Tuesday, September 19, 2006

 

Performance


In three short weeks, our string orchestra will be playing one piece as part of a local "Evening of Classics" series in Soldotna. The string group from Homer was originally going to join us and we were to join them the next night in Homer for another recital. Then the Homer concert was cancelled, and today we also learned they weren't going to join us at ours. That left us a little short-handed, since there were only 9 players at last night's rehearsal - 7 violins, 1 viola, and only 1 cello :( Four of the players were new last night, with three missing from the previous week.

We'd worked quite a lot on "Swedish Rhapsody" for the recital, and I thought we were getting closer to a decent run-through. But with only two more full rehearsal sessions and then a brief rehearsal the evening of the recital, we were probably reaching quite a bit. I guess the Homer group was going to fill in the gaps. With their absence, our conductor decided to set aside Swedish Rhapsody and instead play something quite different - "Knock on Wood", which is all pizzicato for all players. We'd only looked at it the first time last night. My challenge is accurately counting all the rests in the piece. I worked on it briefly this morning - and did well enough, I guess. I had put a lot more effort into Swedish Rhapsody, and was actually beginning to think I might be ready with three more weeks of dedicated practice.

As we played through several pieces in last night's rehearsal I noticed that every time we started a new section, EVEN THOUGH I'D WORKED ON THESE PIECES AT LEAST SEVEN SEPARATE TIMES IN THE LAST WEEK, I would first mess up royally, sometimes just stopping after getting totally lost. On the next runthrough, I'd at least get the notes right; and finally, if we played it a third time, I'd even get the timing (more or less). What's new for me is hearing others playing something different - not only different pitches, but different timings. I think it might help if I could listen to the first violins a few times separately, while reading along in my score. Then the rest of us, playing together without the first violins, so we could hear our part. Then all together.

Each day, after warming up with a few scales and shifting exercises, I reluctantly start up the metronome (on slow, although today I increased the speed one notch - 4 bpm). Why do I dislike the metronome so much? Maybe because it's such a struggle to play against. It takes several tries before I get there. Several times I had to stop, count it out loud against the tick-tock, play pizzicato a time or two, and then I'd pick up the bow and it would come together. Using the metronome has really helped me with the Bach pieces. With a little effort they come out pretty good! So, why doesn't this positive feedback (admittedly from my own ears - but aren't we our own harshest critics?) make me more enthusiastic about the metronome? In a way, because I'm having to flail around with rhythms and tempos on pieces I'd "thought" I had long since mastered, just trying to stay with the metronome, it feels as if I've taken a giant step backwards.

Two cello references on TV recently. The new Studio 60 had a character mention something was "as unlikely as me suddenly learning to play the cello". Tonight's episode of House began with the Prelude to Bach's Cello Suite No. 1.

Comments:
That metronome is just an evil little task-master, if you ask me!

I didn't realize your orchestra was strings-only. An all-pizzicato piece sounds like fun, but I would think it would be difficult to stay together. I hope you'll get to play that Swedish Rhapsody again someday.

Hey, I think your last post Cellonightmare affected my dreams-- I had a cello nightmare of my own. All I remember is some guy tossing my hardcase (cello inside) down a cliff, and me watching it tumble, wondering how broken the cello would be at the end.
 
Your nightmare reminds me of a real-life nightmare that happened to Memo Ma earlier this year in Boston. Apparently he had just parked his car and stood his cello case with his new Jay-Haide cello on the street while getting something else out of the car. The case fell over, breaking the neck of his cello. We had just been comparing notes about our respective cellos. I think he's since had it repaired.

I'm also hoping we'll continue with the Swedish Rhapsody regardless of the concert. The cello part isn't that challenging, but the piece sure sounds good when it all comes together.
 
Dang, what's the point of a hard case if a simple little tumble like that will break the poor cello's neck? Poor Memo Ma!
 
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