May 2005

May 31, 2005 21:24

Choosing new repertoire. I have the music for Shostakovich so may as well start looking at that. Also I absolutely need to play the Bach C Major Sonata; it's the only one I haven't studied.

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May 31, 2005 14:23

Beethoven Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 61

“Beethoven left us no music in which he is more sure of himself, and none in which his humanity is more warmly evident.” ~Richard Freed, National Symphony Orchestra annotator

The history of the Beethoven Violin Concerto is the stuff of legend. Written quickly in 1806, and premiered at the end of the same year, the popular story insists that the young soloist Franz Clement sight-read the part at the first performance, throwing in a virtuosic piece of his own between the first and second movements with the violin held upside down. (In fact, Clement’s showpiece came, decently, at the end of the program.) It is true that the first performance did not have sufficient preparation, as the concerto was not a resounding success until a historic performance in 1844, by thirteen-year-old violinist Joseph Joachim and conductor Felix Mendelssohn. Its particular beauty, then, was not easily revealed.

The concerto, inscribed with the pun “Concerto par Clemenza pour Clement” (“Concerto with Clemency for Clement”), was tailored to its first soloist’s unique talents: “an indescribable delicacy, neatness, and elegance, an extremely delightful tenderness and purity” (Michael Steinberg, The Concerto: A Listener’s Guide). The violin’s role is often exquisitely ornamental, and the piece was deemed unplayable by many a violinist for its sheer proportion of notes in the upper stratosphere.

The music begins with five hushed D’s on the timpani—certainly like nothing Beethoven’s audience had ever heard before. The most shocking surprise is yet to come, with the appearance of D# in the tenth bar, which seems to strangely jolt the winds’ tranquil melody out of its place for a moment. Beethoven had initially written the enharmonic E-flat, showing his own uncertainty about the function of this foreign pitch. The pattern of four even, tapping beats, with or without a resolving fifth note, pervades the movement and reminds us of the constant rhythmic drive behind the tirelessly breathtaking lyricism. The development in G minor is perhaps the darkest and most introspective point in the movement. Kreisler’s brilliant cadenza, played by most modern-day violinists, features a glorious section in double-stops, with the juxtaposition of the beloved second theme and its own counter-melody. The cadenza leads seamlessly into an ethereal coda, which nevertheless allows for the simplicity of the second theme heard for the first time in its entirety on the violin’s lower strings.

“The Larghetto is, almost uniquely in Beethoven’s output, music without action, conceived as a set of variations on a theme that goes nowhere, has no inherent contrast of material, and doesn’t imply any change of key. The result is a romance, as Beethoven called it, of breathtaking stillness” (Denise Wagner, Chicago Symphony Orchestra Program Notes). The theme, a hushed chorale, is introduced by the orchestra before the violin begins to add delicate embellishments. After the third variation “comes something to stop the heart” (Steinberg): an improvisatory, dreaming theme, low and gentle. In this movement alone Beethoven attains “a level of sublimity paralleled among his works only in his most intimate chamber music” (Freed). After the movement’s unwavering center in G Major, the move to the dominant with a C# in preparation for the finale—especially after the violin has trailed tenderly away into the heavens—sounds astonishing.

The third movement’s rondo theme is at once pastoral and “Olympian…in keeping with the nobility of the two preceding movements” (Freed). Not one note of the distinctive tune is altered each time it returns. In between, the movement proceeds with a sparkling, mischievous air; the recapitulation even throws in the soloist’s only two pizzicato notes in the entire concerto.

Copyright (c) 2005 Jessica Hung

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May 30, 2005 16:25

Brahms notes are done! See below.

Today is a wonderful day. Andrea Swan is an amazing, sensitive musician, and I am quite excited to be playing with her tomorrow night. We had a lesson and a rehearsal this morning that went very well. I love how she gives all the notes in the Brahms just the right amount of space, so that they have room to breathe and luxuriate, but are still beautifully flowing. Since I played all morning on a bottle of Mountain Dew, I went out afterwards to Panera and had a delicious Strawberry Poppyseed and Chicken Salad (to which I am so addicted that I'm even giving it the respect of capitalizing its title) whilst listening to Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony (the title of which I would be a fool not to capitalize). Everything today and even my recital program has reflected my mood and my excitement at the prospect of soon sharing my biggest joy and passion with those I love.

