Frantic Friday

Friday, WSO

I’m determined to save the morning for score study.

Between Friday night and Monday night, I’m conducting four different programs with four different orchestras in four different cities (none of which are home), including the epic Elgar 1, Bruckner 4, Schumann 3 and a couple of tricky concerti. I’m also very determined to have a bit of time every day for Mahler 1, which is coming up fast. It’s not music I want to bullshit my way through. 

However, the morning begins with a phone call from the kitchen people- they want to deliver the kitchen at 10 AM. Great- installers are coming on Monday at 8 AM, so this is just in time. Ten AM, and the knock on the door comes. Our kitchen is here. Wait- make that our kitchens. Two giant trucks have arrived at our door at the same time from opposite ends of Britain with identical loads of goods. Two fridges, two sets of cabinets, two sets faucets. The two teams have a brief and vigorous discussion about who unloads and who gets to drive all the crap back to the depot (knowing they’ll have to work around it for the rest of their deliveries). An hour on and they’re gone, and one kitchen is piled in our living room. Minutes later the phone rings- same company telling me the fitters aren’t coming on Monday, they’re coming in late May. I’ve wasted all my study time dealing with people dumping a bunch of crap in my house which will now sit here for a month. It finally looks like I’ll have an hour or less to myself when another truck shows up at the door. They were scheduled to come Saturday, but were “in the neighborhood.” In a moment of madness I take the delivery, although I have to send back the bathtub as it’s been destroyed in shipping. What a waste of a day. Is this how Simon Rattle gets ready for a concert?

The normally lousy drive up to North Wales is even worse on a Friday. I leave the house 90 minutes earlier than usual, all of which I lose back sat behind an accident 10 miles from my house, so the rest of the drive is a white knuckle affair instead of the leisurely cruise I had planned. We start again with the Khatchaturian. It’s all fine except for one little rhythmic problem that has two string sections completely stymied. Both sections are full of talented and able people- it shouldn’t be an issue to do a simple 2-against-3 thing (granted, it does go by at quite a tempo), but it is. If young musicians just had to spend a tiny bit of time learning basic rhythmic skills like how to count cross rhythms in addition to learning their solo pieces, life would be so much easier for them and me. Cross rhythms are not hard at all, one only needs to learn the very simple, logical tools of how to decode and count them; they’re just hard to learn in a rehearsal with 100 other people watching and the clock ticking. Undeterred, we run the concerto and the symphony both again. The symphony is incalculably better than two nights ago, even though all we’ve done is run it through and then run it again. Sometimes it’s good to be reminded that often the players need to play the music, and that any other fancy rehearsal technique may sometimes be beside the point. It’s a longer rehearsal, we get out at 10 and everyone, including me is knackered, but once again, it’s back to Cardiff through the usual late-night construction crews. I arrive at my front door sweaty, sore and tired, just hours before I have to leave for the next gig…

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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.

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1 comment on “Frantic Friday”

  1. Pingback: Kenneth Woods- a view from the podium » A tribute to Glenn Gould- Ken Woods interviews Ken Woods Pt I

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