02 June 2014

What wants doing

All right: the Christmas music sprint done, I must needs now pay better attention to the clarinet, as we've a brace of 9th Ear concerts coming this weekend. For one thing, I had to learn Charles Turner's Tala Pieces, four artfully shaped one-pagers, each with a distinct (and winning) character, and (true to the title) each is governed by its own rhythmic pattern(s). These were quite easy to learn, and the writing is perfectly idiomatic, and lies well under the fingers; thus, I've pretty much learnt them over two days' rehearsal.

The elephant in the clarinet studio has been, Thoreau in Concord Jail. The piece is not technically difficult (that was one of the points of the piece, back when I wrote it . . . it was a last-ish-minute Plan B for a King's Chapel date). The challenge remains the fact that it's a 25-minute piece. The two Action Points for me this week are: I still remember that I rushed the piece, that initial performance at King's Chapel (a trim 19-minute outing – the Ozawa Version). So Mission № 1 is, learn the piece, in the sense that I need to learn its proper pace (as the guy playing it, I mean) . . . I need to internalize the pace, so that in performance, with the anticipated adrenalin and "feeling" the audience, I can stay centered in the piece's own tempo. True to the work's title, I must march to the beat of my own drummer.

(And I am keen to bounce it off the two fresh audiences. The piece could break either way: the listener could lose patience with the piece – "Nothing is happening! He's mad, mad, I tell you!" – or, enter into the spirit and flow of the event, as it is essentially a sort of "environment piece.")

Mission № 2 is, simply, stamina. When I played the piece at King's Chapel, it was the entire program, and I had nothing else I needed to play. Here, I shall already have played I see people walking about like trees, Charles's Tala Pieces, and Le tombeau de W.A.G. in the first half; Thoreau opens the second half (so, a decent break at intermission); and then a break, and the concert closes with How to Tell, which is itself a long, challenging play. So, these coming three evenings, I need just to play until my chops cannot take any more. Thursday evening is choir rehearsal, so largely a break (though I told Charles I would play his Tala Pieces for him, which will be light enough duty, that Thursday will still feel like a day's rest for the clarinet).

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