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Karen Allendoerfer

Speaking in scales and arpeggios

November 6, 2006 at 12:32 PM

I still haven't found the elusive Stamitz, but someone on the viola list sent me a concerto by Ignatz Gspan. He says he discovered it while doing research in Austria and reconstituted it for viola and orchestra. I can buy the whole thing for $12, which is pretty reasonable . . . but so I've never tried to evaluate a piece by sight-reading excerpts like this.

There are no recordings available that I know of. From sight-reading it, it seems to me to be a bit like the Telemann or other concertos from that period, where much of the tension and conflict in the music must derive from the dialog between the solo instrument and the orchestra. And without the orchestra/piano, there are just a lot of arpeggios and scales and I'm not getting a good sense of what the piece is really about . . . I think I'll email my contact back again and ask him if he has a recording. He said a competition winner played it for a special concert a few years ago.

The experience of reading this piece has brought up several issues for me again: the "practicing but for love of god when?" thread. The poster said that with a job and kids and all, she was not finding/making time to practice. I've been practicing 15-20 minutes a day, that's it. I don't count practicing with my daughter or giving her lessons. It's not enough. Mostly I'm having trouble finding a quiet place where I don't bother anyone else while I do exercises like Wohlfahrt or play Telemann for the 20th time while I try to memorize it. It would be nice, too, if other people didn't bother me, but I'm surprisingly good and blotting out distractions and concentrating amid chaos, at least when I'm doing etudes and scales.

The other thread that's been on my mind a lot is still "who is speaking, the composer or the player." Especially with pieces that seem to be largely about tonal scales and arpeggios, what am I "saying" with these pieces? My internal experience of playing them is a kind of cerebral, intellectual enjoyment of having everything fit together in a pleasing way, like solving a puzzle or a math problem. There is an emotional component to it, but it feels very personal and individual. Like doing a crossword puzzle, or maybe how I would imagine sudoku would feel if I had ever done sudoku . . .

I didn't think about any of this when I was younger, I just played for my own enjoyment and for myself and played for others and performed when I "had" to. But here I am trying to push my personal comfort zone and take on some long-standing issues I've had around performance, especially solo performance. Any thoughts?

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