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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 (64 votes) 
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AndrewH
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November 14, 2022 - 3:41 am
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The orchestra concert went well. Not much more to say about it, especially because I haven't seen any video from it that I can post. I now have no orchestra commitments until January, which means I can focus on technique and solo rep for a while.

While I was focused on the concert, I didn't notice that another virtual orchestra video was released that I recorded a track for. There was a production backlog for a while because life got in the way for some of the people who do the mixing. It's finally getting cleared, with a whole bunch of virtual performances being released in October. So this is actually something I recorded for back in January, finally out now.

This is the first movement of the Serenade in D major, Op. 36, by the early 20th century Czech composer Vítězslav Novák.

 

I haven't recorded anything for virtual orchestras since the Boulanger piece I posted earlier, but I do have plans to record a couple more tracks this month for projects that are relatively low effort for me because I played the pieces recently: Uranus from Holst's Planets, which I played in June, and the first movement of Brahms's 4th Symphony, which I played in September.

The project that I'm planning to host, Nepomuceno's overture to O Garatuja, is on hold until my brain is less foggy.

 

Oh, one more thing: this week I discovered (via YouTube) a viola sonata I hadn't been aware of, and it's going in the queue of pieces to learn eventually. I've already gone to IMSLP and printed the viola part. It's so obscure that a search for posts in all the Facebook viola groups I'm in didn't turn up a single mention of it, which is strange given how sparse the Romantic viola repertoire is. Seeing as Brahms is my favorite composer, and Ludvig Norman had exactly the same influences as Brahms and was associated with some of the same people, it's probably not surprising that I'd like his work.

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ELCBK
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November 14, 2022 - 7:10 am
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@AndrewH -

Novák's Serenade was beautiful - really enjoyable listening! 

Thank you! 

The Viola Sonata is interesting - the last movement is crazy! 

Would love to watch/hear you play it! 

https://i.pinimg.com/originals/95/24/c6/9524c6eb44c901ed3c3b2b137b499a16.jpg

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AndrewH
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June 20, 2023 - 7:56 pm
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Lots of catching up to do. Post-COVID syndrome is still a problem; less of one than before, but as it improves I’m trying to push myself a bit more with solo rep and with being more active in general, so I end up actually being less able to write about what I’m doing!

My orchestra season just ended. I continued playing in Camellia Symphony for the whole season. In early May I felt like I had recovered enough to add a little to my schedule, so I returned to UCDSO for four weeks to play the final concert of their season. That turned out to be a little too much, and caused constant exhaustion, but at least it was only for a few weeks. I now have the rest of the summer to continue building up. I’m registered for the CalCap Chamber Music Workshop a month from now, which is going to be more intense because it’s all day every day, but it’s also only a week so I think it will be manageable.

Solo rep has been moving along, still at a much slower pace from what I used to do before, but steadily. I’m now able to play the entire first movement of the Hoffmeister viola concerto cleanly at about 85% of my target performance tempo, and all but a few tricky spots at performance tempo. I’ve also written my own cadenza for the first movement (not entirely finalized, I may still make changes), which is the first time I’ve written one for any concerto. One of these days I’m going to record the cadenza and post it, maybe some time next week when I’ve recovered from the two concerts. I’m also getting more comfortable with the first two movements of the Brahms E-flat major sonata, at the low end of the tempo range I’ve heard in recordings.

I have both chamber music and solo performance opportunities coming up, too.

In 2019, I was introduced to an informal amateur chamber music club in my area. It has two house concerts a year, in January and June, where self-organized chamber ensembles can perform a movement of a piece in front of a supportive audience of other amateur musicians. There is also a “Sonata Day” in August where string players can perform a movement of a sonata with a pianist from the group. I played the last movement of the Glazunov string quintet at the January 2020 concert, which of course was the last one before the pandemic shut everything down. The club resumed its house concerts in January, but somehow I did not hear about it because I had dropped off the email list. I’m guessing it’s because I was the last new person to join before the pandemic, and the person maintaining the club roster forgot to add me. I found out later this spring that it was back, and went to the June concert, because the social hour afterward is where people start figuring out groups for the upcoming concerts. I brought in a new member too: an old friend from college who moved to the area recently, and who happens to be an excellent pianist and interested in playing chamber music.

