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Emily Grossman

New World, Battle

August 13, 2012 at 3:51 PM

As usual, the Kenai Peninsula Orchestra lacked string players this summer and wanted me to participate. I'm pretty consistent at declining, seeing as it would take up about five hours each evening, between the 90-mile round trip drive and the rehearsal itself, not to mention the obvious amount of practice time it takes to master any symphonic repertoire. All this takes place during my heaviest cooking load of the year: hockey camp. Working an eight hour shift as a commercial baker is no light physical task.

However, three weeks prior to the first rehearsal, I got an email from our conductor Tammy, saying that they wouldn't have any violists, and she wondered if I'd switch to viola. It would be me and guest-violist Michael Avagliano fromt he Madison string quartet. 1812 Overture? New World Symphony? Michael Avagliano? Sounds like a good story. I agreed and immediately began to schedule nightly increments with my 16" Jay Haide. My goal would be to knock the socks off everyone when I showed up and whipped out Tchaikovsky. Now to figure out alto clef...

Tchaikovsky begins with three flats, then adds three more, then switches to five sharps, then back to six flats, then none, then three. And I'm sure this is why it's so awesome, but it's hard to believe that it matters anyway, because it's so riddled with accidentals that the notes barely obey any key signature whatsoever, unless you really know your music theory and interval training. Then it all makes sense, and sharps and flats aren't any harder to play than anything else, thank goodness. Regardless, I warmed up with Mozart, first, to get my bearings before going to battle with 1812.

Likewise, the New World symphony lives up to its name. The viola part is chock full of modulating deedle-deedles and enharmonic puzzlements, so that each page holds its own share of surprises. But the colors! As I practiced, colors and shapes came so vividly to mind, I could visualize exactly what so impressed him upon his visit to America.

Between the two sensational beauties and the little Mozart gem, I had a pleasant workload in front of me. Not wanting to cheat, I refrained from listening to any recordings so that I would have to read the notes. Gradually, I became obsessed with mastering every single passage, so that hours slipped by effortlessly. I couldn't wait to meet all my violin friends and ace them with my viola.

Even better, I couldn't wait to meet Michael.


From Tom Holzman
Posted on August 13, 2012 at 5:52 PM
Knock their socks off andhave fun. Sounds like a great opportunity to stretch you viola-playing talents, even if it does mess up your life as bit.
From sharelle taylor
Posted on August 13, 2012 at 10:50 PM
Oh my, the best most lovely pieces in the world. I have absolutely no idea what the violas did when our community orchestra played it, I was somewhat, ahem, involved, in trying to read the V1 notes. But the whole thing will rock. And you'll rock. and the guest will be like "wow, and you did all that living in alaska! this is the best orchestra I've played with". It'll be great.
From Emily Grossman
Posted on August 14, 2012 at 12:37 AM
You're so sweet! I must say, the viola part of the Tchaik is the best. And it has some of the coolest parts in the Dvorak, too.
From Tom Holzman
Posted on August 14, 2012 at 5:48 PM
Not surprised about Dvorak. He was a violist.
From Emily Grossman
Posted on August 14, 2012 at 9:16 PM
I had my first viola solo in the Dvorak. It was a whole note.
From Kathryn Woodby
Posted on August 14, 2012 at 10:57 PM
He was, huh? Cool. New World was also one of my first viola forays--scary thing was, I was supposed to be the section coach (drafted last minute) for a high school festival--they were all very patient with me and we had a blast!

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