This weekend my mom and I will begin our road trip to the XXXIVth International Viola Congress in Montreal. The performers they've engaged are amazing, as usual, so I'll be sure to report on the masterclasses, lectures, performances, and exhibits. We're staying in the dorms at the University of Montreal, which sound pretty comfortable--communal bathrooms on each floor, but what's dorm life without them? Happily the Internet connection is convenient, and that's my main requirement for staying connected to civilization.
I will be performing in the masterclass with Lars Anders Tomter on the very first day, the 7th, just the first movement of the Brahms f minor Sonata. I worked on the piece a couple years ago and performed that movement at a different summer camp, so it is currently a bit rusty, but I still have a week to focus on it exclusively. I really find that the primary problems with switching from violin to viola are physical. It is debatable among different teachers exactly how much the technique and approach changes between the instruments, but I personally find that if I don't spend some time with scales and etudes, I never quite settle back into the richer, darker, deeper sound, and am quickly thrown off by the extra exertion it takes to pull out that fullness. As violinists, we so often take for granted the acoustical favor of our instrument and the fact that everything so naturally balances, rings, and projects. People say that the more cutthroat standard of perfection for aspiring violinists makes up for that acoustical discrepancy, but at the top of any instrument's field there are some uncanny technical feats going on. Violists (and sometimes even cellists) are expected to play Paganini caprices or La Campanella in competition these days, with no exceptions for the sheer physical awkwardness of the instrument. I suppose if I really want to humble myself someday I'll try the bass, or a double reed or brass instrument.
Independent Study Pedagogy
Intro to German Literature
Senior Recital (probably early December)
Tentative recital program:
a Mozart Sonata
Bach Sonata No. 3 in C Major
Brahms Sonata No. 3 in d minor
Current new repertoire: Prokofiev Concerto No. 1 in D Major
I am finished! With my jury and German final now over I am far less stressed. I was very happy with my jury which went surprisingly well. I worked on the repertoire a while ago, then took an unwisely long break from it. Or wise, who knows. When I actually brought it back, it was of course technically rusty, but I actually found it rather effortless to be free and spontaneous. When that affects my body motions and old bad habits I have to keep it in check, but I thought my jury performance had a nice balance of being grounded which is perhaps the number one thing I have to remind myself of for performances, and still being creative. I do get in a rut sometimes with seeing things too closely, losing the larger perspective, and complicating everything I need to do, so apparently not overthinking things can help. A concrete example is the slow movement of the Bach C Major Sonata. I initially had a pretty good feel for it and got the phrases to sound very natural and flowing pretty quickly. When I worked on it in more depth, however, I created problems for myself by going too far with sound colors and I lost the line and the core. I see it as a very delicate movement and for quite a while just wasn't playing loud enough, to put it crudely, for the three- and four-note chords to even speak. I worked on this in a lesson and my teacher brought me to the obvious realization that special soft colors don't automatically exclude the opposite, bold end of the spectrum--they are, in fact, enriched by the contrast. So essentially I just tried to play louder today, or rather being aware of the places that simply technically require a certain volume and presence of sound and trying to make them sound integrated into my still gentle perception of the movement. I didn't catch every single chord, but it fared much better. I also had a shift in attitude from the borderline ridiculous, "This 16th note, which I'm playing an excruciating 5 cents sharp, must be as expressive as possible and penetrate the hardened heart of a hypothetical bitter old man who hasn't cried in years, and if he isn't in tears by the end I have failed," to, "I'm going to relax and let the expression flow." Awareness is often helpful, but in the moment, forgetting awareness and remembering to just be (and then promptly forgetting all of the above) can work wonders. When I can figure out how to do it--or forget the whole thing entirely, either way.
Tomorrow marks the start of what I have of my summer vacation, half of which will be spent at camp with almost no time for solo rep. As I say periodically on this blog, it also marks a renewed commitment to consistency and focus and not being easily discouraged. I have been pretty bad with convincing myself to practice over breaks when there's no impending pressure. I perhaps need to set smaller goals and deadlines and pretend that they're as important as an actual audition or something. I also just need to be vigilant about remembering that consistency improves everything in my life in subtle ways. Staying technically fit is reassuring and stress-relieving, as is the feeling of having done something worthwhile each day. I love being at CIM (who knew anyone could be happy in Cleveland?), feeling supported, and being perhaps in a better position than I have ever been to muster courage and start going for things. And I have been humbled to find that a school and environment change has not magically made my life a utopia. I am blessed with great support, which is just that--support--and making the last leap (every day in inconceivably small steps) is still my burden and privilege. The reasons for my resistance to developing as well as I know I could, even in favorable situations, are clearer to me now, and I hope that rather than using knowledge of my old tendencies to excuse myself, I can learn to overcome them and actualize my truest self.
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