Friday morning, our group had a long practice scheduled with Marin Alsop and the Baltimore Symphony. A lot of focused practice allowed me to become more secure on some of the fast runs of the Hindemith, so I was anxious for rehearsal to see if i had it right. As it turned out, Marin was stuck in traffic, and we began under the leadership of her graduate student, who is completing a two-year fellowship at the BSO.
He began the first movement at a somewhat slower tempo than we had experienced with Marin, which made playing the Hindemith easier for me. (He is the conductor at the podium in the WBAL-TV report on the camp.) Marin appeared a few minutes into the rehearsal, and spent some of the morning coaching him on his techniques. “You have to play every instrument,” she told him.
With her conducting style, using her entire body, there is no ambiguity about what she wants and when she wants it. A wind player told me that it felt to him like his experience as a naval aviator: it was like that moment in air-to-air combat when a “target solution” is reached. When she cues you, it’s clear you are locked in her sight down the baton, and you either play, or you die!
When Marin took over, she made an adjustment in the original plan that was univerally praised by the Academy members. Based on feedback from Academy musicians that they wanted to hear more of the BSO, she had the BSO players play a movement, before having us all play it together. That change allowed us amateurs to pull our noses out of the score and watch our stand partners closely. We also had a chance to listen to the nuances of dynamics and tone Marin wanted in the music. That change allowed us to ramp up our game, and play better.
On the downside, what became glaringly obvious to me was that I had been TOO focused on the Hindemith in practice at the expense of the Rimskey-Korsakov – a situation I needed able to remedy with more practice!