By the time I left, I’d signed up to indicate I was interested in playing on Sonata Day with my pianist friend (it’s not a final sign-up), though we haven’t decided on a piece yet. I’ve been working on the Brahms E-flat major viola sonata, which the pianist doesn’t know. He knows the Schubert Arpeggione Sonata very well from having played it with another violist shortly before moving here, and I’m at least somewhat familiar with it, having spent some time learning it before my spate of injuries between 2018 and 2021. So he’s going to start working on the Brahms, and I’m going to start working on the Schubert, and we’ll try to decide on one or the other in the first half of July.

I’ve also had a conversation with a violinist and a pianist about possibly playing something in January. We would need to add a cellist to play a piano quartet. Surprisingly, there isn’t a lot for violin, viola, and piano that isn’t an arrangement of something else, but I have at least one possibility in mind in case we can’t find a cellist.

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AndrewH
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July 15, 2023 - 3:05 am
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Well... I'm out of the CalCap Chamber Music Workshop, and my Sonata Day performance may or may not happen. I developed olecranon bursitis in my left elbow on Tuesday, quite suddenly, and I'm told it could take anywhere from 1 to 6 weeks to recover. I'm skipping CalCap, and at the end of next week I'm going to re-evaluate and see if I'm likely to be able to start playing by the beginning of August. That's probably as long as I can wait, because "Sonata Day" is August 12 and I would need some time to get back up to speed and rehearse with the pianist.

Because it was sudden-onset, it probably wasn't a repetitive stress injury. The most likely cause for sudden onset olecranon bursitis is blunt trauma, and it takes several days for symptoms to develop after the trauma, so I'm guessing I knocked my elbow against something the wrong way some time in the past week and don't remember it because it didn't hurt at the time and/or didn't seem like anything out of the ordinary. So... bad luck, mostly.

I'm probably going to spend at least some of the next week, as much as post-COVID symptoms allow, doing some music editing and arranging. I'm still working on a performing edition of Nepomuceno's Prelude to O Garatuja for Untitled Virtual Ensemble, and also arranging something for Marijke's annual summer project (stay tuned, you'll be invited to participate).

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Mark
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July 15, 2023 - 4:11 am
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AndrewH

Hate to hear about your Bursitis hopefully a complete recovery is just a few short weeks away

Mark

Master the Frog and you have mastered the bow.

Albert Sammons

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Mouse
July 15, 2023 - 7:44 am
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So sorry to read all of that, AndrewH. I hope everything rights itself soon. 

🐭

The Bumblebee Flies!

Please ignore any typos. My typing ability on a real typewriter did not transfer to these device key pads.

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SharonC
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@AndrewH   Sorry about your elbow--hoping for quick healing for you.

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

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ELCBK
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July 15, 2023 - 8:23 pm
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@AndrewH -

Darn!!!  I know you always have things you are working on to keep you busy while you convalesce, which is great - but that's awful news. 

My Husband has had bouts with it, sudden onset, never remembered any injury to cause it, but he is prone to gout & kidney stones which all seem to have a relationship for him (and he's not exactly eating healthy). 

Even if things are still too crazy for me to participate, I'm looking forward to seeing what you arrange for Marijke's project. 🤗 

Take care, hope you recover soon! 

- Emily

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Jim Dunleavy
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Sorry to hear that Andrew - it must be very frustrating for you.

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ABitRusty
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sorry Andrew.   thats tough not being able to play.   hope you recover quickly.

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AndrewH
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I was able to resume playing during the second week of August, too late to play the Schubert Arpeggione Sonata on Sonata Day. (Oh yes, it appears I forgot to mention we decided on Schubert.)  It turns out I may have an opportunity to perform it anyway, on a date TBD. Sonata Day was mistakenly announced as August 19 when people were signing up, and two of the people who signed up were going to be out of town on the 12th, so they arranged to have their own mini-recital on September 10, and when I recovered and resumed playing I was added to that recital. Unfortunately, this week the host had to withdraw from hosting for health reasons (these events are all in people's homes), and we're now trying to figure out a new time and place.