About to do some more practicing, this time in my dress to make sure it's comfortable, since I've been sitting in front of my computer for far too long perfecting my program instead of my playing! Tomorrow I'll make copies and try to enlist someone to do lots of mindless stapling. A very close friend of mine, a cellist, also has her recital tomorrow afternoon, so I would like to go buy some pretty flowers as well. Things are certainly a little more convenient here with a car! I also probably still have time to have dinner with a friend tonight, so I'd better get going. Will post the Beethoven notes later tonight.


Brahms Sonata for Violin and Piano No. 1 in G Major, Op. 78

“I could not help bursting into tears of joy over it. Many others could perhaps understand it and speak about it better but no one could feel it more than I do. I wish the last movement could accompany me to the next world.” ~Clara Schumann

“Come, rise to higher spheres.” Brahms inscribed his first of three violin sonatas with this quote from Goethe’s Queen of Heaven. The G Major sonata’s bittersweet lyricism, which sets it apart from the rest, indeed instills the work with an atmosphere of surprising sublimity.

Composed in 1878 and 1879, shortly after the death of Brahms’s godson Felix Schumann, the piece was actually the composer’s fifth attempt at a violin sonata. Brahms’s relentless perfectionism paid off, as the piece beautifully reflects the idyllic surroundings of his summer resort in Pörtschach, Austria. The violin’s role consists very much of melodic singing from beginning to end, yet the interplay between the two instruments is enriched by constant metric cross-currents and hemiola. As an example of this rhythmic complexity, the first movement’s time signature of 3/2 can be subdivided into either 6/4 or 12/8. “That all three can be suggested simultaneously without any sense of artifice speaks to the thoroughness with which this technique has been assimilated into an expressive language” (Botstein, The Compleat Brahms).

The first movement (Vivace ma non troppo) opens with a motive of three repeated D’s in a dotted rhythm, immediately introducing an expansive melody. This gives way to an even lovelier second theme, with an impassioned peak that is the hallmark of Brahms’s style. The development, initiated by the first theme in the piano and pizzicato chords in the violin, explores stormier realms, though a brief coda brings the movement to a joyous end.

The piano alone begins the second movement (Adagio) with a warm, dignified theme in the key of E-flat; in contrast, the violin’s entrance is more tentative. The middle section revives the dotted-rhythmic motive in the somber manner of a funeral march. When the opening theme returns with rich double-stops in the violin, it is as if the sun shines again.

Brahms omits the traditional Scherzo in favor of a Rondo for the final movement, based on two of his earlier songs, Regenlied and Nachklang, Op. 59, Nos. 3 and 4 (the texts of the original poems by Klaus Groth follow, with translations by Emily Ezust). The minor mode conveys the nostalgia for childhood in Groth’s words, while the piano’s sixteenth notes establish a ubiquitous “raindrop” motive, accompanying a theme in the violin that begins with the same dotted-rhythmic motive of three D’s that began the first movement. Later, Brahms brings back the noble theme of the Adagio, and the beautiful coda serves to return us fully to the major mode—a significant shift from the song, which ends with a Picardy third still in the context of minor. Violin and piano trade the familiar motto back and forth, “as if they were calling their farewells to each other across an increasing distance” (Botstein). Brahms’s friend, renowned musicologist Eduard Hanslick, perhaps put it best: “For me the Regenlied Sonata is like a dear and true friend whom I would never forsake for anyone else. In its soft, contemplatively dreaming feeling and its wondrously consoling strength, it is one of a kind.”

Copyright (c) 2005 Jessica Hung

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May 29, 2005 21:28

Today I had a late start with practicing, so I've spent the entire evening at Regenstein. I took a dinner break at Norris and listened to Joseph Suk's Brahms Sonatas on my iPod. They are literally amazing. If I could convey just one ounce of his tremendous vitality and passion, I would feel successful. I think my second movement of Beethoven should go well. The first movement cadenza is also better than ever, though still so hard to be totally clean with. The first movement in general is more solid as well, which in turn allows me more comfort and freedom. Tomorrow I have a lesson at noon to run the Beethoven, and after that I will probably work a lot on Brahms and maybe the third movement of Beethoven. I'm also a little panicked about program notes, but I'm sure between tonight and tomorrrow and Tuesday morning if I need it, I'll get them done and copied and everything. Those are a very important part of the recital for me as well, and I'll be sure to post them here soon!

