Band Camp Report – 2016
Following on from the 2015 Band Camp Report
This year… Unfortunately, one of our oboists fell ill a few days before the start of the week; fortunately, we mostly had it covered. However, and even less fortunately, “mostly” doesn’t mean “entirely”…
As usual, this list only contains stuff I’ve played – the barbershop singing doesn’t count, and neither does helping out the children / junior / beginner orchestra. And you can’t hold that against me. And let’s not talk about the late-nights, the conversations or the cards against humanity games.
The usual inaugural orchestral system. This time:
- Beethoven – Coriolan overture – I have this vague feeling we’ve done this before.
- Haydn Symphony 99
- Hamish MacCunn – “Land of the Mountain And Flood” – there’s a rather unpleasant semiquaver passage on the penultimate page, but the rest is playable. This year was the centenary of the MacCunn’s death – which is as good as an excuse as any for this. Unfortunately for us, we don’t have a full brass section, so the fanfare was a bit sparse – the immortal Colin R playing one part, and my father attempting to sing a trumpet part from his position on the podium. Didn’t quite work…
Quintet session to start:
- Dvorak op 77
- Dvorak Two waltzes, Op.52 – I don’t think I’ve played these before.
- Onslow Op.25
The parts for this last contain the story about why Onslow’s quintets are so often alternately scored – it seems as though, at the premiere of one of them, the second cellist didn’t turn up. However, Onslow’s friend Dragonetti was in the audience, and (of course) stepped up… So, as this was a cello part, I switched to cello to play it. And Onslow started writing double bass parts
After coffee, another orchestral session, this time with the extra horror of me playing second oboe. First time I’ve done that with this group (or, indeed, any orchestral group) for, oh, 15-20 years? The programme:
- Haydn symphonies 88 & 89
- Karl Stamitz double concerto for violin & viola (Rosanna & Julia)
The evening was full of the Schubert Octet. What more could you want?
Started the day with a Trout quintet; we had a quick go at the first movement of the RVW concerto for the same combination, but this wasn’t particularly successful – maybe we were all a bit … tired … This was early RVW, and had been suppressed by the composer, but his widow was persuaded to release them after his death. Was this disrespectful of RVW’s wishes? Did she need the money? I guess we’ll never know…
Next session – yet another orchestral session:
- Dittersdorf – Sinfonia Concertante for viola & double bass, although not necessarily in that order 😉 And I was the bassist, with my wife taking the viola solo. Was well received, if not an entirely accurate rendition – the conductor was giggling well into the afternoon
- Stimitz – the other one – Viola Concertante in Bb (Ellen)
- JSB – Brandenburg 6 (Sarah and Jessica, who had had approximately no notice…) Fun times.
Not quite sure how, but I had the evening off.
After the usual day of rest (involving a castle, coffee, cake, and an osteopath…), the evening was taken up with a big Mozart orchestral session:
- Sinfonia Concertante K297 – for Oboe, Clarinet, Bassoon, Horn (Mike, Julian, Vince, Kevin).
- Sinfonia Concertante K364 – for Violin & Viola (Ian & Andrew)
- Symphony 40 – K550
The day started with the usual Wednesday Workshop. This time, we did a couple of pieces by our very own David Marsh (his Highland March and his Waltz in G), and then finished up with the Serenade by Joseph Suk.
Next session was an old familiar favourite – the Beethoven Septet. This is a regular gig with five members of my family playing with the leader of the week and a guest cellist. It’s been like that for a very long time; however, Our Glorious Leader felt he had to stand down. He did arrange a deputy – one of his sons, Ian – who seemed to know his way around the violin… Fortunately, he had been properly briefed and the diplomatic relations between violin / horn were unharmed.
We also had a quick go at the last movement of the septet by Peter Lichtenthal (1780-1858), which was new to us all. As time was short, we did just the last movement, which was good pleasant stuff. Must try it properly some time.
In the afternoon, an impromptu piano quartet session (me on cello), doing Turina’s piano quartet – seemed to be a very relaxed piece of music – and a spot of Mozart.
