29 June 2015

Notes from Before the Blog: June 2003

At my dear wife's prompting, I decided to audition in Barcelona. Two lifelong dreams, in exhilarating conjunction: a visit to Spain, & an audition for a chair in a professional orchestra!

Should really have been practicing before, but I was exhausted Saturday, needed to be sociable with the choir after church on Sunday. At last, I put the clarinet together Monday, for 45 minutes - not solid playing, as I review the excerpts. Most seem as though they will fall under the fingers fairly easily ... a few, of course, will take serious practicing.

Tues, 3 June. Played a solid half hour's practice, running through the Mozart. I need a lot of practice, & I need to build up endurance ... but I think there is time enough.

Wed, 4 June. Good 45 mins of practice. Ran Mozart, & stage I excerpts, also played some Bach for stamina. As if in support of the whole endeavor, Mark E. sends to ask if I might play an opening voluntary on Sunday! Will put together the cl./org. arr. of Exaltabo Te, Deus.

Thu, 5 June. Weather change, tired in the evening ... rested from practice. Met at last with Tom P. Tom was very warm about the news that I am going to audition in Barcelona. He is almost as excited about it as I am myself!

Fri, 6 June. Had been planning to go to the music shop by Symphony Hall for a music stand; but as I waited at Park St, had the happy thought of stopping at the mall [en route to Petersham]. Got out of work early; so I arrived at the monastery good & early. Found not only a music stand, but a clarinet stand as well. Played 40 minutes, good stamina. Ready to begin twice-daily routine tomorrow. Fr Michael gave me the Traveler's Blessing.

[diary ends here]

03 June 2015

Impish Impermanence

Yesterday [2 June], the Studies in Impermanence went much better than I expected, or might have had any right to expect. It remains a nervy exploit, playing a 20-minute unaccompanied clarinet piece.

And I learnt that I am playing much better these days, than nine years ago, in rather an ironic way. Back when I first played the Studies, I took the faster passages cautiously slow, and the piece stretched out to almost 25 minutes. It's a while since I played it, so I was counting on the piece occupying 25 minutes for yesterday's concert. (In fact, when I performed the piece a couple of years later, in Atlanta, I took impromptu cuts, to keep the timing down; that may be one reason why I did not bridle overmuch when I was asked to play an abbreviated Thoreau in Concord Jail for Danvers. Anyway, better that, than being burnt for a witch . . . .)

Yesterday, I pretty much coasted through the piece. (Rather a surprise, considering how ratty Monday night's run-through of the Studies was . . . but then, yesterday I was fresh, where on Monday night, my brain probably suffered a bit from having endured the first day back in the office after a week's vacation.) Not saying my performance was perfect (it wasn't) but everything sits quite well in the fingers, and this is the most musical performance I've given of this piece yet.

I set up my recorder, but somehow managed not to record the performance. Maybe I'll try a "studio recording" here at home.

31 May 2015


Yes, there was a great deal of Henningmusick activity [this past] month, and no, I scarcely did any blogging. So there's some catching up to do.

I've had a great time engraving the old piano music. More on that soon.

Right now [2 June, that is], on my way to King's Chapel to play (for the second time, in that fine venue) the Studies in Impermanence

21 May 2015

The Return of the Op.11

It took three-ish sessions to re-engrave the Petersburg Nocturne in Sibelius, and it looks much better, much truer to its appearance in MS., than did my earlier attempt in Finale (from which I actually had the temerity to try playing the piece in public, albeit a lunchtime recital at St Paul's).

Spring in Her Step required two-ish sessions, and the new look of the piece (harmonized with the Nocturne and other pieces I composed in that epoch) has me more pleased than ever with it musically. No, I'm not certain that I quite understand that, myself.

Yesterday evening, I began (and finished) the Sibelius edition of both The Bronze Girl's Spilt Milk and The Sleep-Pavane at the Foot of Frozen Niagara. They are both short, of course, and quiet, and spare;  and only modest miniatures. But I have never other than liked them both, and if I ever felt that I ought to change even a single note, something would have to be wrong with me. For all their artistic modesty, they were the most important music for me to have written up to that time: music which is both completely true to my own character as a composer, and wrought with a professionalism and elegance which are not to be denied.

We have choir tonight, so it will be tomorrow that I can engrave the last remaining piece of the Op.11;  in some ways, the piece from this set with the most interesting history. 

19 May 2015

Old stuff, giving it new life

This week I have been revisiting short piano pieces I composed in St Petersburg (and elsewhere) 20 years ago and more, and I am agreeably surprised at how well I like them.

Now, my eye falling upon the title of an old trio for clarinet and two saxophones, I wonder if that score may possibly be salvageable . . . even if not, the rediscovery of these piano pieces has been something of a gift to my later self.

15 May 2015


As at times I mull upon my (let's call it) mild dissatisfaction over the obscurity into which Misapprehension has sunk, I've thought about how I might re-score it.

String choir, sure, but it isn't as if I knew the director of a string orchestra for whom the piece would right away be a good fit. And when I learnt that there is a mandolin orchestra nearby, that intelligence set wheels in motion; but in the event, such a scheme were insufficiently practical.

I think the most nearly practical Plan B, is a version for a subset of the standard wind ensemble. Which is far from a bad idea.

And more

Both the fragment below (no title nor date) and a piano piece for which I have been preparing a fresh Sibelius version (what will look like revision because of variant notation, but the new notation really just reflects how I always played the piece) are from about the same epoch.