Clock Tower 4

Exhausting work this morning on Shostakovich Quintet and Faure Piano Quartet. The Shostakovich is getting better and better, and we’re certainly getting more unified in our approach, but it is unforgivingly difficult and very hard to pull off musically. I don’t think we’ve quite answered the tempo questions yet, but we’re progressing in a more unified and thoughtful way. It’s certainly the hardest piece to play on the borrowed cello- if I try to turn on real “Shostakovichian” power, it just stops making sound….

 The Faure is an interesting contrast- the Shostakovich is a real masterpiece, but is elusive, hard to pull off and full of contradictions. I think it is easy for a performance of it to fall completely flat. The Faure, on the other had, is amazingly non-problematic. Everything works, and there’s not a lot to discuss. The slow movement is one of the glories of the chamber music literature, but even that only poses a few tricky interpretational issues. In the rest of the piece if we play with great rhythm, do the dynamics and listen, its pretty effective.

We finished the morning (and early afternoon) with a run-through of the first movement Faure (having worked our way back from the finale), and I’m now more than happy to drink a little coffee and teach a cello lesson. Conductors (including me) do well to remember that it is tiring work playing an instrument….


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About the author

American conductor, composer and cellist Kenneth Woods is Principal Conductor of the English Symphony Orchestra, Artistic Director of the Colorado MahlerFest and cellist of the string trio Ensemble Epomeo. He records for the Avie, Somm, Nimbus, Signum, MSR and Toccata labels.

Learn about Kenneth at

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