Skip to main content

Posts

Showing posts from October, 2013

The Oboe is Not Your Friend

A student emailed me last weekend.  He had a competition coming up and wasn’t happy with his reed situation. He asked for some cane and some advice, and closed with this sentence: “It's interesting how I am consistently having oboe problems right before a performance.”

Well, what oboist can’t relate to that?  It’s a stupid instrument, prone to cracking, water in the keys, adjustment problems that slide in under the radar and debilitate the low notes, and above all, reed issues.  These tiny pieces of wood represent the interface between the player and the instrument, and have everything to do with articulation, tone, pitch, dynamic, and the simple ability to play the oboe.  One crumb or shred of cane gets into the reed, it stops vibrating.  It starts raining outside, the reed swells and becomes harder to play.  And just when you think you’re doing all right, and you have a reedcase full of greatness, and you pat yourself on the back just a little, something else happens.  It becomes…

Upcoming Concert: Bernstein!

I have loved the music of Leonard Bernstein since I was a little girl.  The songs and scores to West Side Story and Candide are in my blood, along with Trouble in Tahiti, the Mass, and just about everything else the man wrote.  The melodies are just so achingly gorgeous, with just the right amount of darkness in the harmonies underlying them, and the dances are impossible to ignore.  Joyful, energetic, ecstatic, tragic, transformative. 

We’re playing suites from Candide and West Side Story tomorrow night, accompanied by vocalists and dancers from IUSB.  For me a huge highlight is performing the Symphonic Dances from West Side Story with actual dancers.  It chokes me up a little to see these beautiful young people able to show such energetic, beautiful, characterful drama with their highly trained bodies, and it’s a thrill to have something so visual and physical on the stage where we normally perform in polite rows to a quietly attentive audience. 

Our concert is Friday night this wee…

Upcoming Concert: Mozart!

I’m not playing the South Bend Symphony concert this weekend, and I’m sorry to be missing it.  First, this concert features the Chamber Orchestra, which is not quite as liberating as playing actual chamber music, but which is  a lighter, more responsive instrument than the full ensemble.  We can rehearse faster and make more delicate nuances with this smaller group, and we get to play in Notre Dame’s spectacular DeBartolo Performing Arts Center. 

Second, our principal hornist, Kurt Civilette, is playing a concerto with the group, and that man can really really play.  I’m already biased toward wind players, because there’s something so human and intimate about creating sound with your breath, and because we just don’t see them out at the front of the stage often enough.  I’m of course biased toward my friends, and since Kurt joined the orchestra and the wind quintet last season we’ve been running together, working and playing together, and have even hung out socially on occasion.  But …

Upcoming Concert - Scheherezade!

This week I am subbing in the Illinois Philharmonic Orchestra, playing Scheherezade and a 2007 Michael Daugherty Piano Concerto called Deus Ex Machina. This is exactly the kind of program I love to do - there’s a new work which is thrilling and energetic and which the audience will not have heard before but will undoubtedly respond to, and an old warhorse which is popular for very good reason.  Nothing not to like here.

Deus Ex Machina is a tribute to trains - the first and third movements are full of driving rhythms and crunchy, whistly tone clusters,  and the second (which I’ve only listened to -  we’ll rehearse it tonight) is deeply moving and tells the story of Abraham Lincoln’s funeral train as it traveled from Washington, DC, back to his home in Springfield, IL.   Which, irrelevantly, is where my first real orchestra job was located.  I’ve visited Lincoln’s Springfield home, and his tomb there.  I feel warmly toward the town.

Meanwhile, Scheherezade is Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s ex…

Is It Just Me?

I’ve just left Ohio University, where I performed my CHROMA recital, which I love so much, for a small but enthusiastic audience.  I was in town for two days, and managed to take in a fascinating masterclass by Stephen Secan of the Columbus Symphony and to hear the university orchestra perform and to enjoy Dr. Michele Fiala’s Mozart Oboe Concerto and to have a reed-making session with a pair of students and to play in some oboe ensembles with Michele’s delightful studio.

I rehearsed Sunday night with Ohio University’s piano professor, Youmee Kim.  She is marvelous, and nailed all of my repertoire without even breaking a sweat.  We played through everything once, rehearsed a spot or two, and then it was all just fine, which is exactly what you want from your professional piano accompanist. 

And I am publishing this after our performance, and indeed everything was just fine. We had a great time and the audience seemed to enjoy it all.  But.  This thing.  Does this happen to other people,…

I'm Back!

Somehow, astonishingly, the last time I published anything here was two weeks ago.  Since that time, my orchestra had its first huge masterworks concert (The Planets, the Dvorak Cello Concerto, Short Ride in a Fast Machine), I had two amazing rehearsals with colleagues for a chamber music thingy we’re doing in November, I gave a solo recital in Chicago, I was interviewed for an in depth article, I hosted a Barret Night masterclass at Valparaiso University, I mailed more than ninety hand-made reeds, and I just today had another two hour meeting with my grant-writing partners at The Music Village for my spring chamber music series.  Tomorrow I leave for Ohio University, where I will perform a DIFFERENT solo recital  - CHROMA - on Monday.

Topics that occurred to me - that every evening when I went to bed I thought, Oh, I should wake up early and write this up for my blog! - included the amazing transformation of my orchestra from a bunch of rusty, summer-tired musicians to a tight, exciti…