Archive for August, 2017

August 26, 2017

What I did on my holidays – 2017 edition

Following on from 2016’s report, and ignoring anything that doesn’t involve the bass or the cello – yes, I had a few sessions on that thing too…

Saturday

On Saturday evening, I made my debut as a percussionist (snare drum) for Rossini’s overture to Thievish Magpie. Fun. And many thanks to Tenley Martin for giving me a couple of lessons in the run-up to this week! There’s no way I would have had the nerve to do this without her help.

Fortunately, that was over quickly enough, and I was able to return to my normal home in the bass section, and we did Schubert’s 3rd symphony (not one of his best), and Arriaga’s symphony. Both new to me.

Sunday

Started the day with the Dvorak Serenade. Flashbacks to when I was declared an honorary wind player in one orchestra because I was their cellist for this…

Orchestral session next, with a New Bug waving his stick around. Schubert 5, Mozart flute concerto, Haydn 78. A couple of tricky moments in the Haydn, which surprised me, as Haydn isn’t normally problematic. New Bug seemed to rather enjoy the experience, which is good, and the orchestra behaved / cooperated, which was also good.

Over to the cello for some flute quartets – Mozart K285 (the third one in the book, after K285a & K285b, go figure), and Ries – a new one on me, but good fun and recommended as a companion piece to the Mozart.

I was scheduled for a four cello group. One of the others brought a pile of stuff that had been arranged for the group (Beatles tunes, Mozart’s Ave Verum, Gounod’s Funeral March of a Marionette (aka Alfred Hitchcock’s theme), that sort of thing), and the parts were all mixed up so nobody got lumbered with just doing the growly stuff.

Impromptu/unscheduled Bruch octet. Yikes. World’s worst key change (or a strong competitor, anyway – 6 flats into five sharps; and then back again a few lines later). Must start a new category or a picture gallery or something for these.

Monday

Wind + string bass group, doing various of Geoffrey Emerson’s “The Red Hedgehog” arrangements – Elgar, sonata in G (op.28). Glazunov, Concert Waltz op.47. Richard Strauss Serenade (pretending to be either a kontrabassoon or a bass tuba) – some moments here. And finally, Durand de Grau’s “Les Clochettes” – a proper contrabassoon part, so needs a five string with a dropped bottom string to get those Bflats going…

Piano + strings – Mendelssohn sextet – rather good. And then we added in a trumpet for the Saint-Saens trumpet septet, which has some unpleasant corners, and lots of unison. And then he gives a nice tune to all the string players (unison) and leaves the bass out of it. For shame.

A mixed nonet session – Rheinberger & Martinu. Got the New Bug to lead the Rheinberger; got a rather more experienced player to do the Martinu, which is, after all, a bit harder…

Rounded off the day with a quintet session – Dvorak op.77 followed by Onslow (one of many) Op.35. Onslow easily playable, but one part does identify this as being a cello part – octave Gs? Not really possible on the bass unless you turn your bow upsidedown and play the strings from underneath. And there wasn’t enough time to do this.

Tuesday

The traditional day of rest – and a trip to Powis Castle.

Back to the music in the evening, with an orchestral session – Hugo Cole’s “Black Lion Dances” – fun – and Tchaikovsky Suite #1 Op.43. There’s even what passes for a double bass tune – at least, we have something vaguely melodic, and everyone else is silent for a couple of beats… At least, in theory they are, not looking at a certain hornplayer who came in in the wrong place!

Wednesday

Piano Quintets – Trout, and Percy Godfrey op.16. Some moments in the Godfrey, if only I can remember what they were. And I really need to remind The Management that I thought we had a “no Trout before coffee” rule.

Septets – Beethoven, Lichtenthal – a new one on me. This Lichtenthal chappie, 1780-1858, surgeon, apparently, which is possibly apparent from his way of composing by slicing up a bit of Mozart… To paraphrase Tom Lehrer, though, “It’s not plagiarism, it’s research” – “Lobachevsky

Mendelssohn Octet (2nd cello) – fun. It’s been a long time since I played this, and rather enjoyed myself. And got to do the beginning of the final movement a few times.

And in the evening, I was back on the bass – Schubert & Rheinberger octets were scheduled, so we played the Schubert, and then noticed that the Rheinberger isn’t for the same combination of players (requiring an oboe), and so we called it a night. The Schubert is a monster, though, so we didn’t feel short-changed.

Thursday

String orchestra to start the day. Mozart, Div.K136 – playing a cello part on the bass. Nothing to worry about here. Pachelbel – ugh. Warlock – Capriol Suite – some good brisk speeds, which was fun. Vaughan Williams – Charterhouse Suite. Not particularly inspiring

This was followed by a full orchestra session – Mendelssohn – Duo – Two Clarinets (well, one clarinet, one basset horn); Mozart Overture “La Clemenza di Tito”; Mozart – Symphony 35 “Haffner”; Hugo Cole – “Black Lion Dances” again.

An off-piste run through the Dvorak quintet op.77, with a couple of different players and a couple the same as earlier in the week.