Orchestra rehearsals started on Monday the 14th, which snuck up on me a little because it's a week earlier in the year than we've usually started in the past. Our first concert of the season is also a week earlier than usual. It's another challenging one (as they always are):

Nancy Galbraith, Midnight Stirring
Sergei Prokofiev, Piano Concerto No. 3
Johannes Brahms, Symphony No. 2

All three are going to need a lot of practice. Brahms is my favorite composer, and a month from now I'll have played three of his four symphonies... but No. 2 has some serious rhythmic challenges in it, and some very chromatic passages that I still haven't decided on the best fingerings for. (And part of this is not having had time to practice in advance, because I wasn't playing at all until a few days before the first rehearsal.)

Other than that, the arrangement I did for Marijke this summer is live! That's in the "Start Your Own Project Here" forum.

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AndrewH
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The mini-recital ended up happening on September 10 as originally planned. My pianist ended up hosting, and we played in front of a small family-and-friends audience. It went OK for me; it wasn't the best I had played it, and there was a spot where I got lost for a moment after a page turn, but overall I'm satisfied. The whole mini-recital was recorded on video, and I'm supposed to have a video of my performance sent to me some time. I think I'd like to make a better recording eventually, but it depends on whether the pianist is willing to spend extra time doing it. (His musical schedule is getting a bit busier now, because he sings with Davis Chorale and they start rehearsals this week.)

The focus with that chamber music club now goes to material for the January house concert. I didn't sign up with a group in June, so I ended up being placed in a violin-viola-piano trio with the suggestion that we could either recruit a cellist and become a piano quartet. (There's much more repertoire for piano quartet because it's considered a standard chamber ensemble.) We asked two cellists and neither was available, so I think we're going to just continue as a trio. Coincidentally, I was placed with the same pianist I just played the Arpeggione Sonata with, and a violinist from Camellia Symphony who also played at Sunday's mini-recital. Since we knew we were all going to be there anyway, we decided to stay after the recital and sight-read through some of the violin-viola-piano trio repertoire to start the process of picking a piece. There's surprisingly little music for that combination of instruments that isn't an arrangement of something originally composed for other instruments, and most of the original music is by obscure composers, but we did find several good candidates on IMSLP.

The guideline is that we're supposed to play approximately 10 minutes of music. This realistically means one movement of a piece, or possibly two movements if they're short. After sight-reading at least one movement from each of the candidate pieces, it looks like we've ptobably narrowed it down to two pieces at this point: either Ignaz Lachner's Piano Trio No. 1, or Heinrich Reuss's Op. 25 trio for violin, viola, and piano. We're mostly looking at either the first movement of the Lachner, or the first or second movement of the Reuss, but still possibly considering other movements; everyone's going to listen to recordings before we meet again.

Ignaz Lachner may have remained obscure because his musical style was so far behind the times. He was a friend of Schubert, and composed in a similar style -- but he outlived Schubert by 67 years, and he was still composing music in that style right up to his death. For some reason all six of his piano trios were for violin-viola-piano instead of the usual combination of violin-cello-piano. The first of these trios, from which we're considering the first movement, was composed in 1851, already more than 20 years after Schubert's death. (For context: in 1851 Schumann was composing his last works, Liszt had shifted focus from piano music to tone poems, and Wagner was starting to work on his Ring Cycle.) For me, there's nothing wrong with it being a throwback to the 1820s... after all, Schumann, Liszt, and Wagner are all old music today.

The other leading candidate is the Op. 25 piano trio by Heinrich Reuss, or to use his full title, Prince Heinrich XXIV Reuss of Köstritz. (He was a member of the aristocratic Reuss family, whose male members have all been named Heinrich since the late 12th century.) I first became aware of the composer shortly after I started working on the Hoffmeister viola concerto, when I had the idea of trying to figure out a solo recital program consisting entirely of viola music composed by lawyers, and found a viola sonata by Reuss. He was part of Brahms’s social and musical circles, and his chamber music was highly regarded during his life and for at least two decades after his death before falling out of favor in the 1930s. Not surprisingly, this trio shows plenty of Brahms’s influence; one music critic even described it as “the trio that Brahms never got around to writing.”

