Saturday with the SMP 3

Just offstage after the second half of SMP dress rehearsal. God its flippin’ hot. It’s so hot that I’m not the only one sweating. Everyone’s sweating. I find it kind of a relief, since I’m always hot. 

Schumann went well. What a piece- it’s the sort of music that makes me feel like I’m spending my life on a worthwhile endeavor. Gemma sounds great, and is very easy to work with. There really is a difference between British and American cello playing. Both make creative use of sounds that the other school would never allow. If you listen with open ears to someone from a different school, you can hear some new possibilities. People with small minds and smaller imaginations complain that Schumann was a poor orchestrator. Nonsense- the orchestration to this piece is gorgeous, and who gives players more room to make colours than Schumann? Color is the key with Schumann- you have the most amazing freedom to do interesting things with sound, whether you’re the soloist or the last chair second violinist, but if you’re not searching for sounds, nothing really happens. It’s like German Debussy. Is that an oxymoron?

Did I mention how hot it is on stage?

The first two movements of the Schumann the dead hall didn’t cause us too much trouble, but the last movement took a few adjustments. The main problem is short notes and silences- in such a dead space where the sound after you release has no shape, it’s hard to feel like there is an organic shape to the space between notes, so people tend to crash in a little early. The theme of the finale starts with two short notes in a not-too-fast tempo, and the second note always wants to come early in here, where it was fine in the rehearsal venue. That fixed, it grooves along wonderfully.

Good news- NO BOGUS CADENZA from Gemma! Did she read the blog??? More likely, she’s just a musician of taste…

Talk about dead silences. Coriolan Overture is not the piece to do in this space, but it is the most fantastic etude. I haven’t told the musicians, but part of the reason we’ve worked so hard on this is that we’re really rehearsing for Beethoven 5 next year. If you’re going to do the ultimate warhorse, it had better be mind-shatteringly good. Coriolan has the same challenges, only worse, distilled down to eight minutes. The play it fantastically, but again, it took a while to get used to playing short in this space.

Off to guzzle some water and get some food in me.

I always  mean to let everyone out early and have an easy day, but it takes all the time we have to sort out this space. Maybe we have to try to get more than one rehearsal in the hall so this one isn’t so grueling.

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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 www.kennethwoods.net

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