December 2011

2011 Review / 2012 Preview

December 26, 2011 19:02

This past year was one of introspection and discovery in regards to my music.

Unlike last year, I rarely performed. I took a long pause and gave much thought into what I was doing and why. Instead of delving into the Z-A by 50 goal, the past year has been spent on refining technique. Much time has been spent developing an arm vibrato, my ear for a refined intonation, addressing various aches and pains, and getting my inner musician who really wants to sing out of the closet. Only recently have I begun starting to think about tackling a few new pieces.

I did not play in an orchestra, but instead played chamber music with friends, performing from time to time - three times to be exact, OK 4 if you count the pit orchestra for charity. I don't know if I will go back to playing in an orchestra this coming year, but I do not think so (except for the pit). Chamber music is more my cup of tea.

I started with a new teacher this year who is as intense as I am. Etudes and studies haven't been this much fun and rewarding in years. After nearly a year together, we are just now starting to figure out how I learn and putting together a 'game-plan'.

I met and played with two v.commer's at Interlochen this summer. I hope to see both of them again this coming summer, and with luck maybe a few new ones as well.

As for 2012, I plan more or much the same, putting my focus on chamber music and technique. I'd really love to have this new arm-vibrato feeling more natural and hone my intonation even further so that Hilda rings each and every time we sing together. I'm starting to get the hang of this "phrasing" and "style" thing that I want to explore more.

As for my Z-A goal, I'll be continuing on but at a slower pace. I'm still working on a new "H" and have another "V" lined up, two pieces on opposite ends of the style scale. I may pull out the "U" I haven't played in nearly 30 years after that.

Who knows....

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Viola Sonata CD Review

December 21, 2011 01:20

OK, I'm not your typical "Reviewer of CD's", but this is one that is near and dear to my heart: Mid-Century Modern. My ex-teacher from Oregon just put out his first CD -- with 20th c. works by Rebecca Clarke, Marion Bauer, Jacob Avshalomov and Tomas Svoboda. -- which I got as a Christmas/December gift and had the chance to listen to it on my drive home from work today.

Most notable were the sudden changes in dynamics. The ppp were so soft that I cranked up the volume to hear it over the large trucks while driving down the freeway, then to be blasted away by the FF sections moments later. Oh how I wished I could make dynamic changes like that! I've tried and failed so many times to get that same effect....

In one movement of the Clarke (yes, the Clarke, what I've been struggling to learn for so many years), he did a run up the fingerboard in a manner that made me chuckle. It had to be some sort of an up-bow staccato with a little slide at the end to get that effect. I could just imagine the look on his face in that passage!

Joel taught me that shifts should be heard, yet graceful and tasteful. How he executed the shifts demonstrated just that. Not 'slurpy' but quite pleasant. Cary (the pianist), is an amazing collaborator. There was never a moment that the viola and piano were out of balance. It was a good melding of two very different instruments.

Throughout the Clarke there was a tug and pull of tempos - an anticipation of the next note then a relaxing back into phrase. Not so much to make it uncomfortable, but enough to have you sitting at the edge of your seat anticipating what was to come next and then relaxing back into your chair once again.

I have all week to listen to the rest of the CD on my way to work and back. Getting stuck in traffic can now be an enoyable experience.

It puts those notes he made in the margins of my sheet music into perspective.

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'B' Addiction

December 2, 2011 19:50

Though I have a new goal to work through the alphabet of composers, I am finding that "B" keeps creeping onto my stand. Bach, Bloch, Bruch, Borodin... over the past several months, these composer's works refuse to be shelved.

First is was brushing of Bloch's "Suite Hebraique" for an audition. Then it was brushing off Bruch's "Romanze" with my new teacher to work on my technique and style. Then Borodin's 1st Quartet (the viola part is so much fun!). And now it is back to Bach.

Every New Year's Day, a bunch of us (30-40-ish) get together to play through all of the Brandenburg concertos for an afternoon. It is an EVENT - pot-luck dinner, libations, and music-making. Of course as a violist, the the biggest part of the EVENT is the 6th Brandenburg Concerto. Anyone who can play viola plays one of the two solo parts. It ends up more of a 'soli' with about 4 violists playing each part with about 8-10 celli and the lone bassist and harpsichordist.

This is the time of year when I dust the 6th off and get it back under my hand for the EVENT. This time however, I have the help of my new teacher who specializes in baroque music. During my last lesson, instead of starting with the planned "H", we worked on "B" - a bit of phrasing, but mostly we just PLAYED both parts together.

It was so refreshing and energizing to go back to something I know well. I did not have to struggle with alot of new technical skills, but instead focus on interpretive skills. Maybe this next week, I may try it sans SR in the spirit of the style of the time.

"H" can wait until next year.

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