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Orchestra Bowings


iupviolin
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Ok, I'm SICK of my orchestra concertmaster! She gives the most AWFUL bowings that make NO MUSICAL SENSE!

I want to know if there's anything I can do about this? Should I approach her and tell her that her bowings suck or should I just suffer through music with bowings that make no sense?

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Why don't you sneek into her folder during break, and change all the bowings! Or, as I have done in the past, just do your own thing, and don't worry that you stick out like a sore thumb!

Just kidding. Unfortunately, this is one of the annoying facts of orchestra life: you've got to leave your ego at the door, and simply conform.

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I've never talked to a decent fiddle player who didn't hate the bowings he/she was expected to use in a large ensemble. I could tell you stories that would make your eyes roll up in your head and your ears smoke!

If they are really bad, I sit in the very back of the section and demand a stand by myself (claiming bad eyesight), sit slouched way over and bow as I please.

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Are the bowings bad enough to where it would be appropriate to talk to someone else like your conductor or the principal second or something?

I guess it wouldn't be appropriate to talk to the concertmaster. This can be a sensitive subject.

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quote:

Originally posted by prok3:

Are the bowings bad enough to where it would be appropriate to talk to someone else like your conductor or the principal second or something?

I guess it wouldn't be appropriate to talk to the concertmaster. This can be a sensitive subject.

The Bowings are Horrible! I don't understand what she's thinking. I mean, she came from a respectable university (Indiana University). Why can't she understand the music! I think its a disgrace to the composer and the music to do the things that she does!

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What I've noticed is that often concertmasters are people who learned to play extremely well at a very young age, and often their technique is so good, that it really doesn't matter what bowing they use, they can make it do what they want musically. They don't realize that not everyone can play as well as they do, and one bowing is the same as the other to them. The section players may not be so adept, and may need bowings that support the musical phrasing or that make the technical demands easier in order to play the music effectively (e.g. when playing an arpeggiated slurred passage that progresses from the G to the E string, do it DOWNBOW to support the curve of the bridge and the natural direction of the bow!). I'm always in favor of doing bowings that support the phrasing and that don't get in the way technically.

I knew someone once who had a similar background and approach. He served as concertmaster for a year for an orchestra (professional) and during that year, the strings improved radically, and sounded SOOO musical. The following year, they brought in a whiz-bang concertmaster who had incredibly good clean technique, and the orchestra never sounded as good as it had the year before, when the bowings were better suited to the music and to more normal technical abilities. The problem will continue until either concertmasters become better-attuned to it or we stop hiring concertmasters based solely on their technical prowess.

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quote:

Originally posted by aloiv:

Why don't you sneek into her folder during break, and change all the bowings!

This was actually done to me once when I was sitting principal cello in college orchestra. A section member borrowed my music between the dress rehearsal and the concert to copy the bowings, and then deliberately copied her bowings into my part! So, I was the one messing up in the concert because the written bowings were different than I had practiced, and the rest of the section was off because they'd gotten my original bowings. Needless to say, I was livid!

I don't think string players will ever really agree on bowings. My suggestion is to just grit your teeth and bear it. If her musical decisions are that bad, she's not likely to be concertmaster for very long.

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I think you should become concertmaster yourself. When you do, you will know that you will never be able to make everyone in the section happy, but having endured your present trials, you will be conscientious and thoughtful and create great, musical bowings that make life easier for most everyone.

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I can really sympathise - but I think you also have to consider yourself as part of the section you play in.

I once was the desk partner of someone who was clearly a much stronger player than all the rest of us - but in the end he was more of a pain in the neck than a help, because whatever we were asked to do - musically, bowing, whatever - he ALWAYS went his own merry way. It was totally distracting. I'm taking cues off people all around me when playing in an orchestral section, and don't appreciate the prima donnas who simply trip me up (not of course that I mean at all to imply that you are one).

It's really important to take seriously the fact that in orchestra you are part of an ensemble. I try and re-invent myself as a player in this context; the challenge is quite different from the normal ones I face - it's to conform, to be able to do whatever's asked. Not always easy, because as you say, in can fly in the face of what I can/want to do.

If you accept this as the MAJOR challenge of playing in an orchestra, then whatever you're asked to do can seem much less irritating.

*** This is an afterthought ...

It's been on my conscience this afternoon that I was too pious in this post. I should add that in my current orchestra, I have quite the most amazingly talented leader - years of experience, and head and shoulders above anything I've ever known. Let's just say it makes it easy for me to follow my own advice at the moment.

[This message has been edited by alice (edited 05-09-2001).]

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quote:

Originally posted by cellissima:

A section member borrowed my music between the dress rehearsal and the concert to copy the bowings, and then deliberately copied her bowings into my part.

cellissima--

Why this she do that? I'm so curious. Was she trying to make you look bad? awful.

altogirl

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quote:

Originally posted by altogirl7:

Originally posted by cellissima:

A section member borrowed my music between the dress rehearsal and the concert to copy the bowings, and then deliberately copied her bowings into my part.

cellissima--

Why this she do that? I'm so curious. Was she trying to make you look bad? awful.

altogirl

Yes, I'm afraid she was trying to make me look bad. We had a rotational seating in the section, and the performance majors took turns sitting principal. At the time I was an undergrad performance major and she was a DMA candidate in cello performance, and for this concert we were playing Elgar Enigma Variations with a couple of nice cello solos. I think she felt she should have sat principal for that concert because of the solos and set out to prove it by changing my bowings at the last minute. Pretty petty, if you ask me! I confronted her after the concert, and she admitted to changing the bowings but brushed it off like it was no big deal - even acted like she'd done me a favor by "improving" the bowings!

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I'd take an informal poll of the other section members to determine if I was the only person who thought something was wrong. I'm always willing to give the benefit of doubt that the concertmaster knows what they are doing or at least has an idea of what they want to happen and that I am just not understanding what they are trying to accomplish.

If I found that I wasn't the only person with a problem, I'd just approach the concertmaster and talk about why they are doing it this way. This works in the informal community orchestras I've been involved with. I don't have a clue whether you can do this in serious amateur or professional orchestras.

Another idea might be to have a sectional, where the concertmaster can see for themselves that a large portion of the section is struggling to master some part. One of the perils of sitting up front is that you can't see what the rest of the section is doing. It could be that the concertmaster just doesn't know that the bowings are a problem.

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I'm amazed that I'm reading about someone sneaking around and changing someones music without their consent. To me such behavior is reprehensible and unprofessional. Lets examine this changing of the concertmasters bowing thing in more depth.

Okay you've done it and they are using the new bowing and their stand partner is too. You and your stand partner are also using the improved bowing, but what about the rest of the section. They are probably using the old bowing provided by the concertmaster, unless you have a. surreptiously changed their bowings also or b. told them the new bowings without consulting the concertmaster, thus abrogating some of the concertmasters authority and introducing a mini-conspiracy into the section.

Plus, I don't think you can get away with it. Handwriting differences will give it away besides the fact that the person is going to be playing along with their style of bowing and see that what is written on the music doesn't match what they are doing and what they want to do.

You really only have two choices, grin and bear it or bell the cat.

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