I decided to go for this winter's concerto competition rather than wait for the next one. The competition is in early January. I'm not getting any younger afterall so why wait!
After playing through Hummel with my teacher tonight, it ended up getting ruled out for the concerto competition - there is NO way I can learn this piece from scratch in a few weeks to a point where it is concert ready (the last section is WAY too fast to get the tempo up in a short period of time). Given several months - yes - several weeks - no.
So, Bruch got dusted off, and we got down to some serious work on it. I hadn't played with vibrato in awhile since re-starting my study of Bach, so we were both pleasantly supprised that my vibrato actually got better! How did THAT happen? We worked some on sound projection (the little acoustical problem violas have...), super-smooth string crossings, the theory of relativity as it applies to dynamics, and a shift from 3rd to 7th. Alot of time was spent however to play the piece without any noticable "pulses" - a bad side affect from overly counting through the piece.
Hopefully within a few weeks, Romanze will be so polished I have to wear sunglasses to play it.
The next few weeks are busy ones music-wise for me. Tomorrow night is HSO's final rehearsal before the concert this Friday and Saturday. After a very short break, I play in a church Christmas Concert with our principal violist conducting.
I passed my "Allemanda" test, with a reminder that this is NOT a waltz (I started playing it more 3/8 than 4/4, and dancing while I played...) I was never a good dancer. I now have a 3/8 time signature with a circle and slash through it on the top of this piece.
Courante is proving to be relatively simple with the exception of one chord - got to find a better way to approach this. The biggest challenge is remembering to keep the bowing hooked where we wrote in "slurs". I think I'm going to erase the slurs and just write in the up/up or down/down bowings. It's a mental thing :)
I finally have my concerto choices down to two: Bruch Romanze and Hummel's Fantasie for Viola and Orchestra. I've studied the Bruch for several months, and I believe I can get it up to the level needed for a performance. I haven't played Hummel yet outside of a quick run-through this weekend. This is an interesting and fun piece. It ranges from romantic, whimsical, and what I think of as a "traditional concerto virtuosity", with energetic runs of 16th notes up and down all the strings with finalistic chords.
So after finishing up with 5th Suite over the next few weeks, Bruch will get the dust blown off of it, and Hummel will be subjected to my teacher's pencil ministrations to change the bowings, fingers, dynamics, etc..
Tomorrow night I do my "graduation" performance of Bach's 5th Cello Suite Allemanda before moving on to Courante. Although there was alot of agony trying to practice in Hong Kong, having played this piece on my smaller viola really helped with my intonation, chords, and bowing. After coming back home, my 16" is ringing more than it ever has before. I really must remember to switch intruments more often!
I have added one more item to my "must do before I'm 40" goal list. That is to learn a concerto at performance standard. I found out that my community orchestra has a concerto competition. The winner plays the concerto at one of the concerts. I want to WIN that competition! (yes, I'm competative!) There are 2 major road-blocks for this goal: 1) what concerto for viola can I actually play (technically) and would enjoy playing 2) can I get over my stage fright enough to have the nerve to even consider this seriously?
For problem #1 - Viola concertos are far and few between compared to the vast number of concertos available for violin or cello. I would like to play one written originally for viola and not one that is transposed. I could possibly do Sitt, Hoffmeister or Stamitz. The Walton concerto is way out of my league for a public performance. Maybe I could do Hummel's Fantasie? What to choose? Tomorrow I'll discuss this with Joel and see what we can come up with.
Problem #2 - how do I overcome my stage fright? I was almost frozen solid and had to force myself mentally & physically through a solo performance at my grandfather's funeral a few months ago. Granted, that performance was under conditions that I would never see in a regular performance, but what if my reaction is the same under normal circumstances? I have zero stage fright in a group setting (quartet and orchestra) or a small group of family and friends. But put me under the spot light alone with a large audience and my bow arm shakes like a leaf! How the heck to I overcome that?
Half the battle must be knowing the repetoire to the point that I no longer really need the sheet music to play the piece. Then comes learning how to "tune out" the audience. This is the part I have problems with while playing viola. I can do public speaking well enough, even with a large audience or the even in front of company executives (a recent experience). The only thing I can think of that causes me to freeze and shake is the "knowing your stuff" bit. I expect that there will be a little bit of the "freezing and shaking" tomorrow night just in front of my teacher since I'll be put on the spot-light.
Hmmmmm.... something to think about.
I made it home again, safe and sound. As usual after coming back from China, I woke up at 3am ready for lunch! Good thing I took today (and tomorrow) off from work to get over the jet-laf. I spent the day getting to know my 16" viola again. Having taken my old 15" with me on international trips many times, I should not be supprised on how much a 1" different makes, but it still does all the same. It took several hours to re-frame my hand and arm to the extra inch of length to get a good intonation.
I'm very happy to be back home again!
I made it back from Hong Kong tonight. The last leg of the journey I did solo - a few train stops, navigating through the train station, across the street, through the mall and finally - back to the hotel!!!
Visiting China again just reinforced how happy I am to be living in the US. The road conditions are horrible, getting into a car is like "Death Race 2000" (I lost count of how many times we almost got into a crash), smog 1000x worse than LA on a bad day, dirt and rubble everywhere. The only highlight is the people that I work with at the plant. They are so incredibly eager to learn, attentive, and good hosts all around.
My colleague "baby sat" my viola for me while I ventured into China. My stay in China was only for one night and I had meetings scheduled through the day and evening. Practice time would have been non-existant. He promiced not to cut the strings while viola-sitting. I'll find out for sure tomorow.
I took my software development team out to lunch today at a hotel restaraunt across the road. Walking across the road was an adenture in and of itself!!! I almost got run over 3 times, once by a bicyclist, once by a motor bike, and one by a motor bike with a trailer hitch! We made it to the hotel for lunch and had a private room. I have no idea what I ate, and I hope noone ever tells me what it was that I was eating. There were things like pigs feet, intestines, snake, fish heads, inspects, etc.. all over the menu. It tasted good and I'm not sick, so all is well.
Everyone had a blast (2 hour lunches are unheard of out here even if it also a staff meeting). Luckily about half of my group speaks English well enough to translate for those who do not, and to have the other discussions translated for my benefit. They tried to convince me to extend my stay in China through the end of the week.
Tomorrow morning we head back to the airport to go home. I can't wait! Well maintained roads, good food, wide open spaces, clean air, safe driving, enough room to practice without hitting my bow arm on the wall, and best of all my own bed.
Yet another business trip to Asia with laptop and viola in tow. Nevermind the issues about bring your precious instrument onboard! I had more problems getting used to the time zone difference and cramped quarters in Hong Kong to get any real productive practice time.
This frustration finally came to a climax late in the week when I felt that I "lost my touch". I couldn't even play a simple scale without falling apart intonation-wise. A desperate plea to my teacher for help via e-mail gave me the best advice and perspective: "Don't be so hard on yourself. It is great that you brought it. Any chance you can do an impromptu performance? on the street for lunch money perhaps?
try to have some fun".
Well, I didn't end up playing on the streets of Hong Kong for lunch money, but instead I played in the hallway in the hotel while the housekeeping staff cleaned my room on Sunday. The arppegio was as popular as the 5th Suite with the housekeeping staff and the few guests that were still in their rooms. At the end of the day, I got in a good 6 hours of practice time in before heading up to the Peak with my colleagues for dinner.
I can't wait to get back home.
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