I feel generally happy and somewhat wistful today. I am more in love with music than ever. So many of those poignant, vulnerable, indescribable moments in life are captured so perfectly in music. And it will always be a wonder and a paradox to me that music can so effortlessly covey those unspeakable emotions--yet at the same time music is forever abstract, and to truly know the power behind it one has to live life. I suppose it's circular. What am I trying to say? That it's simply bittersweet that people appreciate my expression through music--indeed, perhaps my feelings can be expressed in no other way so beautifully; I often feel that playing is the only truly pure, redemptive thing I do--yet that at this point in my life, I still have many things to discover before I am able and allowed to express myself in a much more universal, human way. I have a caveman theory that everything would be easier if we didn't have today's complex societal issues to deal with, if we simply hunted and foraged and raised children and were interested only in survival on the most basic level. But it was once pointed out to me that then, there would be no music.

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May 28, 2005 19:38

Today I broke the four-hour practicing mark for the first time since I can remember this quarter. Not bad considering that it's Dillo Day here at Northwestern--the one day we pretend we're a state school and party. So I will probably be going over to a friend's place in a bit. The photo session went well this morning, and I was pretty pleased with the final pictures, and relieved that I'm done having to look all impeccable and shower for a while. (Just kidding; I do shower.) I have four different shots, three with the instrument, and I ordered some prints, including some wallets for my friends. I'll get them in a week.

Wow, what did I work on today? The last movement of Beethoven with a metronome, and also the cadenza. Then I had some time in the hall tonight and I ran things and got comfortable playing in there. It's very live, which I don't think is great for showing every nuance, but it certainly makes everything ring, which is great if I play in tune. Overall, I'm feeling much better today about performing, and starting to get pretty excited. I'm also making tomorrow first movement day, as I was unable to run the first movement of Beethoven to my satisfaction and had to keep stopping. Particularly since I open the recital with it, it should be extra solid; I think I've kind of slacked on it since I played my transfer auditions last quarter. Even the opening two bars only sound and flow right if I forget about the octaves and think only about the line. In addition, I keep going back and forth between which is the harder piece on this recital, so I should probably just throw up my hands already and submit to the fact that they're both hard. I thought that once I had the concerto out of the way, running the Brahms tonight would be easy, but it's still just as true in the Brahms that every little thing has to be there, and that the appropriately rich Brahms sound comes out freely when it needs to.

Tomorrow: first movements, Beethoven first movement cadenza, opening of Beethoven second movement. That gives me more than enough to tackle.

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May 27, 2005 23:19

I have seen a few wonderful recitals by friends in my studio lately, and tonight after watching a classmate's recital I was inspired to go and actually practice for my own--something I had been generally avoiding for a couple days now. I worked well on my second movements, especially the Brahms, which requires excruciatingly long, sustained bows. I definitely feel better that that is a little more under control now, and I hope the slow movements will hold some of the more poignant moments of my recital. However, tomorrow I have no choice but to wade through the technical perils of both of the Beethoven cadenzas, and most of the Beethoven in general. I think in addition to having some mental blocks about technique, I also have a mental block about cadenzas. I performed the Mozart Concerto No. 4 with for a student conductor's recital in the fall, and noticed from the recording that the cadenzas were conspicuously less solid than the rest of the concerto. With the Beethoven now, considering that everything has to be so pristine, I probably owe it just as much to Kreisler to clean up all those double-stops and get them in better shape. I do think time has helped me a bit: I've been working on this concerto the whole school year, and when I played the first movement cadenza at my lesson the other day, my teacher thought it had improved although I hadn't much worked on it. So familiarity is at least working with me here. I think if I try to put my anxiousness aside and make tomorrow no-nonsense technique day, I can start to feel really secure and positive about Tuesday. Tomorrow I have the hall booked for a dress rehearsal at night, but my accompanist is so busy this time of year that she probably can't make it. So I get some time to practice and to get comfortable with the hall (at which I have already watched a couple recitals, and played a quartet recital, which helps).

And since it's all I talk about of late anyway, here are official recital details for anyone who may be in Evanston:


Tuesday, May 31 @ 6 pm
Garrett Seminary
2121 Sheridan Rd.

