Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Not sure why I do this to myself

I have gotten myself into a situation. It began last spring, when for some unfathomable reason I volunteered to play a concerto with my chamber orchestra. Initially, the idea was to do something big. The Dvorak concerto was mentioned (not by me). The conductor asked me to send him some suggestions, which I did (and I was getting all excited about playing C. P. E. Bach -- I love those pieces though they are not traditionally showy; I also thought the orchestra would have a chance of sounding pretty good on one of them). Some time went by, and then I got an email asking if I could play Fauré's "Elegy."

As they say these days, meh. It's one of those stereotypical sad cello pieces that sounds like someone's funeral is either taking place or is imminent. It's also at the technical level of approximately junior high, but does not lie particularly well. It would take lots of work to get it to sound good, but it would never sound like I had put so much into it. I dreaded spending the better part of a year working on it. At first I thought, okay, not my favorite, but I'll be a pro, learn the piece, play it really well, et cetera. The only problem was that every time I sat down to work on it, it made me depressed.

So I approached the conductor at a rehearsal this fall and asked if he would be okay with another piece of the same length. The upshot was that he agreed to change from the "Elegy" to Tchaikovsky's "Pezzo Capriccioso." And now I must make sure that I am in shape to play all those spiccato 32nd notes and jump around in thumb position by this coming June.

My experience of these things is that it is not enough to practice only the piece; I need to work on other things that include the same technical challenges but are more difficult. So my plan of attack, at least to start, is Popper (Etude No. 6, and maybe some others) for bowing; Bach Prelude No. 6 for thumb position and intonation; and scales and arpeggios. We'll see how it goes.

Here is a video of "Pezzo" that I liked when I came across it on YouTube. Very clean and expressive.

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