I've struggled a bit in orchestra rehearsals, but that's in part because both of the last two rehearsals were on bad brain fog days, and in part because preparing the Schubert Arpeggione Sonata for performance cut into my practice time for orchestra music. Of the three orchestra pieces, I think only the Brahms has gotten adequate practice time. Now I have time to focus on orchestra music; I probably need about an hour to practice and record my part for Marijke's virtual ensemble project either tonight or tomorrow, and after that all my practice time the rest of the week will go to nailing down my orchestra parts before the next rehearsal.

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ELCBK
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@AndrewH -

Oh, man - I should've looked closer at what you all had it narrowed down to, because I was really taken by the Lachner Scherzo. Allegro Molto!  ...no real preference for the Reuss movements - I'm having such a hard time getting myself energized I'm gravitating toward music that gives me some (energy). 

Sending you what little positive energy I've got 🤗 so you get back to feeling 100% soon, and hope you enjoy performing what's ahead!

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AndrewH
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September 14, 2023 - 9:23 pm
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We haven't completely ruled anything out yet, it's just that we're leaning toward the movements I listed.

We liked the Lachner scherzo, but it's shorter than we'd prefer, less than 6 minutes, and there's no other short movement in the same piece that we can combine it with.

We also tried reading bits of the violin-viola-piano trios by Philipp Scharwenka and Robert Fuchs, but decided they were too much work to learn when we all have other musical commitments. (Each would probably require about a month of individual practice before rehearsing.)  Similarly, we ruled out probably the best-known piece for this group of instruments, Rebecca Clarke's Dumka, both because it's quite virtuosic and because it would have to be purchased (composed 1940-41).

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AndrewH
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September 29, 2023 - 7:14 pm
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Well... we ended up picking neither. We met again last night, and in the time in between, we had some time to familiarize ourselves more with all the pieces. We were originally thinking Scharwenka would likely be too much work, but it's mostly just hard to sight-read because of all the chromaticism in it. The piano part, which I thought might be the limiting factor, is actually a bit easier than the Reuss after a couple play-throughs. (The third movement is another story, which is why we're not playing that!)

So here's the piece. Although the first movement is marked "Andantino tranquillo" it's really not very tranquil: it's a bit restless throughout and the development gets very agitated.

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ELCBK
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@AndrewH -

GREAT choice! 

Would be perfect for this time of year, but will sound great in January, too! 

So, only playing the 1st movement?  Thought it was definitely interesting on it's own.

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AndrewH
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Yes, just the first movement. We're supposed to aim for about 10 minutes of performance time, because there will be a bunch of groups performing. (There were 7 in June when I attended the house concert but didn't play, there were typically 8-10 groups before the pandemic.) Playing the whole trio would be too much. Also, we wanted to make sure we picked something we can definitely give a really polished performance of, because no matter which of the pieces we picked, it would probably be a first impression of the composer for almost everyone in the audience.

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ELCBK
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@AndrewH -

I always appreciate you help me learn about so many wonderful Composers! 

Looking forward to hearing you play this. 😊

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SharonC
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@AndrewH  Really nice sounding piece.  Had not heard of Scharwenka before--going to check him out now smile

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

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AndrewH
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It's really weird how little music was written for violin, viola, and piano -- especially considering how much music was arranged for that grouping of instruments.

The only thing by a really famous composer was a short trio by an 11-year-old Felix Mendelssohn, which is one of his earliest known compositions and definitely sounds like juvenilia. The next most famous composer to write for this grouping is Rebecca Clarke (as mentioned above), and there's a trio by Ludwig Thuille (who is somewhat known for his sextet for piano and winds and otherwise obscure), and everything else is by very obscure composers. I find some of them underrated, of course -- I really like the Lachner, Reuss, and Scharwenka trios I posted.

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