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Karen Allendoerfer

Context is Everything

February 18, 2010 at 12:50 PM

 I have an orchestra concert in 4 days.  It is the yearly Family Concert for the Arlington Philharmonic.  I enjoy this concert, it is usually well-attended, and takes place in the Arlington Town Hall.  It is also the concert where the winner of the Young Artists' Competition, under 20 category, plays a solo.  

This year in addition to the usual musical challenges, we had the problem of the snowstorm that wasn't.  With apologies to those in the midlantic states, who did get dumped on, here in the Boston area we closed schools, went home from work early, and declared snow emergencies.  And got a minor dusting.  The kids were happy, I guess, but our soloist was quarantined at her boarding school and unable to leave, and the entire town of Arlington was under a snow emergency--meaning unnecessary driving was discouraged and no street parking allowed.  So, no rehearsal.  And we really needed that rehearsal.

Last night we had what should have been the dress, and instead it was the first time we worked with the soloist on the Chausson Poeme.  I was right that I enjoy playing the piece much more with the soloist there.  She is a beautiful, elegant player, who when she is not playing, looks like a normal teenager in jeans and boots.  The piece is a bit unusual.  Previous young soloists have played movements from Beethoven and Wieniawski concertos.  This piece is complete in one movement, and, as I learned on a few weeks ago, is based on a very romantic story, "The Song of Triumphant Love," by Turgenev.  The theme is haunting, it has gotten under my skin over the past several weeks.  But it's not quite hummable.  It's not "catchy" the way pieces for the Family Concert often are.  Instead it has a feverish, dreamlike quality, which echoes the story.  I am impressed by the maturity of the soloist, who is only about 17, in taking it on and doing such an amazing job with it.

My own playing concerns are much more mundane.  Namely, the "whitewater, class 4 rapids" section of the Moldau.  I had an epiphany a couple of weeks ago when I got to rehearsal after practicing it all week: we got to that section, and it was like I'd never seen it before.  Again, that feeling of surprise, of being off-balance, my carefully worked out fingerings and intervals all in shambles.

I'd been practicing right in front of the music, with it centered and well-lit, in the comfort of my rec room.  But in rehearsal it's off to the left of me, further away, and not well-lit at all.  It's not that I can't see it, exactly, but it's small and distant.  It's too easy for it to flow by fast and furious, and for me to just watch it flow, without quite jumping in and getting wet.  So my practicing since then has been simulating the orchestra experience.  Pretend I'm sharing a stand, have the light distantly from above, attach my little Mighty Brite.  Commit it to memory, as much as possible.  Don't just play it through slowly (although do that too), also play it up to tempo, and keep going no matter what, even if the raft capsizes.  

I think the concert is going to be an adventure.

From Tom Holzman
Posted on February 18, 2010 at 4:22 PM

Good luck with your concert!  Speaking of the snowstorm that wasn't, my brother, who lives in Lexington, came down to DC at the beginning of February to stay with my sister for the month in order to get away from the Boston February weather.

From Karen Allendoerfer
Posted on February 18, 2010 at 5:24 PM

 Oops--he went the wrong way!

From Nasel Arcayan
Posted on February 19, 2010 at 3:54 AM

Hey Karen,

May I know what the theme based on the "The Song of Triumphant Love," by Turgenev is? it sounded good when you described it and i kinda want to learn to play it. Also, do you have the sheet music?



From Bart Meijer
Posted on February 19, 2010 at 12:30 PM

Here it is.

From Karen Allendoerfer
Posted on February 19, 2010 at 12:59 PM

 The recording I have is the first one listed on Bart's link, from Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg.

Here's a version by Oistrakh:

From Nasel Arcayan
Posted on February 20, 2010 at 8:53 AM

Thanks, Bart! :P

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