabulous. As you say the strings in the MSO are world-class, and sitting in the orchestra feels like being, well, right in the middle of the orchestra. It was inspiring and uplifting and I was NOT too busy to notice.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Discouraging Words

I can remember at least two old cranky violinists coming to talk to young me about NOT going into music.  There was a session, for example, during a Rochester Philharmonic Youth Orchestra retreat in which a real RPO professional (who was probably 47 but whom I remember as ancient) told us that, statistically, no one who graduates from music school wins auditions for jobs because there are only like 4 jobs out there in the world and 7000 hotshots coming into the job market every week. 

Quit NOW. 

I may have misremembered the details of this speech, but I remember the emotional jolt.  It was designed to discourage.

Last weekend I was presenting at a Double Reed Festival, and heard some oboists grumbling about another presenter who had evidently given something of the same talk to a roomful of masterclass attendees and participants.  High school students and cheerful adult amateurs.

And look, there's an element of truth to this.  Classical music is not a growing field, and it is leg…

Shaq and the Oboe

Here’s my FAVORITE thing about that Shaquille O'Neal video everyone's sharing this week - it’s how HAPPY he is playing this silly game and how little he CARES what the oboe actually SOUNDS LIKE or how to play it. 
Almost as if the oboe is not a giant obstacle to overcome.

Instead of focusing on the CRAFT of the instrument, the precise fingerings, the quality of the sound, the finesse of the vibrato - his focus is on DELIVERING the SONG.   It’s on COMMUNICATION, not perfection.

What a LIBERATING concept!

When I am playing my best, I find that I can surpass the STRUGGLE and come to a place where my focus is on communication.   I can sing through the instrument, and I can use that voice to reach out and find someone else.  This is really what being In the Zone means for me - it's when I don’t have to engage with the OBOE and instead can be generous with my VOICE for the audience.

I seek and strive for this Zone all the time - it’s the whole point of practicing! I practice long…

Warming Up - Long Tones

I must not talk enough about warmups. I say this because recently, in my last lesson ever with a student leaving for college, I was mentioning something about my warmup regimen and his jaw dropped. Apparently long tones and intervals and scales with varied articulations are not part of his daily routine, nor had it ever occurred to him to use his band's warmup period to improve his playing. And I'm not telling this story on him, but on myself. Obviously I need to address the warm up period because it is fully half of the playing I do, and sometimes more.

Much of practicing is focused on learning a specific piece - either something you are performing at a specific time in the future, or an etude for your lesson, or the piece you're playing in band or orchestra. You are working on the specific problems or techniques that that piece requires. Of course you are working in as efficient a way as possible, and at the end of your practice period you can play the passage or pi…