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Adventures of an ambitious late-starter violist
Scenes from an unconventional musical journey
Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 (21 votes) 
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AndrewH
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February 22, 2022 - 12:51 pm
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Not really related to my own playing, but I discovered today that UC Davis Symphony Orchestra is in a new TwoSet video!

 

 

If you're in a hurry, jump to 1:44.

 

I'm not sure when that took place, as it was before I joined, but it has to be quite recent, because we still have the same concertmaster and she's a recent alum (graduated in 2017).

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ELCBK
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@AndrewH -

Enjoyed the pranks - thanx! 

Nice you brought attention to bowing hand & wrist, in your previous post - you sure it's not something everyone needs continuous work on? 

Certainly hope things work out between you and your teacher's new move - sounds like it would be a great opportunity! 😊 

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AndrewH
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So I haven't posted in a while.

In March I had to stop playing for a bit because of a finger injury. Not related to playing, just a freak accident when reaching for a straw at a coffee shop. When I got back to playing, I delayed plans to perform Bach Cello Suite No. 2 because I was starting to get into crunch time on my LL.M thesis and other research papers. I decided I might do an informal performance in the law school courtyard instead... but then I got even busier because of a series of time-consuming emergencies. (Nothing super serious, just things that had to be taken care of immediately. The worst of it was two computers failing less than two weeks apart, both new enough to still be under warranty -- in fact, I'd just bought the second because I couldn't wait for the first to get back from warranty repair. I ended up driving all the way to the Bay Area a week ago to borrow my sister's clunky old laptop that she was only keeping as a backup, and FedEx should deliver my first computer back to me some time Monday.)

But I haven't missed any orchestra concerts. I just haven't had time to practice much other than orchestra music. Camellia Symphony played a program of all opera selections in March (the finger injury was two days after that concert), then both of my orchestras played concerts in late April.

UCDSO had a short (1 hour in total) weeknight concert on April 21, only about 35 minutes of music. Both pieces were quite new, but with pop culture inspirations. The first piece on the program was Argentine-French composer Oscar Strasnoy's piano concerto "Kuleshov," composed in 2017, inspired by 1920s silent film, and named after the Kuleshov effect. The other piece was Peruvian composer Jimmy Lopez's best known work, "Fiesta!: Four Pop Dances for Orchestra." Lopez's piece, composed in 2007, is heavily influenced by both Afro-Latin music and electronic dance music, which you can see in the titles of the four movements: Trance 1, Countertime, Trance 2, and Techno. ("Countertime" is not a genre, but a translation of the Spanish "contratiempo" which in many Latin musical traditions refers to the "and" between the beats.)

Here's the concert, on YouTube. The concert starts with our conductor interviewing both Oscar Strasnoy and soloist Ryan McCullough before we actually play the pieces.

More on Camellia Symphony's concert and upcoming concerts in a separate post. I also need to pull together all the quotes from rehearsals. devil

A thought on playing the rhythms in "Fiesta!": especially in something that draws so much on popular music and Latin rhythms, you have to be very flexible about how you think of rhythm. Sometimes it makes sense to mark beats in the sheet music, as I did in the second movement. But at other times, like in much of the fourth movement, it was easier to just try to feel the rhythm and not think too much about the quarter note beat. You can see how I marked the beginning of the fourth movement differently. Starting in measure 15, I didn't bother with marking beats, it's easier to just feel it. (It's at 59:55 of the video.) In the measure where the rhythm changes, I wrote in 2+3+3+4+4 which is how the measure breaks into 16th notes between the rest at the beginning of the measure and the four bow strokes in it. In measure 25, the marking (7) is there to tell me quickly that the pattern of an eighth note D and sixteenth note B-flat repeats 7 times.

20220508_004434.jpgImage Enlarger20220508_004329.jpgImage Enlarger

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ELCBK
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@AndrewH -

Really enjoyed the Concert, Andrew!   

The interview was very interesting, also.

Which parts did you find the most 'fun' to play? 

Thanx for taking the time to share this! 

 

https://i.pinimg.com/originals/58/8e/27/588e27594348841ac22e64875f01f976.jpg

- Emily

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AndrewH
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I think the single most fun part of the concert, for me, was the "Techno" movement of "Fiesta!" There was something a bit liberating about just feeling the rhythm at that speed, and the climax in the second half really sounds like a dance club while still being clearly orchestral.

One other thing: I also had a short solo performance opportunity. I played the Prelude from Bach Cello Suite No. 2 at a law school open mic in mid-April. I was originally planning to play both the Prelude and the Gigue, but the event got rained out and more people signed up to perform before the rescheduled date, so I had to cut the length and play only the Prelude. It was the first time performing from memory on viola. I'm still planning to perform the entire suite from memory at some point in the near future, it's just on hold because of the computer mishaps that have made me much more busy for now.

