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@Fiddlerman & @AndrewH -
😖 Geez, you guys need to get yourselves some inner hazard radar working... or some REALLY GOOD INSURANCE on your hands!
Michael Flatley insured his legs for £40 million - your hands/arms are worth a lot, too.
Rev up that 6th sense, before anything else happens!
...just don't call on MY Doctors. (lol)
I suppose I should post an update.
As you may have already seen in "Share a Video," I finally got around to performing Bach Cello Suite No. 2 in full as a solo mini-recital, two weeks ago. I needed to recover from the series of emergencies that disrupted the end of the semester, and then needed to knock off a bit of rust from having barely practiced the Bach for a while. The performance ended up being rather spontaneous: I decided to schedule it only a week ahead of time, and picked a spot in the UC Davis Arboretum that I thought matched the meditative character of the piece. I was deliberately keeping it informal, and putting it in a place where random passers-by could stop and listen. I had a few friends there in person, and a few more (along with my viola teacher) watching on a Facebook Live stream.
After that, I took a week off from the viola, and then got started on my next musical projects.
I've come up with another arrangement for Marijke's annual worldwide collaboration, which should be announced soon. I can't say what it is yet, but I'll just mention that 1) it's a movie theme, and 2) it's going to be somewhat easier to play than last year's Legend of Zelda project.
This week I'm making another recording for Untitled Virtual Ensemble: Uranus from Holst's The Planets. I've practiced it a little just as a refresher; I don't need to practice it a lot because I just played The Planets in June. (Note that I posted a video of Uranus in rehearsal from my music stand earlier in this thread!)
I'm also getting ready to host my first UVE project. UVE relies on members to propose and "host" projects, which means providing parts and click tracks, handling sign-up sheets as needed, and receiving submitted recordings. (I don't have to do the mixing or video production; there's a production team that can handle that.)
I'm not keeping this one secret: the piece I'm hosting will be the overture to Alberto Nepomuceno's unfinished/abandoned opera O Garatuja (The Scribbler), and I'm anticipating having all the materials ready some time around the middle of August. Nepomuceno was the first notable Brazilian nationalist composer, and fought a long uphill battle to get Brazilian folk and popular music accepted in the concert hall. During his life, he was often criticized and ridiculed in the Brazilian classical music establishment for using folk melodies and popular rhythms, for adopting Brazilian percussion instruments, for writing Portuguese-language vocal music, and even for socializing with popular singers and songwriters. Most of his music is rarely played today, but he almost singlehandedly paved the way for the much more famous Heitor Villa-Lobos.
Here's a live concert recording of the overture:
I'm also jumping back into live performance next week, for just one week. I'm playing in the orchestra for the Elk Grove Strauss Festival, which is a big dance show that takes place on an outdoor stage at the end of every July. The music isn't hard (it's all Viennese waltzes, polkas, and such) but it's still a pretty intense week: orchestra rehearsal on Tuesday, dress rehearsal with dancers on Wednesday, and then four performances on Thursday through Sunday nights.
One other thing of interest: I've been invited to join a newly formed string octet to play video game music, with some really excellent musicians. We'll meet for the first time in August and figure out repertoire and possible performance opportunities. The person organizing it, who plays violin in Camellia Symphony, has written some of her own arrangements of classic Nintendo themes, and is encouraging everyone else to arrange music and/or bring any arrangements they might have.
I tend to hurt myself on a regular basis. The problem is that I don't hesitate to do things with my hands, play sports, sailing, or anything fun.
Julian Bream was the same as you, Pierre. Other performers wear gardening gloves all the time. I probably would! My nails are very fragile, but luckily I don't need them for violin, uke or flute (guitar was different), but I bit them most of my life, so I'd like to keep them looking reasonable. I split one the other day and superglued it to protect it. Nothing as bad as Andrewh's accident, though.
I've barely practiced since the Strauss Festival, because the day after the last performance I tested positive for COVID and was sick for a week. I've been testing negative since Monday, but I still have a cough and a bit of lingering brain fog. Here's what's coming up, anyway.
While the Strauss Festival was going on, I had my first (and so far only) lesson since my mini-recital. There was some discussion of what's next in terms of learning solo repertoire. I'm going to resume working on the Brahms E-flat major sonata, which went on the back burner when I started running into all kinds of emergencies during the spring semester.
In addition, I'm going to learn one of the two major Classical era viola concertos. When I first got to where most students take on a Classical concerto, about 15 years ago, I skipped over them entirely and went straight into Romantic pieces because, even though I had a really agile left hand, I had underdeveloped right hand technique, so some of the Romantic repertoire avoided a weakness and played to my strengths. Now that I'm taking lessons and retooling technique, it's a good time to go back and learn either the Stamitz D major concerto or the Hoffmeister D major concerto. If the long-term goal is to be able to go to a professional orchestra audition and not look out of place*, I have to learn at least one of the two. I'm not sure yet which of the two I want to work on, and my teacher just asked me to read through both and see if I prefer one or the other. They present different challenges: the Stamitz involves a lot of double-stops on the lower strings, the Hoffmeister has much less double-stopping but goes high into the upper register much more. At the moment I'm leaning a little toward the Hoffmeister, for completely non-musical reasons: it turns out that, like myself, Hoffmeister was a lawyer.
* Note: Typically a professional audition is likely to ask for: choice of one of the "big three" 20th century concertos (Walton, Bartok, Hindemith), choice of one of the two major Classical concertos (Stamitz, Hoffmeister), a movement of unaccompanied Bach, and some orchestral excerpts.
The group project I arranged for Marijke is now live. It's posted in the "Start Your Own Group Project" subforum. I'm posting the project intro video here too.