The second half of the afternoon was a session of music brought back by one of our colleagues who has been working in Qatar – lots of quartertones! So difficult to persuade the brain / fingers to play out of (normal) tune. Very thin harmonically, but that’s the way they do it… What was really confusing was when one of the pieces had a key signature of one semi-flat… “Not quite F major?” Something like that.
The evening kicked off with the Balakirev Octet – I have no memories of what this thing was like. Which isn’t necessarily a bad sign… After this, the group fractured, and three of us were banished to a smaller room with a trio by Leopold Hoffman (Op 1/3, for viola, cello and double bass) which worked rather well.
This was the longest day. It started with another session of Quintets:
- Dvorak – op.77 again – “does this get done often?” asked one of the violinists. Erm… yes. “I don’t remember playing it” Well, you wouldn’t. There are umpteen violinists / violaists / cellists here, but only a couple of us bassists…
- Onslow – op.38. “The Bullet”. The autobiographical string quintet. Again, it’s a double cello job, so I switched.
Next session was, oh look, another orchestral session:
- Cimarosa – Concerto for Winds – seven soloists? two flutes, two oboes, two horns and a bassoon.
- Haydn – Sinfonie Concertante (for violin, cello, oboe, bassoon) – this was fun, except for the poor viola players who found themselves sitting in front of my oboe
- Mozart – back to the bass for the Piano concerto 25 / K503. Nice end to the morning.
We managed to sneak in a crafty Martinu nonet – my only nonet session of the week, which was surprising. I normally get a few of these, and I rather missed them. I think that the violinist was new to the piece, which makes for a trickier run-through. (This was an ad-hoc session, and the violinist we thought we had had it in mind that we were booking for 4pm rather than 3pm, so we had to go on the scrounge for a spare violinist…)
The choral society number – for a change, I was in the band. We did Handel’s Coronation Anthems, but in an unusual order, ending with the big “Zadok” number. This was a surprisingly tough session, and I was beginning to feel rather tired by the end of it. Not a good sign, considering the rest of the day’s line-up.
The final official session of the day was a wind group, doing a couple of the big classics:
- Mozart – “Gran Partita”, K361. Great fun, but I was joined by a contrabassoonist for double the bassitude… *cough*pizzicato?*cough*
- Dvorak Serenade (one of the hornists from earlier switched to cello)
The day ended with a run of all six Brandenburgs, done by a chosen few, and without a conductor – proper chamber-style, rather than the more orchestral-based renditions elsewhen in the week. The running order was non-numeric, with us aiming to get the wind-based ones out of the way first, and then gradually reduced the forces ending with #5. The session started at about 10pm, and was over by 12:30am, which is pretty good going, considering… But, ye gods, there were some interesting notation issues, including the bass part going down to a bottom Bb (off the range even of a normally-tuned five-string…)
And a *very* late night of drinking, followed by nowhere near enough sleep…
Once again, the day started with an orchestral session, heavy on the Bach
- Corelli – Concerto Grosso Op 6/12
- JSB – Concert for Violin & Oboe
- JSB – Brandenburgs! 5 & 3. This was a big contrast of style with the late night run – this time, we had 3 desks of each of violin 1, 2, viola, cello…
Next session was a workshop (again), looking at the Elgar Introduction & Allegro – and a really great session it was. Fabulous music, really well led & controlled session, led by the MD of the Apollo Chamber Orchestra. Lovely chap, and Really Rather Good cellist.
The final orchestral session was big. Really big. “Beethoven’s Big Ones”:
- Triple Concerto
- Symphony 8
A huge session. And the day / week wasn’t over, as a few of us had the last “hurrah” with a Brahms sextet (we were supposed to do #2, but we did #1 instead – pure accident, nothing to do with big tunes…), followed up by Mozart Quintet K515 (Gwen & I did two movements each).
And so, home, laundry, bed…
…and a hope that Helen returns fighting fit next year, so I don’t have to play oboe at short notice!