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Corwin Slack

Done! It's Over!

May 4, 2009 at 2:46 PM

The insanity is over. I hardly dared say a word before it started. Last night my hired string quartet with me as first violinist gave its concert in my home. My good friend, teacher and "mentor" played cello, and I hired two Masters  students from the Shepherd School to play second violin and viola. A carefully selected audience of 11 listened while we performed Beethoven Opus 59 No. 1. 

We had rehearsed 5 times before the performance including a dress rehearsal on Friday. My co-players were excellent and very patient.  If a market existed for supporting vanity performances they could have careers in it. There were moments in preparation that felt quite desperate. The day of the performance was agony. What kind of fool makes their debut performance on one of Beethoven's Rasumovsky quartets? Is this my "retirement"? What if the dreaded bow chatter starts? I had taken some precautions. No non-family musicians were invited. No one I felt a need to impress was invited. I had practiced for hours. I had practiced playing from the score. I had marked every difficult finger pattern. I knew the length of every shift a fourth or greater. My wife bought a banana for just before the performance but I forgot to go back to the kitchen and eat it. 

So how did it go? Generally fine. I felt reasonably satisfied. We never had to stop although we did have one fairly significant "adjustment" (hopefully mostly invisible to the audience) and a couple of small ones (probably all my fault but if I knew exactly what I did wrong I wouldn't have done it wrong.)   Bow chatter was minor and only occurred a little on the several bar long high c in the first movement. The cellist thought that the last movement tempo was reckless and dangerous but I thought it was exciting. We managed fine. The slow movement slowed down a bit too much.

Anyway its over and I will not be retiring. I don't think that I will be expanding the size or scope of my audience. It was a bit expensive but I can splurge once a year. Next year we'll do something easier.

From Marianne Hansen
Posted on May 4, 2009 at 2:51 PM

Congratulations!  Sounds like it was fun!

From Corwin Slack
Posted on May 4, 2009 at 6:02 PM

Thanks! When I realized that I had control of my nerves it started to be a bit exhilarating. I had a lot of fun and I am still riding a bit of the high.

Tomorrow I'll start to get objective about the performance and in another week or so I think I'll blog on the gaps between studio and ensemble practice room and final performance. There are definitely skills that need to be cultivated to bridge or close the gaps.


From Anne-Marie Proulx
Posted on May 4, 2009 at 6:13 PM

What a great idea!  Yes, family is the worst to perform for...  At least you were born with parents and siblings who all play music too!



From Stephen Brivati
Posted on May 4, 2009 at 9:55 PM


Fantastic!  I envy you. The sheer difficulty of getting together a quartet here overwhelming.

I was intereste d in your `debut` choice. That is exactly the quartet I recommend relatively new quartets or just beginning Beethoven to start.   I have never found the opus 18 to be such a good choice although they are initially rather easier looking.   I believe they are actually harder to play well although a jusr bearable level of mediocrity level is rapidly attainable ;)



From Corwin Slack
Posted on May 4, 2009 at 10:53 PM

When lived in Japan from 1982 to 1988 I played a lot of chamber music (no concerts) but there was a very active chamber music association that had an annual conference with master classes etc. Perhaps that was because it was Tokyo. Some of the standing quartets were quite good. Several had members with conservatory educations who had careers in the recording industry, concert promotion etc. A highlight and low light of one conference was to be invited to sight read the Nocturne from the Borodin Quartet as second violinist at the Nijikai following the conference. They were great players but I needed a coach at my elbow. 

My friend the cellist suggested Opus 59 Number 1. He thought that it was less of a violin concerto with accompaniment than Op 18 and more of an ensemble piece. I suspect he feels that although it is hard it doesn't place the same kind of burden on the first violinist to carry the piece as Opus 18 does. It would have been impossible if any of the others had been less than my level of performer. 

Update: The last sentence reads a little strangely. What I mean is that the standard string quartet with  the first violinist being the best player would not have worked for the recent performance had I been the best player.

From Karen Allendoerfer
Posted on May 5, 2009 at 10:20 AM

 This is a neat idea.  Thanks for sharing!  

From Bonny Buckley
Posted on May 5, 2009 at 12:14 PM

This is what chamber music is!  You could call it a house concert too.  And there is such a thing.  Hope to read more about it.  I am feeling chamber music deprived in my current post, except for a student has just bought her cello and now the school I work at has violinists, a violist and cellist, so we're ripe for chamber music soon too.  Cheers!

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