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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) 

February 27, 2024 - 12:00 am
Member Since: September 30, 2014
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Thanks for posting these clips, behind the scenes working are interesting. 


Master the Frog and you have mastered the bow.

Albert Sammons

Sacramento, California

April 7, 2024 - 9:05 pm
Member Since: November 5, 2017
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So it’s been a while again. The post-COVID fatigue and brain fog were especially bad in late February and for most of March, but it was probably more from exertion than anything else. (It’s mostly post-exertional malaise now, where I don’t feel tired when I’m in the middle of activity but it hits me the next day.) The Brahms/Bruckner concert wiped me out for a full week. I’m not quite at the point of looking for full-time work yet, but I’ve started going to events in the legal community, and I’ve also started working on my required continuing education hours for the 2024-27 cycle, because as long as I have time I might as well get as much of that out of the way as I have the mental bandwidth for. Also, I may not have mentioned this before: I’ve been serving as my orchestra’s librarian since July. Normally it’s not a whole lot of work, and it comes with a small monthly stipend, but our April concert was an unusual amount of effort from a librarian perspective because half of the concert consists of opera selections. I had to go through the full opera scores and confirm start and end points with the conductor, and then extract the necessary pages from each of the instrumental parts on IMSLP (which were all for the full operas). This was probably more work than the previous four concerts combined.

At least the actual orchestra music has been relatively easy since the Brahms/Bruckner concert. Our March concert was our annual Rising Stars concert featuring young soloists (typically either conservatory students or recent graduates). The two main pieces on it were the Grieg piano concerto and the Sibelius violin concerto, both of which I’ve played in orchestras before. We also revived something we used to do annually before the pandemic, a side-by-side performance with the youth orchestra we operate, where each of the youth orchestra string players shared a stand with one of the adult musicians for a short piece. This year’s side-by-side piece was Grieg’s “In the Hall of the Mountain King.” Although I wouldn’t call the orchestra parts for either of the concerti easy from a technical standpoint, it was easier for me because I had played everything on the program before – in fact it was my first time playing an orchestral concert where I had played everything before.

And now we’ve had our first two two rehearsals for our next concert at the end of April, which will consist of Verdi opera selections (the Prelude to La Traviata, and a variety of arias), followed by Beethoven’s 6th. Again, it’s a relatively easy program for me because the Beethoven is familiar: I played it three times (in three different orchestras) in the last three and a half years before the pandemic, so it’s mostly about getting my fingers reacquainted with music I know well.

This gives me extra time to work on solo repertoire and technique. I’ve found excess tension creeping into my playing again, especially when practicing the Brahms sonata I’ve been working on, so my last two lessons have centered on relaxing my left hand when playing on the lower strings, and economy of motion in my bow arm. I have a few warm-up exercises (without the viola) that may help, and I’m practicing one-octave scales entirely on the C string for more relaxed shifting.

I’ve also probably sorted out my chamber music club plans for the next year. My trio has become a piano quartet with the addition of a cellist (who happens to be an adult starter, with the big advantage of having been an excellent violinist when he was younger). After taking a long time to work out a rehearsal schedule (everyone had a busy February and early March), we finally met in late March and read through a number of pieces. Because we have limited time before the next house concert (first weekend of June), we decided to go with something that’s less of a technical challenge, and we’re playing the third movement of the Mozart G minor piano quartet. We’re also tentatively planning to take on a bigger challenge for next January, the first movement of the Rheinberger piano quartet. The Rheinberger is something we’re all excited about because we get to introduce the audience to a beautiful, very underrated work that was actually once considered standard repertoire. It was one of the most popular piano quartets in the repertoire for about 50 years after it was composed, before falling out of favor in the 1920s.

Sacramento, California

April 7, 2024 - 9:35 pm
Member Since: November 5, 2017
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Just thought it would be good to include some recordings of the piano quartets I have lined up for the next year.

Here's the Mozart G minor quartet. We're working on the third movement (starting at 17:30), which is actually in G major.


And here's the Rheinberger piano quartet; at the moment we're planning to work on the first movement of it for next January. Another fun fact about Rheinberger: he's probably the most famous person ever to come from the European microstate of Liechtenstein. Today he's known mainly for his organ music and choral music, and also for teaching a number of prominent composers (most notably Richard Strauss), but this quartet was one of his two most successful pieces during his life; it and his piano concerto were considered standard repertoire for decades.

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