Beethoven Concerto
Brahms Sonata No. 1 in G Major

Jessica Hung, violin
Andrea Swan, piano

Reception to follow


All in all today went surprisingly better than I expected. I also spent some time having a late dinner with a dear friend who's very happy and doing well, and that makes me happy in turn. She is looking into some early music programs for grad school, and I think Case Western is reputed to have a good one, so she may visit me next year in Cleveland.

Up tomorrow to shower and get all respectable-looking for my photos. Bed before 2--this is a first for me in quite a while. Goodnight, fellow v.commies!

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May 27, 2005 10:56

I have gotten a few kind messages from other members of this community and just wanted to say thanks. Everyone is so supportive! I also just wanted to say that I, too, struggle with procrastination and motivation, like everyone else. As a prime example, I was talking online to an old acquaintance last night until late, and so I jumped out of bed this morning two minutes before German started, got there barely in time for our last test, and then promptly came home and am now typing away at my computer in my underwear and hoping to take a nap before orchestra this afternoon. Which already wipes out half of my day. Practicing didn't go well yesterday so I'm hoping to somehow kick myself into high gear this weekend, rather than avoiding it by seeing my friends or driving around or surfing the web. I think people tend to get a strong impression from me that I know just what I want and am going for it, and I think long-range that is generally true. I have very concrete goals of having a family and a job. However, it is much harder to find fresh inspiration and fight insecurities in day-to-day life. To write about something a little more personal, I have been worried lately about maintaining friendships here as I move to a new school. I have a few close friends, almost all musicians, whose companionship I have very much valued during my time here, and I hope to keep in touch with them and probably also work with them again in the future. I feel like the time from now until I get settled next fall will be even more uncertain and unstable than usual, as my sense of home shifts. I'm excited and look forward to many new experiences, but it is still hard to feel grounded in anything permanent during this time.

Perfectionism is another problem that I think abounds for musicians. The process of achieving higher and higher levels of technique and artistry is so often negative, and to an extent that's just the way the field works. You "fix" things that are "wrong" and "bad" and they become "better." It is easy to see how this can carry over into one's self-esteem and personal life: "good players = good people, bad players = bad people." I have watched some of my friends become intimidated by those gravely mistaken assumptions, and I myself feel intimidated and pressured to constantly reprove my musical (and personal?) "worth" at every performance. However, I try my best to keep perspective. Many of my fears are technical, yet I find that when I am working best and at peace, it is because I understand that the ultimate aim of having such high technical standards is only to be able to achieve any sound, any nuance of expression, as effortlessly as possible. And so total artistic freedom demands technical security. Perfect intonation, all the time, is perhaps impossible to achieve, but it is still worth striving for, so that as many notes as possible in one's playing will ring as they only can when they are in tune. At any rate, those are some of the ideals I hold, but they can quickly become weighted down when it seems that people want perfect intonation only for its own sake, or virtuosity merely to dazzle and not to move.

I'll see how this weekend goes as far as practicing. Ideally, I would be compelled to practice the entire weekend out of sheer love, but I am not in the same state of mind I was for my last solo recital, nearly a year-and-a-half ago. I try to remember the thoughts and feelings that constantly motivated me back then, but they're a little hazy. Most of all I had the simple confidence and knowledge that I alone retained the power to make myself happy. As humans we need others--yet we need ourselves just as much.

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May 25, 2005 01:22

After puttering around all day, I had a wonderful late-night practice session at Regenstein tonight--just me and the janitors, who were kind enough to let me keep going. I feel I got a glimpse of how I want to feel at the recital in a week: relaxed, and able to inhabit a beautiful and ideal inner world, and at the same time project it to the audience or draw them into it or both. After working on the Beethoven first movement development and recap, I had the pleasure of being so far into the zone that I could simply play large parts of my Brahms sonata and feel for the first time more centered in the piece and at one with it. I have only gradually come to realize that it is the perfect piece to end the program and my time at Northwestern, as it is, to paraphrase many people, like saying goodbye to a very dear friend.

