Orchestra has started again. The first rehearsal was Sept. 1, still full summer with the fan blowing the music off our stands in the church, as we sweated our way through Brahms #2.
Several new violinists showed up. Considerately, they emailed the orchestra chair first, and she forwarded the emails to me. My first year in the orchestra, when I was one of them--an unknown quantity attached to an inquiring email wearing a temporary name tag--I ended up sitting with everyone in the section at one rehearsal or another. As a result I knew who was there and how they played. Now, although I love my stand partner--she can play pretty much anything, she's an excellent sight-reader and never gets lost--I am not sure how to get to know those new faces if I don't sit with them. How are we going to cohere, to be a section? I say hello, I get their emails in order to send the bowings after I get them worked out and scanned in. It's a start, but it doesn't seem like enough.
Brahms #2. I played the 2nd violin part of this piece 30 years ago, in youth orchestra. I seem to be the only one who is impressed by this factoid, which perhaps I shouldn't advertise too loudly (was it really 30 years ago when I was in a youth orchestra? How long before I start telling even more boring stories about walking uphill to school both ways in the snow carrying a heavy VSO?)
But that factoid imbues the piece with some special meaning in my mind. In 1980 it was probably the most difficult, complex piece I had ever played, and the first real major symphony I had ever been a part of playing. I was probably only dimly aware of that, or of what a privilege it was to be able to play it at all. In middle school orchestra we largely played student works, arrangements of real pieces. In high school things were getting more sophisticated, but we tended to stick with the baroque and early classical--Corelli, Vivaldi, maybe a little Haydn if we were being particularly ambitious.
But youth orchestra was different, you had to audition for it and drive a long way to another high school on Wednesday nights. There were less than a handful of us from my school. We carpooled. I imagine my former self, a little clueless there in the middle of the 2nds, marveling at all the sharps in the 2nd movement. You learn about that in school, in theory, but does anyone actually write real music using 5 sharps? Apparently, yes. And it doesn't actually sound freaky or metallic out in the audience, as somehow I had always imagined it would if a composer ventured into such alien territory.
But back to the present, and this concert. I'm 1st violin now, I'm leading the section, and not only are all those sharps still there (it's been 30 years, don't they have somewhere to go?), but everything is an octave higher, including those unprepared As and B-flats. As has happened before, the old reliable muscle memory from 30 years ago does kick in as we are reading the piece, and I keep to tempo, I come in on time (if not in tune), and I make it through without major mishap. Occasionally I channel the 2nd violin part and play it an octave down. This is the only rehearsal where I can get away with that. The conductor says, at the break, "we're going to have a strong section." He looks pleased.
The other pieces on the program are Mozart's "Magic Flute" Overture, and the Tchaikovsky "Mozartiana" suite. The first I've heard of, the second, not. And, the Tchaikovsky has a 2-page violin solo. I've had a few solos, consisting of several measures, even up to 8 measures or so, in previous years. One, in particular, I remember fondly . . . I called it "Intonation is a wish the heart makes."
But this is another kettle of fish entirely (or is it barrel of monkeys? Definitely some sort of bizarre container of unruly animals). The orchestra librarian, a kind soul, warned me about it over the summer so that I wouldn't arrive at the first rehearsal, find it on my chair, and go into cardiac arrest at the thought of having to sight-read it. I even discussed it with my friend and occasional stand partner, my daughter's violin teacher, who is a school music teacher and pro violinist. Maybe she'd like to do this solo? She would in fact, but she has a paying job this semester on Wednesday nights and can't do the concert at all.
So, I download it from IMSLP and send it to my teacher. Her verdict: it's doable. By me. By November 7. Better get busy!Tweet
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