OK, on to the other concert I played in late April. That one was with Camellia Symphony, and it's one of my favorites of all the concert programs I've ever played. All three pieces were passionate, heart-on-sleeve pieces, in very different ways. I haven't seen any video of the concert, so all the videos in this post are from other orchestras.

The first piece on the program was Argentine composer Alberto Ginastera's concert suite of four dances from the ballet Estancia. This was Ginastera's first highly successful work, much in the same vein as Copland's "cowboy ballets" Billy the Kid and Rodeo, and was in fact inspired directly by Billy the Kid, which Ginastera saw the year before he composed Estancia. The ballet is based on the Argentine epic poem Martín Fierro and is basically a tribute to the Argentine gaucho. The ballet and the concert suite both heavily feature the malambo, a competitive male solo dance. The first and last movements of the concert suite are both malambos.

The second piece on the program was also by Ginastera, but from much later in his career in what he called his "neo-expressionist" phase. It's more modernist, fiercely rhythmic and dance-like, and breaks all kinds of stereotypes of the harp. Our soloist was Meredith Clark, who is principal harpist of the Oakland Symphony, substitute/extra harpist for the San Francisco Symphony, and heard as the harpist in many film scores.

We finished with Schumann's 4th Symphony, which is the most unorthodox and "feverishly passionate" of his symphonies. Everything about it is fluid and impulsive, taking off in different directions without warning, and the four movements flow directly into each other with no interruption. The video below is the recording that our conductor asked us to listen to, and the closest interpretation to what we were aiming for.

 

Both of my orchestras have their last concerts of the year coming up.

UCDSO performs on May 21: Wagner's overture to Rienzi, Weber's overture to Der Freischutz, the two winners of the university's annual concerto competition (a tubist playing the first movement of Jan Koetsier's tuba concertino, and a soprano singing an aria from Johann Strauss Jr.'s Die Fledermaus), and David Felder's 2019 piece Die Dämmerungen which is a symphony all but in name (4 movements, 24 minutes long).

Camellia Symphony performs the first weekend of June: Holst's The Planets and some opera selections.

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ELCBK
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@AndrewH -

Thank you for sharing those videos! 

I won't be forgetting Alberto Ginastera - totally enjoyed both of his compositions!

Also enjoyed Schumann - new to me.  That Symphony must've felt like quite the workout! 

Your descriptions are always very helpful and bring more meaning when I listen. 

THANK YOU! 

 

Btw, I'm now in love with more folk music from Argentina! 

Really appreciate you inadvertently pointed me in the direction. 😊 

- Emily

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AndrewH
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May 21, 2022 - 6:51 pm
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Well... I submitted my thesis yesterday afternoon, so I am all done with my LL.M degree. (Commencement was a week ago, but as is common with many graduate programs, I wasn't quite finished when I walked across the stage.) I haven't had much time for music other than orchestras because, after all the unlucky breaks during the semester, I had to work on my thesis until the last possible day.

Tonight is my last "official" activity as a UC Davis student: the UC Davis Symphony Orchestra's last concert of the year. It'll be live-streamed at 7 pm Pacific tonight, and available for viewing at the same address after the concert. Because it's the last concert of the year, I'll get a chance to stand up and be recognized as a graduating student.

The program:

Richard Wagner, Overture to Rienzi
Johann Strauss II, "Mein Herr Marquis" from Die Fledermaus
Jan Koetsier, Tuba Concertino, 1st movement
David Felder, Die Dämmerungen
Carl Maria von Weber, Overture to Die Freischutz

The soloists for the Strauss and Koetsier are both students; they were the two winners of the UC Davis concerto competition this year.

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ELCBK
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@AndrewH -

I want to say Congratulations, but I think this will be a bittersweet occasion for you to have to leave. 

Hope you have a big Party afterwards - I'll be watching! 😊

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AndrewH
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Ah, but I don't have to leave the orchestra! It's open to alumni (and typically 15-20 percent of its members are alumni) so as long as I'm in the area and can fit the rehearsals into my schedule, I can stay in it.

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SharonC
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@AndrewH Congrats on completing your degree--enjoy your last UC Davis concert! smile

Characterize people by their actions and you will never be fooled by their words.

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ELCBK
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@AndrewH -

ThatI forgot you mentioned that! 

CONGRATULATIONS on a GREAT CONCERT!   

I enjoyed all of it!   

THANK YOU!