As daunting as my program as a whole is (and I get particularly frustrated with how difficult it is to psych myself immediately into the opening of virtually every movement--in Beethoven, the first with those octaves, the second so exposed, the third right away with the theme; in Brahms, the mere fact that all the movements must start as if the music had been going on infinitely before it), I am excited and these pieces are taking on a special importance to me, which of course they held before, but it is always a different feeling to dig into a piece and eventually feel somewhat justified in calling it your own, in a way. With the Mendelssohn, I was particularly happy to have the opportunity to solo with orchestra both this year and the year before. I don't know if my interpretation changed all that drastically, but it definitely allowed me to feel increasingly more at ease, and it is simply such a fresh piece, no matter how often played. The Sibelius I will always feel particularly attached to simply because it fits my temperament so well, while at the same time it ironically exploits my greatest fears. It is certainly the piece I have worked hardest on and struggled the most with.

The pieces on my program this year are different creatures altogether. I recently read Michael Steinberg's program notes for the Beethoven Concerto (I really adore his writing), and he actually takes the view that the piece has been weighed down and burdened by its labels of "greatness" and "depth"--that the tempi are usually too slow, and that it sometimes misses the lightness, delicacy, and essentially ornamental nature that must have characterized its first performance by Franz Clement, to whose singular playing the composition was fashioned. I admittedly have a penchant for slowing things down, but I hope to find a balance between lightheartedness and profundity throughout the work. Perhaps they are not such extremes as the seem; after all, the depth in the most simple lines, such as when the violin plays the entire second theme on the D and G strings in the coda for the first time, is readily apparent.

I have been thinking a bit about general aspects of my playing that I would like to work on in the coming couple years. I have gotten a lot of comments about needing more variety in vibrato; my natural vibrato is quite wide and often too slow if I'm out of shape or just not being vigilant. Even when it is fast enough, the width can sometimes distort the pitch. So being able to phrase with vibrato as seamlessly as with the bow is one thing. Speaking of which, bow changes are another thing; in orchestra as well as solo playing it is important that they be smooth and indiscreet. I have a habit of speeding up or jerking the bow just before I change. Also, sound colors in general. It is hard to balance a flautando or airy sound with maintaining the core of the sound. In orchestra playing this is often not an issue, because the sound lies in a combination of sounds from so many string players, but in solo playing or even in playing orchestra excerpts for auditions the core is often still vital. (It is interesting that playing in the section and playing an orchestra audition are very different things--some good advice I have heard is that in the audition, one should sound like the section, still playing sensitively, but always clearly, whereas in the actual orchestra it may be the case that a fuzzy sound or one that's not even pleasant under the ear is necessary to contribute properly to the section sound.) I'm excited to be studying with Helen for a bit this summer because she is absolutely amazing at tone colors (check out her website at

Hands down, the biggest comment I get is about my motions. I get mixed comments, with my peers mostly saying they help and are part of my charisma, and my teachers mostly saying that they're too much and get in the way of the sound. I definitely think I could learn to be more efficient, and I know that is something I will need a lot of help with.

Probably the biggest downside of today is that I used practicing as an excuse to procrastinate starting my Brahms 4 paper, so tomorrow will not be pleasant. I have a full schedule including a lesson and may not be able to start until the evening. It's due Thursday at noon, so thankfully after that time I can focus solely on recital preparation, no distractions hopefully.

On Saturday I have an appointment to have a few professional pictures taken with my instrument, as I'm kind of running out of good pictures to use (and also my senior pictures from high school featured blue streaks in my hair). I can't fake a picture smile to save my life, so I hope they turn out okay...

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May 20, 2005 21:54

My site is finally up at! The only thing up right now is the first movement of Sibelius with pianist Tatyana Stepanova, which is available for download as an MP3. Enjoy!

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May 20, 2005 00:18

Recital scheduling fiasco! Quite a few people who would like to come to my solo recital are playing in a student chamber recital at essentially the same time. I'm attempting to move my recital time, then, and I hope it works. Unfortunately, I already emailed dozens of people, and probably will soon have to send them yet another message with a time change.

Bed slightly earlier tonight; getting in gear for the Union League Auditions downtown on Saturday.

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May 18, 2005 23:01

I was a little frustrated with practicing today. Beethoven is getting better and just needs more drilling, but overall I feel far more able to be freer and more creative with it than before. Brahms, however, is giving me a hard time. I spent maybe an hour on the first page, and still came out not very satisfied. I should probably break it down even more than I'm doing, because I have worked fairly well on the development before when I practiced in that way. I want very much to be able to play through a large section without worrying, without a scratch, and with total expressive freedom, but that will clearly take some more work. Everything from the bow distribution to the vibrato has to be so sensitive.

