Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Long Day. Lots of cello stuff.

Woof. Yesterday was a rather long day. I had my orchestra repertoire class, my Baroque performance topics class, my lesson, orchestra, and then I performed in the composer's concert. My lesson was, of course, the high point of my day, yet I also got a lot out of my Baroque class. In my lesson we worked on Beethoven's 5th cello sonata in D major. This piece is quite fabulous. Especially the last movement, because it's a fugue, and fugues are one of my favorite things in the world. They are also ridiculously hard to make work well. The thing about Beethoven's music that I am learning more and more is that there is SO much musical information in every note/gesture/phrase/rest. And it is the duty of the performer to convey that meaning in a convincing manner. For example, let us take the first "statement" made by the cello at the beginning of the sonata in the first movement. It's a D major arpeggio. Big woop-tee-doo. But this is the first statement of the piece and it must be very strong and have direction. This figure interrupts the piano's sequential pattern and takes it to a new place. Within three seconds the whole musical gesture is entirely transformed from a rather stately motive and ascends in pitch while getting softer and sweeter (dolce). There are stacatto markings on the D and F# that follow a slurred pair of notes, and the motive finally lands on a high A. To go from a very "core"-sounding D on the C-string to a A on the A-string is incredibly difficult to do well. So of course this means OCD practice! I'm training myself to really enjoy every sound I make, not just play what's there. Also, for you cellists out there, I highly recommend starting the piece on a down-bow even though the first note occurs on an upbeat. This gives strength to the D. To compensate for the backwards feel of the bow, take two up-bows on the D and F# on the A-string (the notes with dots). However since these dots are under slurs, do not play "peck-ish" stacatto notes. These notes are almost a hybrid of stacatto and/portato and the bow does not actually stop on the string. Think of a brush stroking the string and then releasing just a bit of tension in the hair upon switching from D to F#. :)

Woo! That's just the first measure! Anyway, I have to go through a similar process with the whole piece. I also learned something quite interesting. Beethoven was a TERRIBLE proof-reader, and there was a lot of stuff left out. Slurs, dots, some dynamics, some other stuff. So if you're playing Beethoven's music and all of the sudden an unexpected musical thing happens that feels awkward, chances are that your instincts are correct and something is indeed awkward. If he writes a long note tied to a bunch of 16th notes and then randomly the tie is gone 2 measures later, take a look at the piano part, really examine what's happening in the music, and make your decision (sorry that sentence was way too long).

So today will be the first time I get together with the pianist and I'm really looking forward to it.

No comments: