August 27 Lesson Notes

August 28, 2012

On Saturday we had our first orchestra rehearsal of the season. While I am brand new to this ensemble and have no prior reference to compare against, I thought the group sounded amazingly good. David confirmed my suspicion at my lesson yesterday when he said he was very impressed with the first eight bars of Brook Green Suite (our first rehearsal piece). We played through all but one piece on Saturday and most sounded surprisingly good for a first rehearsal. Even Sabre Dance came off well.

For myself I was able to keep up on the slower movements and pieces and promptly got lost on the faster ones. My completionist nature undid me -- I've been trying to "complete" pages or passages of the pieces before moving on to the next page or movement. As a consequence I have spent lots of time on some of the music and no time on the rest of the music. While I can't just play through entire pieces, I do need to spread my attention out to include all the movements in all the pieces. Instead of 7 pieces I have 26 pages to learn. So far I've focused on about 10 pages of the total.

At my lesson yesterday we focused on the first page of Adagio for Strings, the descending scale patterns in the Vivaldi, and the Air movement from the Brook Green Suite.

Adagio for Strings

David provided all the cellists with two worksheets to uncomplicated part of the Adagio. For me, anyway, this piece is my introduction to tenor and treble clefs. The worksheets transpose the first three lines of the second page to bass clef, and separate the inside/outside bowings into two lines for clarity. I've been focusing on the inside line as David explained that I would be an inside player on the stand.

Together we played through the first page yesterday. At first glance, with all the whole and half notes, the piece appears to be simple. However the piece is written in Bb Major (five flats) so there is lots of shifting and extension work going in. David showed me how to block out those notes that occur in the same position which greatly simplifies reading the music. We ignored the rhythm at first and just played half notes all the way through to get the hand positions worked out. After a few minutes we started to incorporate the rhythm and tempo and it began to sound good.

On my own this week I need to continue to work on the left hand movements and I need to continue to work on the second page.

Concerto Grosso

The Vivaldi is one of my favorites. I've spent a lot of time on it and I can play most of the 4 pages now. Where I get into trouble is playing the sixteenth notes at performance tempo. We talked about different approaches to improving my left hand finger speed. David likes my idea of using scales and the metronome as a way to identify and eliminate tension in my left hand/arm/side that is slowing me down. He also suggested that I bite off smaller chunks of the piece to practice speeding up. I was trying to play all 4 descending scale patterns at speed. He wants me to play the first one, plus the first note of the second one only. Once I have that at speed then play the second patter plus the first note of the third. Only when I can play those two patterns individually am I to combine them. In my urgency to complete the piece I was afraid to work on too small a piece at a time.

Brook Green Suite

The Brook Green Suite is one of the pieces where I have spent far too much time agonizing over just the first page while ignoring the other three pages. This was the first piece we played in rehearsal and once we turned to page 2 I was lost. Staring on Saturday I began to work on the second movement of this piece. In my lesson we worked on some of the string crossings and left hand positions necessary. I will need to use the metronome on this piece (and all the others) to ensure that I continue to move forward. Too often I linger on a note after completing a measure while I size up the next measure. It would be better to play a measure and stop, rather than practice elongating a note while I figured out what was next.

Rehearsal

On the whole I was pleased with rehearsal. While I was lost at times and felt in over my head, I was able to keep up more than I expected. The two months of preparation work I've done have paid off. Now I need to redouble my efforts and get through the other 16 pages of material.

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Mark H. Nichols

I am a husband, cellist, code prole, nerd, technologist, and all around good guy living and working in fly-over country. You should follow me on Twitter.