In other news, I am now the proud NUSO stand partner of a new Cleveland Orchestra member, Alicia Koelz! I think the orchestra feels like it just collectively had a baby or something; we're so excited. Congrats, Alicia! (And as Andrew said, "[The Cleveland Orchestra] is no NUSO, but it'll do." Haha!)

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May 17, 2005 23:13

Tomorrow for a German skit in class, I get to play the German National Anthem--badly. (A terrible violinist is part of the skit.) I'm indecently excited about it.

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May 15, 2005 22:08

My concert high has lasted into today, making me extremely productive--did German homework for this chapter, attended a friend's recital, and did about three hours of work on the last movement of Beethoven. Tomorrow I need to focus on the cadenza and the second movement. I'm also excited to watch the Concerto Competition Finals tomorrow evening; I'm a huge fan of the three string finalists, who are all simply phenomenal players. Also looking forward to probably going out to Cafe Hookah to celebrate afterwards, whatever the outcome! The Magic Flute is playing here next weekend and I would also like to see that if I have time, as it's an opera I grew up watching (my parents would show me an old videotape of it as a kid), and the leads that are cast here are generally strong. I also have a couple friends in the Chamber Orchestra that is playing in the pit. I feel absolutely healthiest when I'm working hard and I feel that things are flowing with me rather than against me, and I wish I knew how to maintain this kind of momentum more often.

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May 15, 2005 01:00

Just wanted to say, with tremendous relief, that I'm very happy with how I played tonight, and want to thank (if they see this) my friend Andrew, the orchestra, and everyone in the audience. A few of my friends from Northwestern were really sweet to brave the long CTA L and then bus ride just to support me and Andrew. We hung out at his apartment afterwards and, at least for me, it was a wonderful end to a great night. Nothing is more important to me than communicating with others at a concert, and when I succeed I have validation and know that I'm following the right path in life. For all the hours we spend in the practice room, the time we get onstage is almost always exceedingly rare and precious. Certainly there are things I could have been happier with--I feel I should have worked on the cadenza more to be more comfortable with it, period, and in general I wish I had been a little more settled for the first movement. But I truly enjoyed the second, and I had a lot of fun with the third; all in all I very much felt at home and at ease, and that is as much as I can ask for. Next plan of action: Beethoven Concerto & Brahms G Major Sonata. Goodnight, all!

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May 13, 2005 01:30

Getting my bow rehaired downtown today took quite a bit of time, but on the upside (?) I was able to visit the Apple Store on Michigan and succumb to buying a 60 GB iPod photo (its affectionate name is "iSuck"). Hopefully I'll never need more space than that. Almost my entire hard drive is music, so I'll be glad to finally have it all in one small contraption, especially with traveling this summer. I've been finalizing plans to sublet an apartment this summer when I spend three weeks in Santa Barbara in late July and early August. I'll be taking viola lessons from Helen Callus, Professor at UCSB. The girl whose room I'm taking is also in the studio, and the apartment sounds great: reasonable rent, cable internet, a pool, grocery stores nearby, bus stops, and 15-20 minute walking distance to the music building. This will be my first experience living on my own in an apartment, so it should be good practice for next year. I won't be entirely alone though; I'll have three roommates, though I don't think they are musicians, so I'll see how they feel about my practicing and such.

Fairly busy day tomorrow with orchestra rehearsal and a sort of emergency trio coaching. Hopefully I'll still have time to focus and practice and rest up for Saturday. Speaking of which, bed sounds pretty good right now. Goodnight!

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May 11, 2005 18:34

I have been stupidly getting to bed ridiculously late and need to take better care of my health, at least until Saturday. Tomorrow I plan to get up early to go downtown to Chunyee Lu at the Guadagnini Violin Shop. I need a bow rehaired and also would just like to get my instrument checked out as it's been a while and the weather is absolutely schizophrenic. I do my best to move my bridge back because I know that really affects the sound, but I'm always afraid it'll pop right out of the socket or something.

I played just the first movement of Mendelssohn in studio class and it was fine, although I wasn't quite settled and flubbed the octaves on the first page--just takes some more practice and the right mindset. I feel pretty good about Saturday in general, and need to spend some time right now writing my thesis for my Brahms 4 paper. It will probably have something to do with the mixed critical reception, and why exactly it took a while for the work to be recognized as a true orchestral masterpiece, tying into the division between programmatic and absolute music, etc.

