Thanks to Niel's inspirational reply to my last blog, the viola section in my orchestra has voted re-named Die Moldau to "DIE Moldau! DIE!" It reminds me of a few seasons ago when the brass section renamed Firebird to "Free Bird". Moldau however, did NOT turn over in his grave when we played it for the first time Monday night during rehearsal. He may have stirred a bit, but did not roll over.
During tonight's lesson, we started with Moldau's Death. Joel said that he always wanted to adapt this piece as an etude. Well, he got his chance and Moldau is now my assigned etude with different bowings and rhythms, complete with instructions on the back of the first page with different rhythms and bowings to practice with. It is replacing my Sevik finger exercises for the time being as an exercise in switching bewteen 1st, 2nd and half positions on the lower strings, and string crossing exercises.
Bruch is now in its final polishing stages, at least for the first page. I guess my vibrato is coming along nicely enough that I've been instructed to vibrate on any note that is one beat or longer. Like in the Nike commercial - Just do it! I do not, however, need to polish my trills. Trilling is one of my strong points. Maybe I should try the Devil's Trill next?
My trio group is gelling nicely. We have most of Dvorak's Terzetto down except for about 5 measures in the Larghetto movement which has many accidents, er... I mean accidentals :) We came up with a name for ourselves. Instead of "The Trio Group" we are now the "Dartos Tali Trio". "Dartos" refers to a ligamentous structure, as in cohesiveness (our first violinist is an MD)and "Tali" means "strings" in Malay (the Malaysian language).
I took my latest set orchestra music to lessons tonight (Joel got excited). He started leafing through everything and then.... "ARGGGHHHHH! OMG! They are having you guys play Die Moldau?!?! This is where you wish you were a first violinist!!! They get the easy part!" So with that great encouragement, we proceded with most of the lesson tonight on that one piece, and only a few portions of it.
ARGHHH is right! Constant 16th note runs for about 5-6 pages - 1st pos to 2nd to 1st to 2nd and so on and so forth. After your left hand gives out, then onto a page or two of right hand excercise. We are going to be exhaused after this one.
Some interesting stuff this season. Besides Die Moldau, we are playing Jurassic Park, Sonata Da Chiesa (Corelli), Elsa's Procession to the Cathedral (Wagner), Ballet Egyptien No1 (Luigini), and Andalucia.
This is from after the concert tonight...
My father had a bit of technical diffculties with my camera, so I did some fun effects. it is fun sitting in front of the tuba player :)
This will be my 3rd concert as a violist in the Hillsboro Symphony. My father is making the drive from Washington to come listen to me again. Each concert comes easier and easier for me. The very first one 9 months ago I was nervous, scared and even after much practice and several rehearsals not very prepared to play in an orchestra. This time, I feel that I'm ready and really looking forward to the event. I've taken a few days vacation so that I can decompress and focus on my music (as well as weeding the garden, spring cleaning, and sleeping in late).
Lessons tonight went very well. Bruch is coming along nicely and I have managed to add some vibrato to the piece. A major event!!! My teacher has been trying to teach me an arm vibrato. We had an AHA moment when he realized that I was gravitating to a wrist vibrato. After a little bit of gear shifting, the vibrato came, a little tenatively at first, but then later with more gusto. I was sent home with some new fingerings (of course), working from practice marks E-G (only one page remaining!), more vibrato exercises, and some stylistic recommendations/orders, and a compliment on my achievements to date.
I've done more recordings of myself during home practice times, and played a piece back to my father the other night when we were talking on the phone - my latest attempt at Bruch with vibrato added. He asked for me to burn a CD for him when he comes out this weekend. I got a "Dad's thumbs up". I haven't had a recording yet that I would put in public ear yet (Niel!!), but getting closer to having a debut per say.
After some inspiration from this site, and realizing that I had never heard myself play before, I bought a Sony IC recorder (about $150). It is easy to use, portable, good sound quality, and I can download it on my PC.
So, I set to recording myself practice today. Not so bad! In fact, if I may compliment myself, pretty darned good - for the pieces and sections I know.
Day 2 and the gut strings are still stabilizing. I tuned them one whole note above pitch the other night, and tonight they were about 1 whole note below pitch. I wonder how long they will take to settle in? Once they do, I've decided to move them over to the 16" viola for a trial run.
The last few months have been busy ones musically (and will be for several months ahead):
Monday nights is orchestra practice (concert is this Friday... check out the v-com calendar!). We strings are playing Haydn's 101st Symphony, Anderson's Bell of the Ball, a miliary march by Sain-Saens, intro to Lohengrin by Wagner, and Bach's Fugue in G Minor (viola solo!!!).
Wednesday nights are lessons: focusing on vibrato, shifting and Bruch's Romanze. I'm now on page 2, practice marks C to E + 3 measures. D to E are especially challenging. There is a jump from 3rd to 5th postion on the G string mid-bow stroke, back down to 3rd on the D, then 2nd on the A, and 1st on the A. I find myself playing on the wrong strings sometimes. Vibrato is coming along well. I have "graduated" to practicing vibrato while bowing at the same time. Not so bad! I can hold a vibrato now on one note for a whole up-bow. For my next trick, I will do 2 notes on the up-bow! :)
Thursday nights is with my trio group. We are working through Beethoven's Trio in C Major, OP 87, Bach's 15 Terzetti, and Dvorak's Terzetto. The 4th movement, Tema Con Variazioni is a challenging but typicall viola part in the molto allegro section - string crossings from open C to an increasing scale on D with 1/16 notes going from 3rd position down to first at fff. We're debating performing in this summer's farmer's market in town.
Who needs a gym?!?!
I'm looking forward to tomorrow night. Instead of practicing/playing, I'm hosting two of my colleagues (day job) from China/Singapore for dinner - home-made curry chicken served with rice adn greens seasoned with belechan (sp.).I've got this feeling however that they are going to ask for a viola recital. They've seen me tromp in and out of the office with my viola in-tow for the past two weeks, asked to see it, and showed a great interest in what pieces I was playing.
I was inspired to try gut strings (wound for starters) from a recent discussion. It was something that I had always wanted to try but never got around to it. Well, my first set of gut strings (Eudoxa) came in yesterday.
I debated all day today on which viola I should try them out on - the old 15" or my 16". Considering that I have a concert next week, I decided to try them on the 15". The first challenge was figuring out how to install loop ends vs. ball ends. Once I got past that hurdle, then came tuning. I expected instability but WOW - they were stretching WHILE I was tuning them! So after awhile I got them sort of in-tune and gave them a spin.
My first shock was not about the strings but how small the 15" really is in comparison to a 16" instrument. It has been about a year since I played this viola. Out comes Bach's 6th Suite... it takes soooo much more to get a sound out of these strings! OK, even MORE bow.... the tuning starts to slip, so back to a 15 minute re-tuning session. More bow, more re-tuning. After about 45 minutes, the 15" goes back into its case to stabilize for a day.
Now on to some serious practice - out comes the 16" - it is sooo much larger. More stretching/rocking is needed to play fingered octaves. But the sound.... more resonance - it echos through the room. I'm wondering if I should try moving the gut strings to my 16" after the concert.....
Mendy Smith is from League City, Texas. Biography
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