It turns out there's a full video of one night of the Strauss Festival, probably the Friday night show. I wish the audio better, but it is what it is: in order to be heard across a large outdoor venue, each musician had an individual lavalier mic, which is not great for the sound of string instruments. But it gives an idea of what the show looked like. Every year there's always some story that they insert a lot of waltzes and polkas into; this year it was Alice in Wonderland.
Still haven't had a lesson this month, due to continued post-COVID symptoms (some brain fog and coughing, both gradually getting better but not gone), and my teacher is busy performing at a music festival this week anyway. So I'm just slowly working my way through the Brahms and Hoffmeister.
With the Hoffmeister concerto, I'm finding that I may have to make a decision as to what notes to play at a few points. As I mentioned when I posted an early progress video, the edition I already had on my shelf is a terrible one, where the editor takes a lot of liberties with the notes beginning on the second page. I now also have a Henle Urtext edition, with lots of scholarly notes on the source material.
And now I'm going to get a little nerdy about this. It's a very ironic situation because Hoffmeister was better known as a music publisher than as a composer -- he founded the publishing house now known as Edition Peters, he was Mozart's publisher for some time, and he was Beethoven's first publisher in Vienna. But his viola concerto was not published until after his death, even though he could easily have done it himself at any time. There is no surviving manuscript score. What survives from Hoffmeister's lifetime is a set of hand-copied parts, which appear to have been prepared by three different copyists, none of whom were Hoffmeister himself. These parts were most likely used for multiple performances, by at least three different soloists who all made markings in the solo part. Some of these markings are in pen, which makes it hard to tell in certain places what is original and what was changed later. The Henle edition contains extensive notes on this, which helps.
But there's one spot in the first movement where I think I'm going to have to make a decision. That's measure 79. In the source material, the solo viola plays double-stops in a D major chord, and the orchestral parts show a B minor chord. In the International edition (first picture), which I'm not using (due to lots of other editorial changes), the editor corrects the orchestral parts to D major to match the solo part. In the Henle edition (second picture), the editor corrects the solo part to B minor to match the orchestral parts, but there's a note at the bottom of the page about it. Other editions are divided on this: some use a D major chord, others use a B minor chord. And the recordings on YouTube are likewise divided.
Unless my teacher strongly objects, I'm probably going to go with B minor both because it's easier to play with small hands, and because the Henle editors have discussed their reasons for it. But it illustrates some of the things that one may have to think about when playing older music, and why choice of edition matters.
Monday night I jumped back into a Camellia Symphony rehearsal, which is the most strenuous thing I've done since coming down with COVID. I was just planning to see how it went, given that I still have fatigue and brain fog (and now that it's been four weeks it's officially Post-COVID Syndrome a.k.a. "Long COVID"). The rehearsal itself went better than I expected considering that I was sight-reading with some brain fog. And I actually got through the whole thing, which I wasn't sure I'd be able to do, but after that one rehearsal I was more wiped out than I've been in months. I'm probably not going to play in UCDSO in the fall quarter, because with my slow recovery I probably won't have the energy to handle two orchestras. (Especially not a university orchestra that rehearses twice a week.) I'm hoping that stretching my mind a bit by playing in one orchestra will help a little with getting back up to speed so I can start the job hunt; fortunately I can afford to take an extended break right now and was able to keep student health insurance until the end of the calendar year, so I'm not under that much pressure if my health takes a while to recover. If I have time, I'll try to rejoin UCDSO in the spring.
One interesting thing: I'm no longer the only late-starting string player in the orchestra. One of the new musicians this season is a cellist who started learning in 2009, in her mid-20s. There are now two of us carrying the banner for ambitious late starters in an orchestra where the majority of the musicians have music degrees.
I already posted the full season's programming earlier; now that I have one rehearsal under my belt, I think it's time to go into more detail about the first concert, which we'll play on September 24.
The first piece on the program, which we commissioned from San Francisco based composer Sarah Wald, isn't in yet. I'm not sure what to expect. I've looked up the composer and listened to some of her other works, and they're in a variety of different styles. Some of them are minimalistic (maybe a bit like John Adams), some are abstract and atmospheric, and some draw from Sephardic Jewish folk music. It'll be interesting to see which direction the new piece takes.
We rehearsed the other two pieces, the Elgar cello concerto and Brahms's 4th Symphony.
The Elgar cello concerto is one of the most iconic in the repertoire. I haven't had a chance to hear it in person before, so getting to play it is a real treat. It's rarely programmed by community orchestras because, even though the notes in the orchestral parts aren't that difficult, coordination with the soloist is especially difficult. The soloist has license to play with a lot of rubato, and many passages are marked "colla parte" (with the part) which means the orchestra has to follow the soloist's tempo changes. This also means a lot of the work will probably have to be done only when the soloist joins us for the last two rehearsals.
Brahms's fourth and last symphony is another of the great masterpieces. Like the Elgar cello concerto, it is contemplative, melancholy, even tragic. I'm happy to get to really play a Brahms symphony for the first time. The only other time I ever "played" a Brahms symphony before was my very first time in an orchestra. I got my undergrad degree at a science and engineering school with a small student population and no music department, so the orchestra couldn't really be very selective. They let me sit in the back and play whatever I could, even though I had been playing for about a year completely self-taught and was just starting to figure out third position, and the first thing I saw on my music stand in a rehearsal was Brahms's 1st Symphony. I faked at least 75% of it, if not more. That was more than 20 years ago. I've now played viola for more than half of my life. Even sight-reading with a post-COVID brain fog, and in spite of the awkwardness of some of Brahms's string writing (which gets very pianistic at times), the only passage I really had to fake in Monday's rehearsal was one where my brain fog kept me from reading a lot of ledger lines above the staff in tempo.