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SharonC
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AndrewH said
Ah, but I don't have to leave the orchestra! It's open to alumni (and typically 15-20 percent of its members are alumni) so as long as I'm in the area and can fit the rehearsals into my schedule, I can stay in it.

Oh, I'm glad you are able to keep on! 

Wonderful concert smile --I’ve never seen a tuba solo before!    

Characterize people by their actions and you will never be fooled by their words.

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AndrewH
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Tomorrow is my last concert of the 2021-22 season: Holst's Planets along with some opera selections. No stream for this one, but here's a taste of what I'm working on, taken in rehearsal last week.

https://www.instagram.com/p/Cd-Y8NujJrx/

 

I had a chance to play solo last week: the law school is making a series of promotional videos on its students' involvement in the campus community, and had me record some solo playing and talk a bit about my involvement in the university orchestra and the importance of music in my life. I played the Prelude and the Gigue from Bach Cello Suite No. 2 for that. The video should come out some time in late summer or early fall; I'll appear alongside two of my LL.M classmates who are musicians: a classical pianist, and an oud player who plays Arab folk music.

I think I'm tentatively doing my full performance of the Bach suite some time in the last week of June. I still need a bit of time to catch up on lost sleep after the thesis sprint, and I should be free of distractions after my cousin's wedding two weeks from now.

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AndrewH
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Oh, yes, one more thing: Camellia Symphony's 2022-23 schedule was announced this week, and it looks like a lot of fun. Brahms 4 and Prokofiev 5 are among my favorite symphonies, and Shostakovich 6 is not played nearly as often as it should be. I'm also very much looking forward to Murmuring Light, the Korngold violin concerto, the Martinu Rhapsody-Concerto, and Faure Requiem.

 

September 24
Sarah Wald, NEW WORK
Elgar, Cello Concerto — with Susan Lamb Cook
Brahms, Symphony No. 4

November 5
Salina Fisher, Murmuring Light
Strauss, Four Last Songs — with Carrie Hennessey
Prokofiev, Symphony No. 5

February 18
Trey Makler, NEW WORK
Korngold, Violin Concerto — with Kinga Augustyn
Shostakovich, Symphony No. 6 in B minor, Op. 54

March 19
Beethoven, Overture to Fidelio
Dvorak, Romance Op. 11 — with Ani Bukujian, violin.
Martinu, Rhapsody-Concerto — with Alexandra Simpson, viola.
Mozart, Sinfonia Concertante — with Ani Bukujian & Alexandra Simpson

April 29
Florence Price, Andante moderato
Liszt, Piano Concerto in E-flat — with Anyssa Neumann
Lutoslawski, Symphony No. 4

June 10
Elliott Carter, Elegy for Strings
Vaughan Williams, The Lark Ascending — with Chase Spruill
Fauré, Requiem

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@AndrewH -

Loved the video & your photos!  🤗

Looks like you have a wonderful lineup to look forward to!

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AndrewH
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Cross Holst's The Planets off the bucket list!

 

I decided last-minute to take another video from my music stand in this morning's dress rehearsal, because I wanted to have an entire movement uninterrupted. Here's "Uranus, the Magician."

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@AndrewH -

GREAT video!

VERY cool to let us share the experience - like being there! 

Thanx!

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AndrewH
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A video from the concert showed up on YouTube today. One of the opera arias. I'm putting it here rather than under "Share a Video" because the focus is mainly on the singer, and because I'm only visible during the applause when the conductor moves a bit out of the direct line between the camera and me. (Before that, the only part of me that's visible is my right foot and ankle under someone else's chair.)

 

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Fiddlerman
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June 8, 2022 - 3:54 pm
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@AndrewH - I would like to hear about the freak accident reaching for the straw.
I had a weird accident that happened when I was making a video and drew my fingers over a broken carbon fiber bow. Some splinter entered my finger and I can't get it out. It's been over 6 months and it's still there. I've tried cutting my finger open but I can never see it. It's the weirdest thing that has ever happened to me. My finger hurts like crazy when the string lands in the wrong spot. I showed it to my dermatologist but she said there is not much she can do either. Perhaps a finger surgeon???Fiddlermans-Finger-Splinter.jpgImage Enlarger

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

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AndrewH
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No splinters for me, fortunately. The condiment rack at the coffee shop was some kind of synthetic material lined on both sides with sheet metal. The sheet metal on one side had separated very slightly from the underlying material, but was still so close that it wasn't readily visible. While reaching for the straw, I had a fingernail catch on the metal lining. Half of my fingernail went under the sheet metal and it split my fingernail right down the middle for more than half the length of the nail bed. I was able to pull my finger out easily and the nail bed wasn't badly injured, but I had to keep a bandage over that finger to keep the nail in place while it grew out.

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