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Karen Allendoerfer

Metallic, yet Fluffy

October 15, 2008 at 2:37 PM

We're playing a pretty traditional Fall Concert in about a month. What I mean by "traditional" is that it has a mix of styles and nationalities, but they're all safe, beloved DWEM composers, starting with a couple of short pieces and anchored by a symphony. And there's not an erhu, a harpsichord, or a didgeridoo in sight.

Yet I'm having some trouble getting psyched about playing the Godard Flute Suite. We will have the first rehearsal with the soloist tonight. I've been listening to a recording for a while at this point and the piece is not grabbing me. I am probably going to offend some fine musicians here, but I am starting to think that I don't care very much for the flute as a solo instrument. It sounds a little like it looks: shiny, metallic, and hollow. And the piece as a whole strikes me as too fluffy, like a French bon-bon that is just too sweet and sugary. I take one bite and I'm done.

Except I'm not done. There are several more rehearsals before the concert, some with the soloist. So I do have time for the piece to grow on me and to learn to appreciate it. If I can.

The same feeling came back to me again last night, when I was practicing with my daughter. Her teacher is doing a "pencil contest" every week in which she gives a pencil to the student who plays a designated piece with the best intonation, rhythm, and posture. My daughter had already pretty much decided that she didn't want this week's pencil, because the designated piece (called "Song for Maria") was "a pain." The more I pushed (and I don't think I even pushed very hard) the worse it got. "I *hate* that song!" So I stopped pushing altogether. We let Song for Maria go and went back to O Susanna in the Mel Bay Fiddling Book. And so she came home and said, cheerfully, "I didn't get the pencil."

I don't care whether she wins the pencil, but it has gotten me thinking about how to approach pieces I just don't like very much, and how to counsel others on the same. I've been viewing the Godard sort of like taking my vitamins, or riding my bike to work: I just have to do it, it will be good for me. And I'll be glad I did it afterwards. I'll probably even learn something. But it's so different from my experience of the Mendelssohn, which is equally new to me, but which I loved from the first hearing, and which sometimes, even now, just moves me to tears.

From Tom Holzman
Posted on October 15, 2008 at 3:06 PM
Karen - I can relate to your feelings about pieces I dislike. My orch tends to do lots of 19th century Romantic and later. I do not like a lot of it; I much prefer High Classical. But, it is important to do these pieces because they do represent an important part of the repertoire. However, the distinction I draw is that I do not pay money to go hear them. With an orch, you take the stuff you like (I love our annual Messiah sing-a-long concert) with what you don't unless you go into a group specializing in your favorite stuff.
From Karen Allendoerfer
Posted on October 15, 2008 at 3:28 PM
You do the Messiah every year? Cool! I have never done a Messiah concert, except for singing the soprano part in a sing-along one year. But the ArlPO is doing the Messiah this year in December, and I'm really looking forward to it.
From Tom Holzman
Posted on October 15, 2008 at 3:39 PM
Doing the Messiah should be one of the truly great musical experiences you will have. It is for me every year; I never tire of it.
From Dottie Case
Posted on October 16, 2008 at 2:28 AM
Karen...I'm whispering here so that no one hears me say that I too, have decided that I only like flute playing in small doses. This is blasphemy for me, because I own and play a flute.
There is an excellent flute teacher at our arts school, and she has a couple of flute choirs. I am always amazed at how beautiful it sounds for the first 2-3 minutes. After that, it begins to feel eternal, and the same.
We are, in fact, limiting how many pieces we ask the flute choir to contribute to the Christmas concert for that very reason. Beautiful, in smallish doses. Incredibly monotonous in large servings.
Are we bad??:)
From Karen Allendoerfer
Posted on October 16, 2008 at 11:11 AM
Well, here's a plug for live music! The soloist sounds great. The rehearsal with the soloist was much better than any recording.

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