Quick work run-down:
I'm playing a church gig with a pianist friend this weekend, for which we get to play pretty music--Beethoven G Major Romance, Schubert An Die Musik (fortunately I'll just be playing the vocal line, not attempting to sing it), and Kreisler Liebesfreud. This coming week we have mid-year orchestra auditions, which seems a little soon to me since I'm still adjusting from the quarter system, but the end of the semester is indeed quickly approaching. I've built a pretty good foundation for Korngold; the last movement will be the hardest by far. Still, I really enjoy working on the piece, trying to get the best sound possible, and attempting to make it more gold than corn, to reverse the expression. I have a much bigger load next semester with more classes including orch rep with Amy's fabulous teacher Steve Rose, and second-year German, plus of course a junior recital. I've also started mulling over summer festivals, mostly orchestral ones, which will have auditions during that time.
Mitsuko Uchida concert at Severance tonight! Unrelated, I heartily recommend the new movie version of "Rent" to anyone interested. The singing is great and it's really well-done. Happy turkey leftovers to everyone!
A shockingly non-violin-related, unshockingly philosophical post with a bad pun for a title. Tonight my friend and I witnessed the evils of corporate America firsthand when we agreed to meet at Starbuck's, only to discover we each went to a different one. We hastened to remedy the situation by meeting again at Border's, and sure enough, again we each found ourselves at a different store. I love mindless shopping at huge chains as much as the next guy, but when they crop up on every street corner and are totally indistinguishable, it's a bit much.
The snow and the cold have begun here in Cleveland (after the leaves all fell one random day in about a three-hour long mass suicide), which makes looking out the window very pretty and walking out the door very ugly. I comfort myself with the fact that on some fine day in March, the weather will be exactly the same as it is today and people will exclaim, "Wow, it's up to 20 degrees out! It's so nice!" before throwing on T-shirts and flip-flops.
In an interesting reversal, my parents will be visiting me for the short Thanksgiving break next week, which is great timing as the nearly sold-out Mitsuko Uchida concert is coming up and it'll be a great chance for them to hear the Cleveland Orchestra. I have a fondness for Mozart Concertos and am excited that No. 24 in c minor is on the program.
I have always been a bit ambivalent about the whole inspiring quote thing. I think there's a tendency to overuse them or to turn to them when one is at a loss for creative independent thinking, and I despise those pre-made quote books that really depersonalize and devalue quotes. But I do think that at the right time they can be powerful and not turn into cliches. I don't actively seek them out as some people do, but one that has stuck with me is an analogy from Tim Gallwey's The Inner Game of Tennis, so if you haven't heard or read it before, here it is. Hope you all get warm fuzzies:
When we plant a rose seed in the earth, we notice that it is small, but we do not criticise it as 'rootless' or 'stemless.' We treat it as a seed, giving it the water and nourishment required by a seed. When it first shoots out of the earth, we don't condemn it as 'immature' and 'underdeveloped'; nor do we criticise the buds for not being open when they appear. We stand in wonder at the process taking place and give the plant the care that it needs at each stage of its growth. The rose is a rose from the time it is a seed to the time that it dies. Within it, at all times, it contains its whole potential. It seems to be constantly in the process of change; yet at each stage, at each moment, it is perfectly all right as it is.
I feel that Mr. Preucil has inspired me in some lessons with this kind of message--even when I feel unprepared, there are still many things he can teach me, and he always looks at my development as a process, not a black-and-white, right-or-wrong answer. This idea applies not only to tennis and music, but to life. The happiness and innocence of childhood comes from being nurtured and cared for, but the realities of life and expectations set in with age, and there's some crucial turning point--perhaps we're not able to pinpoint it, but the change is inevitable--where we lose that magical sense and that innate connection with the more beautiful things in life in favor of our newfound fears and worries. So many of us walk around every day preoccupied or in simple denial, afraid to ask what we are really afraid of.
I guess I ramble on about this because there are two things I would very much enjoy in the world: one is if people, including me, took a closer look at themselves with some ideal combination of logic/reason and compassion/empathy, and saw who they really are and how they can more directly and externally manifest that and bring out the best in themselves. The other is if doing this, in turn, made people more receptive to the influence of others--not in a weak, wish-washy, doormat sort of way, but in an open way, giving to others and allowing them to enter without losing your integrity and source of identity in the process. I think relationships abound where so much more could be had from them, where all parties involved could benefit more from the willingness to suspend judgement and doubt just for a second, to invest more time in having moments that are honest and real. As a child of my spoiled generation, in no way do I believe that the internet is the demise of human civilization; however, I think it's telling that people spend so much time addicted to services like AIM, reaching for connection that can never be fully attained through the barrier of a screen. Nothing replaces the feel and atmosphere of being in the same room with someone, breathing the same air.