I also agreed to fill in at the last minute for a friend's student chamber group (their violinist is injured) and learn the first movement of the Schubert B-flat Trio to perform in a week! It is absolutely beautiful, but one of the most demanding pieces in the trio repertoire. With all that's going on, I sometimes feel I don't have a moment to waste, and yet I still waste hours online.

I have neglected German a lot this quarter, which I feel slightly bad about, but music has to take precedence. (Although admittedly, surfing the net and reading The Onion does not.) I would like to continue taking German at Case next year, but I'm not sure when I'll really have the opportunity to go abroad--not for a few years, most likely--and so it's a bit hard to stay motivated to go to class four times a week (which is a lot in college--that's more than half the week!).

Essentially my job until Saturday is simply to maintain my concerto (not to mention my positive feelings about the performance, which are just as vital; I should probably do some visualization), learn the notes to the Schubert first movement, and start cracking again on the last movement of Beethoven, which poses the most technical difficulties for me. Continuing to breathe is also a good idea. Off to invent a thesis and then practice!

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May 10, 2005 16:20

My mood is sadly dependent on how my playing and practicing goes--but that's okay for now, because today is a good day! I felt somewhat discouraged last night when my second rehearsal with orchestra did not go as well as the first for me personally, but I know that's because of inconsistency in practicing and because I was working on other things during those two weeks in between. So I was pleasantly surprised went my lesson with piano today went very well. Afterwards, I left a message for Andrew about a few more things perhaps we can work on or be careful about with the orchestra, and then I practiced the cadenza, the weakest spot so far. I also need to do the third movement tonight; it is basically okay but ideally everything should feel very flowing and fluid, in one continuous motion, without tension. I feel not quite enough at ease with it yet to make the most of the scherzando character.

I then ran the Beethoven first and second movements. The first I had not really worked on since the Fuks masterclass last month, and it was actually quite refreshing to not be so worried the whole time--ironically, because I hadn't been working on it, I was able to just simply play, and many things went very well. Even the first two bars in octaves, for example, which everyone is always hyperparanoid about playing in tune, were fine, as I was thinking only about the phrase, and not the precise placement of my fingers.

About to have dinner with some friends!

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May 7, 2005 15:47

Thus far today I've surprised myself by doing good work on the Beethoven Concerto 2nd movement. Slow movements are especially important to me, and the two I'm playing on this recital coming up are particularly subtle and inward. After working on the details, splitting the movement into sections (basically all the obbligatos over the main theme, versus the more improvisatory parts at letters A and B), I ran it a few times and feel it's a lot more cohesive now, that the phrases flow much more smoothly and fluently. There was one point, in the middle of the movement where the solo is accompanied by pizz in the strings, where I truly felt that all we go through as musicians, all I personally had been through in this lifelong struggle, had been worth it. And, to paraphrase from the movie Waking Life, those are the kind of spiritual moments we live for, however fleeting. Of course, I wish it did not seem so much of a struggle at all, and more of a journey. But the growing process as a musician is not always that easy.

For the rest of today I will probably work on the last movement of Mendelssohn, and the double-stops in the 2nd movement that must be searingly gorgeous but are unfortunately a big technical pest, and generally sound worse under the ear than out in the hall. Despite all these details that can always be refined and perfected further--I was quite happy with how the first rehearsal with orchestra went, and am very much looking forward to the concert. If anyone is in the Chicago area and is interested in attending, here are the details from the University of Chicago Music Department website:

Saturday, May 14, 2005
This concert centers on two early Romantic masterworks: Schubert's "Unfinished" Symphony No. 8 in B Minor, D. 759, two movements of unearthly beauty; and Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto in E Minor, Op. 64, with Northwestern University student Jessica Hung as soloist. Andrew Koehler conducts.
Fulton Recital Hall, 8 pm, Free

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May 4, 2005 22:40

If any of you listen to music frequently on your computer, you may want to check out It tracks everything you listen to and compiles lists of your top tracks, artists, and "musical neighbors" (people with similar tastes--which in this community would hopefully include a lot of classical!). I'm an avid iTunes user, and you can see my audioscrobbler profile with the following link:

What am I listening to?

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