And in the evening – Dvorak Bagatelles, Debussy Children’s Corner (a couple of numbers) and various other bits, Finzi (Severn Rhapsody) in a mixed wind/strings group.

Finally, a late-night sneaky rehearsal run of Brandenburg 5, for the benefit of a young violinist that was convinced that she was playing it the following day…

Friday

The bass was feeling a bit tired, so the final day was a bit of a heavy one.

Friday started off badly, with a session of baroquery – half of which was missing parts. I ended up reading the Brandenburg 3 bass part from my phone… Still, some good solos from the younger contingent with the Vivaldi concerto for 2 cellos in D Minor and the JSBach violin Concerto in A minor both being very well done. Pity that the orchestral numbers were so overpowering.

And then there was a change of personnel for a really large string piece – Tchaikovsky’s “Souvenir de Florence”, in the string orchestra version. Huge, unrelenting stuff.

And then a couple of heavy symphonies – Mendelssohn’s first (“written before he’d learnt the art of brevity”), and Beethoven 7. That would have been the end of the week, but for one last surprise…

…which was back to the cello for the final official send-off session – Mozart K515 (quintet in C), and Brahms Sextet op.36.

Saturday

Back home. Laundry. Sleep.

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August 10, 2017

Bernstein – “Candide”

Oh, where to begin with the plot of this one…

Based on the Voltaire novella of the same name, which I’ve not yet read. We see death, and recovery from death, a seemingly endless repetition of boy loses girl, boy finds girl again, a lot of travelling, and some very short-lived minor roles.

Standard opera rules apply for playing this – watch, watch, count, watch. Particularly in the colloratura number “Glitter and be Gay”. Some of the time signatures are “non-standard”, and there are some eyewatering key changes as well as some tricky rhythmic bits that seem designed to catch the tired bassist. Fortunately, the notes themselves are generally playable. A five-string bass, or a bass with a C string extension is advisable for maximum effect.

One man, all this kit…

Watch the percussionist – in our production, there was only one, and he had got all this kit to play with, and about a quarter of the pit area, so was dashing around like Billy Whizz.

As we go through this, I keep thinking of other music – various bits of G&S come to my mind (“Warders are Ye”, from Yeomen, “He’s Telling A Terrible Story”, from Pirates), Abba (“Money, Money, Money”), Rogers & Hammerstein (“Bali Hai” from South Pacific), the old work song “I’ve Been Working On The Railroad”, to name but five. Add that to the various Monty Python moments (“Medical Love Song” and the general tone of our “Voltaire” which makes me think of the Decomposing Composers). Actually, Monty Python moments abound – there are also references to the “Spanish Inquisition”, and “Luxury”, “And now for something completely different – a man with three buttocks”… Enough. Irrelevant mental meandering.


Right. Let’s start looking at notes and rhythms.

As stated above, a five string bass (or C string extension) is advisable. As is a willingness to suspend disbelief when it comes to bar numbers – these are not necessarily sequential, thanks to the various versions that the score has gone through since its premiere and the current (4th) version.

Overture

Nothing particularly problematic, apart from an extended passage of playing every third crotchet in a passage of 2/2.

5 – Best of All Possible Worlds

This is marked as having two complete bars rest at the start, but, in reality, it’s five crotchets of brisk 2/2.

12 – Dear Boy

Described as being “the only song in the repertoire about sexually transmitted disease” (which I find hard to believe – what about Tom Lehrer’s “I Got It From Agnes”, or Bon Jovi’s “Social Disease”, or Monty Python’s “Medical Love Song”? OK, I’m not staying within genre…) For all that, though, nothing to worry about.

13 – Paris Waltz

The last two notes are (a) important, (b) exposed, and (c) solo. You have been warned.

14 – Glitter and Be Gay

The big issue here is bars 127-138, where there’s an extended passage of mostly playing every third quaver in a section that’s mostly in 4/4 time with the occasional bar of 5/4. Yeah. Counting this hurts.

It might be easier if it had been printed consistently with quaver rests, but it hasn’t. And it’s a big soprano coloratura benefit, so the beat will be pulled around.

15 – Storm Music

Glissando central, but just sliding up & down the D string.

16 – Earthquake Music

The Lisbon Earthquake – which dates this episode of the story to 1st of November 1755.

17 – Auto da Fe

A high day holiday and hanging day. Niiiice. Let’s hope that Pangloss’s head doesn’t detach from his body again like it did during the dress rehearsal, as that would make his reappearance later on even more improbable than it already is… Awkward rhythm:

And some fun notes:

22 – I am Easily Assimilated

This jazzy rhythm can catch you out if you’re not paying attention.

It reappears at the beginning of the Entr’acte and in the finale/bows music.

25 – We Are Women

Features my favourite set of instructions…

Really? crescendo through a pizzicato / rest?

The rest is either straightforward or something we’ve already seen.

Hmm. This post took rather a long time to write – I started it in about 2013, hence any deviation in tenses…