I’ve literally not had a second to sit down and do even the shortest blog post in some time, and don’t have any time now either. However, the beginning of the Rose City International Conductor’s Workshop each summer has become such an important moment in my year that I couldn’t let the occasion pass without some comment.
So… as I’m giving up sleep I will badly need later in the week, this will be brief….
We seemed to have more than the usual pre-workshop scheduling/travel/facilities worries this year, but this may simply be that I block out the trauma of past years so as not to become too discouraged. Nonetheless, Kris, our sainted housing coordinator, was fielding calls at 3 AM the morning before the workshop to come and save a stranded conductor whose flight was cancelled, and there were other problems and challenges and issues being worked out throughout the first day so that everyone could get off their flights and into their rooms and be ready to conduct. Even my colleague Chris Zimmerman had to suffer through a cancelled flight, meaning he got in today at 1:30 instead of last night.
Still, by mid-afternoon, every single student and musician who was supposed to be there was there, and my blood pressure started to ease. Our first session was a score study class with David Hoose, as inspiring as always. I’ll never hear the final chord of the introduction to the Stravinsky Octet the same way again, and that’s a piece I’ve done quite a few times.
In that class we touched briefly on different general approaches to score study, and one student who had just come from another workshop spoke of the “why” approach, which is the best. Here is a link to an old post on the subject, complete with inspiring commentary from David. For general overview, do a search of the blog for “score questioning.”
Tonight we had our first conducting session on the Beethoven op 95 quartet as orchestrated by Mahler. I picked it because I thought it would be telling to see how conductors coped with a work of Beethoven that is more or less free of conducting traditions. Everyone did at least some marvelous things, but, somewhat as I feared, I didn’t feel like, in general, it was deep enough in everyone’s, or anyone’s, bones. There were huge problems with the publishers not sending out scores of the Mahler arrangement on time, but I was surprised that some people didn’t just sit down with the original quartet score, which is easy to get.
Tomorrow, we start with the Discovery Program students conducting the Stravinsky Octet, then an opera class where Chris Zimmerman will talk about opera technique and then Rick Rowley will talk about stage direction and scene building. Alexis Hamilton from Portland Opera will be on hand to provide the singer’s perspective. Finally, in the evening we hear Rick play the Brahms D minor concerto, which in many ways is the hardest piece for the students this week- all the technical challenges that make the first movement of the 3rd Symphony so hard with the added challenge of having to accompany a complex and flexible solo part. Yikes! Still- we get to talk about conducting Brahms and listen to Rick, which is a great way to spend a summer evening.