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Showing posts from September, 2011

Upcoming Concert

This weekend I am playing John Adams's Harmonielehre with the Milwaukee Symphony.  As usual, the orchestra sounds magnificent, conductor Edo de Waart is utterly inspiring, and I am pushing myself to play better than my best to keep up with those around me.  I feel so fortunate to be able to sub in this orchestra, because their commitment to excellence, as individuals and as a group, is a rare gift. 

I've said it before, but it is  a tremendous luxury to put the time in on a difficult piece like this - not just the time necessary to get through it, but the time to learn it and play it well.  As budgets shrink throughout the symphonic world, per-service orchestras like mine make do with as little rehearsal as possible.  The norm has become juuust enough rehearsal time so the concert doesn't fall apart.  We come as prepared as possible, and spend all of our time making sure we understand the transitions and the tempi, and then perform.  In Milwaukee there is time to discuss b…

Oboe Update

So I had this oboe.  I bought it because it called to me through the internet.  I liked it, then I liked it a lot, then I liked it less.  I decided to sell it.  Two people tried it, and both seemed to like it but declined to buy it.  It came back and sat on my shelf for a few weeks, until I pulled it out to see what I still had.

And suddenly it's the best oboe in my collection!  I love it for my Chen concerto because it is so easy to double tongue even in the lower register and to pop high notes out and to sustain a note forever.  I love it to play second oboe because it is so easy to sneak in low and quietly.  I love it in my recent Big Band concert because the keys feel so small and neat under my fingers that I can lay down the complicated jazz rhythms without having to fret about my fingers - I know that's a weird statement but if I don't have to worry about the oboe I can focus much better on the music.  I loved it even in a big masterworks concert full of romantic musi…

Upcoming Concert

This weekend in South Bend we finally open our official season with James Beckel's Toccata for Orchestra, the Korngold Violin Concerto, and Brahms Symphony No. 1.  And I feel pretty good about this program.

Brahms 1 remains one of my very favorite orchestral works.  It has everything - fatefully tolling tympani, gorgeous oboe, horn, and violin solos, a deeply joyful major key string chorale melody, and a rock solid ending that leaves no doubt about when the audience should applaud.  I played this piece for the first time in Youth Orchestra in high school, and I never get tired of it. 

It's one of those warhorses that is truly overplayed, though.  I have only been with South Bend for 5 years, and I know I have performed it here at least once before.  There is so much great repertoire out there, and I am hard-pressed to explain why we would repeat a piece this soon.   Do people really want to hear the same pieces over and over again?  Across America, orchestras are struggling to …

It Feels Sooo Good.

We moved over the weekend.  And we'd been working on this move - around all of our normal work and teaching and baby-wrangling - for a good month beforehand.  So for weeks there has always been a new busywork project at hand.  Packing boxes, wading through phone trees calling utility companies, buying paint and blinds, changing locks, pricing appliances, scraping bathtub caulk, gutting said bathtub, hanging a new surround, installing curtain rods, lugging boxes around, searching fruitlessly for the one cable that would actually make Sesame Street possible - everything else in my life has been on hold.

At this point it feels like I have always been running around multitasking with projects all around me in various stages of incomplete.  I walk into the kitchen and remember that I was about to hang pantry shelves.  I go in search of the drill and find it in the bathroom with Steve, who immediately recruits me to hold a big piece of plastic up to the tub so he can make arcane marks o…

Upcoming Concert

I am playing with the Fort Wayne Philharmonic this week, and we are doing Mahler's 4th Symphony.  I have never played this piece before, and I am having a fantastic time - the orchestra sounds great and it is a pleasure to play such a large-scale piece. 

This music is such an enjoyable challenge to play.  It is sooo romantic, and every bar - every beat, sometimes, has a different character.  The colors change constantly.  Every minute is fascinating, and challenging, and beautiful.  As a player I am engaged all the time. 

It's a treat, too, to discover this great work from the relative safety of the second oboe chair.  I can sit in the middle of the action and listen and enjoy everyone else's musical ideas and gestures while my job is merely to make the oboe work in the low register.  And I can do that without too much stress, so I'm having fun. 

I really hope the audience enjoys this piece.  Although I love playing it, in my preparation I have struggled to pay attenti…

Easy is Hard

The memorization I'm working on now is one of the hardest things I have done. 

I am about a month and a half out from performing Qigang Chen's Extase with the South Bend Symphony, and I can play it.  All of the hardest parts are secure in my fingers and memorized - I've been over them enough hundreds of times that I almost can't help but play them all the way through once I start.  A few other notey passages are close enough that I'll easily have those with just a little conscious effort.  And I do have a good grasp of the form and of what comes next most of the time.

It's nice that my playing and teaching work is starting up again, too.  I have a lot of solo hours in the car coming up this week and next.  I'll be listening all the way through the piece every time I leave home, and that will be invaluable in terms of hearing my entrances, memorizing the orchestral cues I need to know, and developing my sense of the energy arc that will be required.  My p…