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Stephen  Fine

Preparing for Winter

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I was recently asked to recommend a fill-in soloist when someone backed out of performing Vivaldi's Winter with a local symphony (not the one I play with, the one in the next town over).  After naming a couple people I thought knew the part and had performed it before, I also mentioned that I could probably learn it myself.

And now I'm soloing next month!  On violin!  (Anyone want to visit Ocala, FL on November 17?)

Luckily it's an easy little instrument, I'm used to something much more difficult...

In preparation, I've started listening to it a bunch.  Tell me your favorite recordings.  I've been listening to:

1.  Standage/Pinnock with The English Concert

2. Shaham with Orpheus

3. Huggett/Kraemer with Raglan Baroque

4. Mackintosh/Hogwood with Academy of Ancient Music

 

I'll update more as I practice. 

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That's exciting!  Congrats.:) I'll be looking for your updates.

Actually, I think part of my problem (perceived slow progress)  is never really having seen how other (successful) people practice.  Unless you're in a school setting of some sort, you wouldn't really have that experience.  You go to your lesson - you go home - you practice on your own.  If you are not practicing effectively (outside of the obvious) how would you know what you are doing 'wrong'?.  I have had to do a lot of learning vicariously...

Can't say I have a favourite Winter performance though...I've only really ever listened to bits and pieces as needed, and played said bits and pieces, although I have recordings of viola and mandolin concertos! :P

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1 hour ago, Stephen Fine said:

I was recently asked to recommend a fill-in soloist when someone backed out of performing Vivaldi's Winter with a local symphony (not the one I play with, the one in the next town over).  After naming a couple people I thought knew the part and had performed it before, I also mentioned that I could probably learn it myself.

And now I'm soloing next month!  On violin!  (Anyone want to visit Ocala, FL on November 17?)

Luckily it's an easy little instrument, I'm used to something much more difficult...

In preparation, I've started listening to it a bunch.  Tell me your favorite recordings.  I've been listening to:

1.  Standage/Pinnock with The English Concert

2. Shaham with Orpheus

3. Huggett/Kraemer with Raglan Baroque

4. Mackintosh/Hogwood with Academy of Ancient Music

 

I'll update more as I practice. 

additional cool HIP performances 

Concerto Italiano with Rinaldo Allesandrini and Rachel Podger on Channel classics

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Hah.  Not my cup of tea, but it's a forgiving piece for music, for which I can be thankful.  And she can't be accused of not making it her own.

I was starting with recordings, because the part I printed off of IMSLP was suspect, and I wanted to get my hands on something more authoritative.  The Bärenreiter showed up yesterday, and I started practicing in earnest today...

I spent my first few hours figuring out the cleverest fingerings and then figuring out whether or not they worked.  Of course, Vivaldi is lovely to play because he was such a violinist himself... mostly, the cleverest fingerings work.  Occasionally, my violin isn't allowing me to stay up in position, some notes aren't speaking clearly up there (all of a sudden, my need for a new violin is more desperate).

Now, I drill the intervals into my fingers as quickly as I can.  As a conservatory trained performer, I'm obsessed with cleanliness; technical perfection is what my ear is after.  But, hopefully, I can get the technique up to a reasonable level quickly enough that I can work on the real meat of Baroque music: rhythm, pulse, and pacing.  (Maybe by the end of the week?)

One of the real pleasures so far has been trying to feel the programmatic stuff.  For example, the solo after the first tutti in the third movement is "strongly running"... it's so easy to feel!  It feels like, on a good run, after you've finished your warm-up run, but before you get tired.  (It's one of the reasons why I don't particularly like the above recording, she's so plodding in that part!)

I've also started practicing ornamenting the second movement.  Ornamentation is not something I've spent much time working on, but I'm determined to do something fancy and elegant.  Is less more?  Is more more?  

Find out next time...

 

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20 days out:

If I were following the good advice I give to my students, everything would already be concert-ready.  But considering that, usually, performances are scheduled months in advance, I'll forgive myself; I'm not ready yet.

All of it is in tune more often than not, my sound is acceptable, large portions are by memory.  But that means that I'm still missing some shifts, some notes, I'm still squeaking and crunching and finding myself in the wrong part of the bow very occasionally, and my head is still very much in the technique instead of in the music...

Yikes, that doesn't sound very good.  But I still have 20 days.  And even if I were to have to play it today, I'm a very harsh critic.  It's not all that bad.

I'm going violin shopping tomorrow.  It's been ten years since my Widhalm was stolen in NYC, my sister's violin isn't quite cutting the mustard.

One of my favorite pieces of advice I was given by my teacher Karen Ritscher, "Never practice for your anxieties."

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21 hours ago, Stephen Fine said:

20 days out:

If I were following the good advice I give to my students, everything would already be concert-ready.  But considering that, usually, performances are scheduled months in advance, I'll forgive myself; I'm not ready yet.