How can we be more present for ourselves and for each other? Here is a loosely related, totally off-the-cuff movie recommendation: the live-action Peter Pan that came out I think in 2004. There is a beautiful scene where Peter and Wendy float and dance among the fairies, yet Peter is unable to let himself get closer to the real emotions of the moment or face anything other than "pretend." Peter's final separation from Wendy, who chooses to grow up and face the reality of pain and hardship, leading to richer and more fulfilling joys, is a very human and awkward wave goodbye. Why are so many people, like Peter, looking in through a figurative glass window pane at a more colorful and caring world they won't allow themselves to inhabit? What stops us from getting there except realizing that we could live there, right now?
HelenCallus.com has been updated with a new Student Corner with quotes from current and former students. I'm really glad I got to contribute what I had to say about Helen's teaching and influence, and I hope more people come to discover her playing and teaching.
Terribly busy and tiring, but fun, week with the CIM opera showing four nights in a row. The main piece is Stravinsky's The Nightingale, which is really growing on me, although I'm still unclear as to the plot since it's hard to see all the action and subtitles while playing in the orchestra, and I've been a bit too busy and/or lazy to look it up. Also some entertaining excerpts from Gilbert and Sullivan's The Mikado.
First lesson on Korngold today and things seem to be going well. The temperament of the piece comes pretty naturally to me, although if anything I'm a little too appassionato most of the time and not enough nobile. In the meantime I have pretty challenging recital rep to learn, and I'm aware that all three pieces, while I believe I can perform them well by Febraury, are not ones that are totally comfortable for my style. I anticipate being most comfortable idiomatically with Beethoven, actually, although it is certainly technically tricky and awkward. I'm glad to be doing Debussy because I feel I really need more work on French music; I have done the Franck Sonata and Chausson Poeme and of course some orchestral repertoire. I know quite a few rules of thumb for playing impressionistically in an orchestral setting, but it is not as cut-and-dried as applying that to solo playing, because there must always be a balance between creating a shimmering, otherworldly color and still hearing the true core and clarity of the sound.
I have a whole mental list of other aspects to be working on as well, which I'm sure I'll get to sooner or later. In the meantime, though, I am really quite happy here generally to have so much artistic freedom and the power to really explore my own sound and style unfettered by preordained fingerings and bowings and particular interpretations. Admittedly there's a fine balance between really opening up and unleashing one's creativity and still taking time to listen critically as well. I haven't used my MD recorder as much lately (partially because my cat is fond of chewing up cables and now I can't charge it) and I need to get back to doing that. There are also certain things that multiple people including Mr. Preucil have mentioned to me that don't bother me yet as much as they should. (And I guess I'm getting into my list already.) One is my vibrato; though I don't want to change it entirely from its natural sound, I do need to learn to control it better and be more aware of it. I am generally quite aware of intonation because that's something that's drilled into your head from day 1, and I'm aware of vibrato to the extent of being pretty good at keeping it continuous, trying to vibrate on all the small notes, etc. But the actual vibrato itself, as I have said before, needs variation and transitions between those variations, and I just need to empower myself by paying much more attention to it and asking what feels right. To a certain extent I can get away with my naturally wide vibrato, but in some spots it's simply out of place and out of character. Next on the list and no less important is the fact that I've developed a sort of mannerism with my rubato. I've been told that a good blueprint is to start slow, typically elongating the first note or group of notes, go faster in the middle, and slow again at the end. Often, as in the Brahms, this distorts rhythmic changes from sixteenths to triplets to duples or vice versa or whatever, so I definitely need to have more flow rather than repeating the same tired pattern every time. It's a very ingrained feeling for me, and in some places it makes sense and works beautifully, but it just doesn't cut it throughout an entire piece. Another general thing for me is score study. Especially in concertos, we tend to tune out the orchestra. And in sonatas, where the blend or contrast with the piano, whichever the case may be, should be apparent in every bar. I am generally not bad with direction and infusing the music with a sense of meaning and purpose, but I am less clear on really showing and feeling the grand structure, the climaxes, the important chords, and that would be a good next step to take. Technical issues often bog us down and we lose sight of the real impetus behind all the notes.
There is my list for the moment. Hopefully in the midst of all these performances I can find some time to commit to working on these things!
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