Lessons in the summer months are rare. This summer, I have 3 lessons before the fall season. Three very small lessons in which to get advice on how to go about tackling Beethoven's Grosse Fugue.
Lesson #1 was an overview of the piece: pitfalls to watch for, practice techniques, fingering and bowing advice. Lesson #2 had me questioning my whole approach on studying new pieces.
I struggled on two particular passages: one with string crossing that skipped strings at a fast tempo, and another one that is in G-flat(-ish) during my practice sessions at home. I had them marked and ready to work on at my next lesson.
Lesson day came, and I was blown away by the feedback my teacher gave me. She very emphatically told me that the music drives the technique, not the other way around. In other words, if I put more focus on the phrase and music as a whole, the technique will follow pretty much well on its own. She's been telling me this for months, but never quite so bluntly.
I had a difficult time believing this was indeed true, until she helped me look at the measures that were giving me problems in a musical way. Once I got the gist of the phrase, my technique did indeed seem to do what it needed to do to make it sound clean, albeit at a much slower tempo. Could it possibly be so simple?
Over the weekend I took those passage and ignored technique and put my focus on the musical phrase instead. I started at a very slow tempo and ever so slowly increased it until it was up to tempo. What she told me was indeed true. There is a method to the madness when put into the context of the musical phrase. Simply thinking of a passage in a musical way really does make the technique tend to do what it needs to do without a tremendous amount of effort.
Who would have thought it could be so simple?
A grueling week of 18 hour days that I thoroughly enjoy has come to an end.
"Night Court" is an annual production by the Houston Bar Association to raise proceeds for charity. This year's show was "Viva Laws Vegas" complete with dancing Elvii.
This year was different. We were a conductor-less orchestra on stage rather than in the pit, made all the more difficult as we were all facing the audience and not each other. There was no line of site to other players, forcing this one time per year group to really listen to each other. The results were quite amazing. The sound guys at the Wortham Theater said that we had raised the bar several notches from previous performances.
We were short on the bass line for one piece. Since I had a C-string, and had a whopping one year of lessons on cello several years ago, I was granted honorary cello status. To do the honor justice, I played my viola 'cello style'.
It was a fun show, but I'm glad to be getting back to a more normal routine. Next stop is Interlochen.
More entries: May 2012
Enter to win Leonidas Kavakos' recording of the Brahms Violin Concerto.
Mendy Smith is from League City, Texas. Biography
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