Gal recording- Day one

Just a very few quick thoughts on today’s sessions.

We focused all day on the outer movements of the Gál Violin Concerto. It was a fascinating and deeply rewarding day. It’s fascinating and inspiring to work with a great British orchestra on music they’ve never seen or heard before by a composer most (if not all) players are new to. I can’t imagine there is any other place where the learning curve, particularly stylistically, is so fast.

The technical challenges I spoke of in the last post proved, if anything, to be even more daunting than I thought. There are a few passages in this piece that are as nasty for intonation as anything I’ve ever done, and it was amazing to see how quickly we could sort them out once the difficulties became apparent. Throughout the day, one couldn’t ask for a more complete commitment to excellence- the musicians again and again where relaxed and patient any time we needed to take a few minutes in mid session to really tune things up.

Both the first and last movements are full of intonation issues. Beyond that, the challenges are quite different. The first movement is almost an etude in rubato- there is so much flexibility in 90% of the movement, and it needs tons of color at every turn. Annette-Barbara, our soloist, has really worked to develop a reading that is brimming with this idiomatic, Viennese freedom, and the orchestra was very quick to catch on. Still, getting an entire section or even the whole orchestra to move together takes lots of listening and enough time to let things “settle” in.

The Rondo-Finale, on the other hand, needs to sparkle, dance and groove. If color and freedom are the name of the game in the first movement, clarity, vividness and rhythmic spark are what make the Finale work, even in its lyrical moments.Coming back after a dinner break with full stomachs was perhaps the not idea place to tackle this music from, but again, it quickly started to sound like the piece.

Tomorrow, we begin with the beautiful 2nd mvt, which Gál calls an Arioso, then we’ll do a couple of patches and a final performance. The outer movements are well covered from a nuts and bolts point of view, but I think a run though will give us a chance to give some passages more direction and energy. I spent some time with Simon, the producer, after the session  listening to playback. There is so much to be delighted about, but I have a feeling that, without going in circles, we could take the performance to another level with just a few tweaks and a bit of adrenaline.

And possibly a good night’s sleep.   


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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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