Saturday, August 12, 2017

Alborada del Gracioso

We're performing Ravel's Alborada del Gracioso this weekend. Originally composed as a piece for piano solo, Ravel himself orchestrated it. In doing so, he gave the four short solo lines about a third of the way through the piece to the bassoon.

 Beginning at 9, the bassoon has four short unaccompanied solos joined by shorter and shorter impressionistic interludes by the strings and percussion.

Prior to the first solo there is a massive orchestral chord. Wait a beat or two before starting to let the air clear!

All grace note groups in these solos should start with a light articulation. Tongue single grace notes and the first of a group of grace notes. Accented notes and notes with tenutos under big slurs should also receive a light articulation. This will help bring them out and give them the necessary tonal weight required by the recitativo indication. Don't stop the air prior to articulation under the big slurs, simply give the note in question a gentle nudge!

Notice the rhythmic accelerandos in the first and last solos. These should be executed with some freedom. Play them a bit as if notated as an accelerando on the SAME repeated note value ("basketball bouncing by itself on the gym floor" effect). Don't let them sound like a musical math problem!

The middle two solos, being shorter and smaller in pitch compass, should be more mellow and understated than the outer two.

Notice the combination of "faster" (pressez) and "softer" during the triplets in the fourth solo!  These two indications do not often go together -- louder/faster is more common.

Tempo for these solos should be slower than the interludes and can vary. Try them at roughly half the tempo of the interludes ( ♩=).

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Sestak 5 Inventions

I've just uploaded my performance of Zdenek Sestak's 5 Virtuoso Inventions for Bassoon to YouTube

This live performance is part of a recital I gave at the University of Arkansas on April 12th of this year.

I will be uploading other performances in the coming weeks, so subscribe to my channel for notifications. You may also subscribe to this blog to get notifications of postings.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

A little help

Last week was quite busy. On Wednesday, I performed the Villa-Lobos Duo and Willard Elliot's Six French Songs from the 15th Century with Frank Rosenwein and Jerry Wong, piano. The day of the performance I had a double rehearsal of Schumann Symphony #3 with the Orchestra.

The weekend contained two concerts with heavy programs. In addition to the Schumann program, the other concert had Mozart Piano Concerto in c minor, No. 24 and Rachmaninov's Symphony #2.

In the weeks leading up to the performances, I was beginning to feel some pain in my left hand and thumb. I should note that we rehearsed and played the Villa-Lobos standing up, partly due to the lack of good places to turn pages. This added to the weight on my left hand.

Using a balance hanger when standing up is helpful to redistribute the weight because it relocates the fulcrum of balance so that the left hand carries less of it.

However, I was also looking for a way to take some of the weight off the left hand when sitting down. Using a neck strap in concert with a seat strap can work. The neck strap is tied to the back of the chair and hooked in the ring on the boot.

I wanted to show you something even better.

Chicago Symphony bassoonist, Dennis Michel gave this to me when we meet on our tour this January.

It consists of a clamp (available at any hardware store) with two holes drilled in it for an elastic band. The two holes are in addition to the factory drilled hole, which is in an inconvenient spot.The clamp fastens to the back of a chair.
Below is the clamp with the band itself with S-hook with snaps and a small cord lock on the other end.

The length/tension on the band can be adjusted by opening the lock and pulling or pushing the band through.
This is available from REI.