11 hours at Vftp Headquarters

Well, I made it to my SMP rehearsal yesterday after a long flight from Seattle to Heathrow. What is it with men and their elbows on flights? The guy next to be seemed to have no idea that the space on my side of the arm rest was for my body, not his damn elbows.

Anyway- what an interesting gear shift from Mahler 5 to Beethoven 1… I seriously love Beethoven 1- it’s the ultimate orchestral spring clean. In some ways, I think it’s the hardest of the 9 Beethovens, but it’s so rewarding to work on. We worked extremely hard on articulation, rhythm and contrast. It’s one of the most rehearse-able pieces ever because the musical intent is so clear, so you can focus on executing that intent with the greatest possible precision and clarity. I also came up with a wicked new bowing for one bit last night. I love it when that happens. The concert is Saturday at the Menuhin Hall- I think there are only about 20 tickets left, so you should call the box office today if you’re coming.

However, it seems a bit cruel that I have to drive back over today after only 11 hours at home for another rehearsal. I feel fine this morning, but tonight? At least I’m working…

I still promise some more Mahler 5 thoughts, but meanwhile, over at A Musical Rampage, Erik Klackner has some wry and insightful observations.

 On a personal horn level, we fucking rocked the shit.  The principal/obbligatoist was Lydia van Dreel from the University of Oregon, and I officially declare her a bad ass.  Real easy to play with, too, which is key, because there’s an awful lot of teamwork as a section.  I’m not even going to bother mentioning specific examples of our collective shit-rocking, but perhaps when Sean the engineer finishes the recording I’ll toss the link up here for peeps to listen to and confirm what I’m saying.  We weren’t alone…

He’s not just, er, blowing his own horn- our horn section completely demolished the last several bands that I’d heard do the piece. Sometimes it just clicks- with horns it’s all about confidence, and they were, as we say in hoops and harmony, dominant. 

I’m still pondering and reflecting on the performance and how I feel about my own part in it- the piece itself is so huge and complex that I feel like I want to go through the score a few times in post mortem contemplation, and I’ll be anxious to hear how it turned out on recording, but it’s been really satisfying to see so many musicians still buzzing about it after a few days. I certainly miss working on it.

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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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4 comments on “11 hours at Vftp Headquarters”

  1. Erik K

    Always a good sign when the conductor affirms your shit-rocking. It would have rather undermined my post had you been like…”meh…”

    I must tell you, in reference to the bit about interpretation…I watched the Haitink Kerstmatinees performance of the 5th, and your conception of the piece made more sense to me, even though the Haitink (along with folks like Leinsdorf, Kondrashin, etc.) is (or was) more in line with my own conception to this point. I don’t think that’s 4 days of rehearsal talking…I too would like to go back through the score and reconsider everything I thought I knew, knew I thought, or figured was cool. Cheers on a reading that’s stuck with me, sir.

  2. Lawrence Yates

    Errmmm….. we have a language problem…….

    From the Erick Klackner quote downwards I am unable to discern whether the performance of the horns was good or bad.

  3. Kenneth Woods

    Aha- Lawrence, meet Erik. Erik meet Lawrence. Erik- Lawrence is the principal horn of Lancashire Chamber Orchestra who just survived Haydn 72 with me. Lawrence- Erik is a fine horn player and conductor who was playing 3rd on the Mahler. Lawrence and Erik have similarly awe-inspiring knowledge in the non-classical fields of medeval reenactments and studies and rap music respectively.

    So, here is my English to English translation.
    ” we fucking rocked the shit” translates as-
    “we excelled magnificently at all the tasks before us.”

    “The principal/obbligatoist was Lydia van Dreel from the University of Oregon, and I officially declare her a bad ass”
    in English-
    “The principal/obbligatoist was Lydia van Dreel from the University of Oregon, and I am now of the opinion that she is an exceptional technician and artist on every level”

    “Real easy to play with, too, which is key, because there’s an awful lot of teamwork as a section”
    In English
    Professor van Dreel is also very easy to play with, which is essential in this work, as the horn writing demands a high degree of teamwork within the horn section.”

    “I’m not even going to bother mentioning specific examples of our collective shit-rocking”
    In English
    “I find it uneccessary and inappropriate to mention specific examples of the moments in the performance that stood out at an exceptional standard.”

    “our horn section completely demolished the last several bands that I’d heard do the piece”
    in English
    “Our horn section outshone those of the last several symphony orchestras I had heard perform Mahler 5.”

    So, yes- horns in Mahler 5. Good

    For more on my month of horn, see a future blog post

  4. Pingback: Kenneth Woods- a view from the podium » After-gig ruminations, rants and random connections

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