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Showing posts from March, 2013

Women of the Wind: Musgrave Impromptu

We got our recording back!  It's less than a month since our Women of the Wind performance, and I am so pleased to be able to share some of it with you.  I would love to just stream the whole thing, but one thing that did not come across was our speaking.  Most of it was cut out, and what you can hear is dim and unclear.  What I’ll do, then, is share one work at a time, and include my introductory material to give it some context. 

We opened our program with this magnificent Impromptu by Scottish composer Thea Musgrave.  It was published in 1968, but I discovered it last summer at the IDRS convention, and was wowed from the first moment I heard it.

The piece uses the timbres of the oboe and flute brilliantly.  It's easy with these two instruments to have the oboe sound too pointy, and the flute too diffuse, and of course we had to make adjustments as we played together - but it felt easy to do.  The work lies well for both players and suits both sounds.

I especially lo…

Women of the Wind: McCormick Passacaglia

We got our recording back!  It's less than a month since our Women of the Wind performance, and I am so pleased to be able to share some of it with you.  I would love to just stream the whole thing, but one thing that did not come across was our speaking.  Most of it was cut out, and what you can hear is dim and unclear.  What I’ll do, then, is share one work at a time, and include my introductory material to give it some context. 

I was at Eastman with Dana McCormick, and this piece was composed for and premiered by one of my good friends, so I feel that I have a very personal connection to it.  It is in the form of a passacaglia, which as all you probably know is a set of melodic variations over an infinitely repeated bass line.  A famous example of a passacaglia is the Pachelbel Canon - it's also a famous canon, of course, but as you know if you have ever played the cello in a wedding, the bass line repeats over and over and over as the upper strings vary and vary the melod…

Formality and Intensity

Let me say, first, that I am all about making classical music accessible.  I consistently break the fourth wall in my solo performances by speaking and interacting with the audience, and I had that whole video thing going on in CHROMA,  and in the orchestra I support the additions of multimedia presentations and conductor speeches and sponsor speeches and interactive intermissions and blue jeans concerts and all of the other innovations that groups come up with to make music friendly, and engaging, and relevant to the new generation of symphony-goers.   I want the audience to recognize us as people, and to collaborate with us in making the experience enjoyable.  This movement in the symphonic world is a good one, I believe.

But I played the B Minor Mass last night at Valparaiso University.  The experience could not have been more different.  The group performed with a level of formality I haven’t seen in years.  The orchestra waited on stage, courteously hushed.  The choir filed in to …

The Hard Truth

I had a great practice session today.  It’s so much fun to work on new pieces after spending so much time on one recital.  I love this phase of exploring new (to me) repertoire and idly planning future performances.  I love the technical practice involved in getting new music under my fingers before the real nitty-gritty work of interpreting and analyzing and understanding gets really underway.  And I feel terrible for wasting my morning.

This stinks.  Why should the life of a twenty-first century musician be so plagued by non-music-making?  I understand, I know, I believe that the way to a career in this day and age is to be highly entrepreneurial.  I know that I need to be making plans all the time for future performances, because no one else will make them for me.  I know I need to be working on my idea for a chamber music series, and contacting presenters to ask for recital appearances, and looking for grants, and keeping up with what others are doing, and scanning music parts to p…

Upcoming Concert - the Cello!

Where did I go wrong that I don’t play the cello?  Such a beautiful instrument.  So resonant, so sweet, so soulful.  In the talented hands of our principal cellist, Lara Turner, it flows like liquid and sings like a human.  I might even love it more than the oboe, a little.   

I tried a friend’s instrument once, though, and was disappointed to find that the cello is not as snuggly as it looks.  Cellists look so comfortable with the instrument in their laps and the scroll nestled in their hair - but in reality it is a big nobbly piece of wood that doesn’t fit me as well as I had imagined.  It's hard to hold the bow properly.  The tuning pegs poked me in the ear.  My fantasy second career went up in smoke before my eyes.

At least this week, though, I can live vicariously.  Tchaikovsky’s Rococo Variations is a pleasure to play, mostly because it’s not particularly hard work for me.  With our small chamber orchestra in the lovely acoustics of the  DeBartolo Performing Arts Center, I c…

Upcoming Concert

I have loved Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique ever since I was a teenager.  It’s one of the few major orchestral works I discovered on my own rather than being assigned it, and I can still remember listening to it over and over on my Sony Discman(!) and being deeply moved by the intensity of the emotion and the feverish, eerie quality of the sound.

I remember feeling this way about certain books, too, but in nearly every case I have renounced my adoration of these.  Or at least, my grownup self knows to cringe when the prose gets too purple and the melodrama too overwrought.  I understand why I read and reread these stories of tragedy and ill-fated love and heroism, but I can’t do it without embarrassment now.

Somehow, though, Symphonie Fantastique has escaped this fate.  I still love it, though I hear the melodrama for what it is: a transparent play for our emotions.  I forgive it in spite of its too-busy orchestrations and difficult ensemble issues.  I enjoy that one overplayed tune ev…

Saying Thanks

I just read this wonderful post from Christa Garvey - The Oboist - and it struck home to me this week especially.  First, because like everyone else I was shocked and saddened by Bill Bennett’s tragedy.  Second, because I adore my colleagues and should tell them so a lot more than I do.  Third, because we have just finished our recital set and I learned something very valuable from lovely Martha which I’ll be putting into place immediately. 

In her studio at Western Michigan University, Martha Councell-Vargas TEACHES backstage behavior.  She makes a point of telling her students how to thank a guest artist, or any artist, and enforces not only their presence at events but their gracious responses.  It had never occurred to me to do this.

When I was at Eastman, the culture of the oboe studio was such that 15 people would ALWAYS meet you as you stepped off stage and tell you what a nice job you did.  Later, in lessons, Mr. Killmer would tell you what to work on and improve, but in the mo…