All of it is in tune more often than not, my sound is acceptable, large portions are by memory.  But that means that I'm still missing some shifts, some notes, I'm still squeaking and crunching and finding myself in the wrong part of the bow very occasionally, and my head is still very much in the technique instead of in the music...

Yikes, that doesn't sound very good.  But I still have 20 days.  And even if I were to have to play it today, I'm a very harsh critic.  It's not all that bad.

I'm going violin shopping tomorrow.  It's been ten years since my Widhalm was stolen in NYC, my sister's violin isn't quite cutting the mustard.

One of my favorite pieces of advice I was given by my teacher Karen Ritscher, "Never practice for your anxieties."

Good luck! So many notes to remember so quickly...I don't know how you guys do it. I'm working on a Bach Partita (I know , they're all the rage these days) and it takes about a week to memorize 12 to 16 measures each. Needless to say it will be a while.

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13 hours ago, Bill Merkel said:

I was listening to something totally different and this showed up in my suggestions.  There are a couple things I never noticed, like how the second movement could be a tone painting of a horse clopping along through the snow.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dacAUD8YhtA

Whoa.  Nice!  She communicates well with the ensemble, I'm taking notes.

That second movement... horse clops, yes, something moving along.  I also thought about the water moving under the ice and the cold sap in the trees.  Also a family home around the fire.

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16 minutes ago, Stephen Fine said:

...  Also a family home around the fire.

"Ack! It's too hot! Who put on THAT much wood? Where's the smoke coming from? Didn't anyone open the damper? No! We are NOT having a weinie roast!  Keep the cat away from the flames! Stop with the marshmallows already! How am I supposed to get that melted mess out of the carpet?"

:ph34r:

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I went back and read the sonnet for the first time (whoops).

I win!  The second movement is home around the fire.

Good job, Vivaldi!

The concert is 3 days away.  I've been playing the thing through without memory issues all this week.  I'm still missing a shift once or twice in the 20 minutes, but it's now at the point where everything is acceptable, some of it is quite good.  There's a chance that I could nail it.

This is a difference between me and someone whose job is "soloist".  Part of what makes them better than me is the fact that "they" will have the opportunity to play Winter dozens or times with orchestra.  Mine's just a one-off.  It's much easier to nail something the fourth or fifth (or twentieth) time you do it.

I still have a few more days.  Hopefully, I'll be able to post a recording.

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Great progress! I  have a lot of respect for those who can memorize music. Nothing seems to stick with me - even easier bits. Can't imagine memorizing anything of length. We'll be performing the Beriot with a soloist next year. Had our first rehearsal with him the other day. Quite awesome to see that he's already got it memorized as well.

Looking forward to hearing your recording.

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"Stephen is a screech-plank God!"

I'm certain I don't deserve the accolade, but this was the best of the internet comments I saw after my performance.

It went well.  I noticed that the printed  program didn't have the poem, so I gave a (very) brief biographical sketch of Vivaldi, read the poem, and played.

I made an error due to my inexperience (started the second movement before the orchestra was ready), and made an error because my hand did a strange thing (failed to shift for a beat), but everything else went well.

The forgotten shift was right near the end too... on the bottom of the second-to-last page.  How disappointing is that!?!  To make it so far without a hitch and then a missed note.  Ugh.

I was immediately proud of myself that I didn't freak out.  Made the shift on the next entrance, stayed calm for the grand finale when all the winds in the world start a-blowin'.  

I wish I could've rehearsed it with the orchestra for more than 45 minutes.  It's a strange feeling, being the solo voice, after so many years of playing viola.  My first run-through, it was very difficult for me not to play chamber music.  I kept trying to fit in and it kept not working.  Finally, by ignoring the ensemble and just doing what I wanted with clarity, the music snapped together. 

My first entrance in the first rehearsal was hideous to the point of seeming like I was making some sort of viola joke.  The rest of it was fine, but I was doing something wrong in those opening arpeggios despite the fact that they had been sounding good at home for weeks.  On the second run-through, it was bad again, although not as bad.  I couldn't figure it out...  what was I doing wrong!?  One of the truths of performing is that if you begin and end well, an audience can forgive errors in the middle.  A bad entrance is death as far as I'm concerned.  I was so nervous when the moment came.  I'll never figure it out...  in the performance I entered with a little caution, and the problem was gone.  I think I was overplaying?  Violins are tricky.

Speaking of violins, I bought a fabulous instrument.  A decade after my Widhalm was stolen in NYC, I am the proud owner of a beautiful 1949 Becker & Son violin.  The sound is so silvery, so clear in the upper registers.  I bought a cool new Dodd model bow to go with it by my local archetier, David H. Forbes.

On my trip to The Violin Shop of Tampa, I played a dozen or so very fine instruments including a big beautiful Burgess viola.  I played an immaculate violin by Umberto Roazzi, a midcentury Roman guitar maker.  I wish I could remember the names of the three contemporary American violins I liked.  I think one was Severin Schurger.

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Excellent!  Congrats on your performance!  I'm very pleased to hear it went so well for you!

And congrats on your new violin and bow!  Hoping for pictures! :)

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