September 2005

September 29, 2005 23:58

I haven't blogged for a while because I've been busy at work and out of town. Needless to say, my violin practicing has fallen by the wayside, but I'm back on track now.

While I haven't been playing much, I have been immersed in all things Joshua Bell. Yes, I am a groupie; I timed my annual visit to my parents, who live in Manhattan, KS, so that I could see him perform in Kansas City last Monday. I don't feel like posting a long review of the concert here, especially since Sydney already did so, so I'll just note that the first half featuring Josh's solo work was fantastic. I was a bit underwhelmed with the UMKC conservatory orchestra and Josh's performance of the Mendelssohn, however.

Instead, I'll discuss something else: Josh's new Tchaikovsky CD, which was released Sept. 20 and is now apparently #2 on the Billboard Classical charts. In a word, it is magnificent. I don't much care for the recording he did with Decca twenty years ago, but this new one is played by a completely different violinist. It's lush, passionate, and everything I think the Tchaikovsky should be. And here's a tip: Barnes & Noble sells the "exclusive version" which contains a bonus track of the Sérénade mélancolique. If you buy it anywhere else, you won't get this.

In other news, I'm seriously considering quitting my community orchestra after this semester. I was so excited about getting to play in a big group again, but I just don't think I want to do it this way. The first violin section only has four people (four hired professionals, including the concertmaster, will be joining us at the concert), and there's just no sense of cohesion in the section. The other three players are all over sixty. One woman is an excellent player but has just had cataract surgery and can't see half the notes, and another guy is always off in his own little world and will play loudly for half a page never realizing he's a measure off. All in all, I don't think this experience is making me a better violinist, just a more frustrated one. There will be other opportunities in the future.

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September 16, 2005 22:20

I was going to skip out on my violin practicing again tonight, pleading exhaustion and a massive to-do list, but I'm newly inspired reading about everyone else's violin activities. So thanks, bloggers. I'm going to pull out my instrument as soon as I'm done with this entry.

Right now I'm facing a difficult dilemma: whether to drop out of my community orchestra after this calendar year. I was so excited to have the opportunity to play in a big group again after six years, and I'd been looking forward to the start of the season since last May when I auditioned. The music is awesome, I like the director, and I get along with everyone in my section, especially my stand partner.

So what's the problem, you ask? I just don't feel like it's a very cohesive group, and feeling that sense of unity is an important element for me to be enriched by the orchestral experience. Case in point: we have only four first violins and no concertmaster. The director is planning to bring in four professional violinists to fill out the section for the concert (in fact, the woman who'll be playing concertmaster is my private violin teacher), but because his budget is limited, they're likely just to come in at the last second and essentially sight-read the concert. It's really not an ideal situation, in my opinion.

Also, I find that having to work on my orchestral music distracts me from my solo work. I guess I'm still in the process of figuring out where I really want to go with my violin studies. When I was younger, playing in an orchestra was the height of enjoyment, far more than practicing individually. Maybe my goals have changed now that I'm older and have a really excellent teacher for the first time in my life. I really want to be able to play the major concertos, even if I never get the chance to perform them. And while I acknowledge that this orchestral playing makes me a more complete musician, it's hard not to see it as just a big distraction from what I really want to do.

So I've got a few more months to make this decision, but it's kind of stressing me out. I know the director---whom I really like---would be really disappointed if I left, but I can't let that be the primary point of consideration. I'll see how I feel after the first concert next month. The music for the December concert (Handel's Water Music and Messiah) will be a lot easier, and maybe I'll find what I'm looking for then.

I'd welcome any thoughts or advice. Thanks for reading.

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September 5, 2005 19:08

What was I writing last time about having trouble spending money on clothes? I thought I'd take advantage of all these Labor Day sales and drove a few towns over to hit the clothing stores in this mall I like.

Total money spent on clothes: $0
Total money spent on used CDs and books: $52

My favorite used books and music store is staffed by wonderful people who know a lot about books but apparently very little about classical music, so one can find some very good deals if one is willing to sort through a bunch of junk. I got a 4-CD set of Yehudi Menuhin, plus a recording of Cho-Liang Lin's Mendelssohn. Even though Mr. Lin's not as well-known as many other violinists, his interpretation of that concerto is still my all-time favorite, and not just because we share a last name. (I don't think we're related, given that Lin is like "Smith" among Taiwanese names.)

Anyway, I think it's time to go swap out everything in the CD changer. :)

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September 2, 2005 21:58

Yay! I finally found orchestra attire. It's a black sleeveless dress with a long-sleeve jacket thing that offers plenty of mobility, so I should be able to wear it at all types of events. It was $90, but I figure that's not too bad for something I hope to be wearing a lot. I have a messed-up attitude about spending money on clothes, namely that I hate doing it. I'll blow $90 at a bookstore or on a dinner for two without a second thought, but I have trouble spending money on clothes, which is pretty stupid considering that I generally get far more use out of them than on books or food. Anyway, with that stress over with, I can go back to concentrating on the music. :)

Hope everyone enjoys the long weekend!

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