Tag Archives: Symphonic Metamorphoses

BSO Academy, Day 4 (Georgeann)

Baltimore Symphony Orchestra Music Director Marin Alsop took the podium in our string sectionals this morning to work through some of the rough spots in Paul Hindemith’s Symphonic Metamorphoses.  At one point, in the second movement, she turned to the violins and said, “Let’s do that section with the nightmare triplets.”

About three minutes into the movement, the first violins, second violins, and violas have about 30 measures of triplets – sometimes in chromatic scales, but other times in unpredictable patterns that we are all struggling to master.

Tonight at dinner, we did the math and realized what we are trying to do.  The movement is in 2/2 time, with each half note having an assigned value of 96 beats per minute.   That means each quarter note has a metronome value of 192 beats per measure.  Subdivide those quarters into triplets, and that means we are trying to play 576 beats per minute. Put another way, we are playing more about 9-1/2 notes PER SECOND!  Sheez …

The other night, on the phone with Chuck, I told him I didn’t think I had ever played this fast in my life.  Now, I have an idea what my speed limit is!

The good news, I suppose, is that Marin and many of the top players in the orchestra have told us repeatedly to “focus on the rhythm, not the notes, because the brass is so noisy no one will notice if you make a mistake!”

The section I’m talking about can be heard in this YouTube video – just when the worst run of the “nightmare triplets” for violins begin.  It sounds on the video like one continuous line, but let me assure you, we are sawing our hearts out!

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BSO Academy, Day 2 (Georgeann)

A very jam-packed day in Baltimore, with six hours of playing and a whole lot of music.  Some phrases that stick in my mind from the day:

  • “Use less bow.”  From my private lesson this morning with Gregory Kuperstein, a BSO first violinist, originally from Russia, and a long-time orchestra member.
  • “In this section, it’s very noisy with drums and horns, so if you get the notes wrong, it’s not a big deal.”  GK, again, commenting on the Hindemith.  (You have to imagine the Russian accent).
  • “Balance your skull over your spine, and release your legs to the floor.”   From this morning’s class on the Alexander Technique.
  • “When you are exhausted, you start muscling through, and that’s when injuries happen.”  From this morning’s session with a physical therapist, who warned that unless a therapist specializes in musicians, they may give you the wrong treatment.
  • “Here’s a simple stretch for string players to relieve tension in your hands before and after you play.”  Advice from same physical therapist.  One hour later, therapist is mentally subjected to some choice language when stretching results in a cramp in my left hand (the one that fingers the strings) just as sectional practice is beginning.
  • “Have any of you tried playing the first violin solos in the Rimskey-Korsakov”.  In violin sectional practice. Several players start demonstrating their proficiency.  I am firmly shaking my head — isn’t the concertmaster supposed to play those and let me just do the pizzicato?
  • “In this section, it’s very noisy with drums and horns, so if you get the notes wrong, it’s not a big deal.” Igor Yuzefovich, Assistant Concertmaster leading the string sectional, commenting on the Hindemith.  He was born in Russian, but doesn’t have the accent.
  • “Each of you WILL play a violin solo in the Rimskey-Korsakov.  Expect Marin to call on you during rehearsal tomorrow.”  IY’s announcement at the end of the string sectional.  Yikes!  Where is the practice room?
  • “WE DID IT.”  Group chorus after our string quintet manages to sight-read through the entire Dvorak Quintet in G Major, before deciding to focus on the Scherzo (2nd movement) only for Friday night’s concert.

And finally,

  • “Thank goodness we decided not to stay in the dorm.”  Viola Judy and myself, as we return to our hotel room after a 12 hour day of music to freshly made beds and clean towels.  The folks staying in the dorm have been without hot water because of a malfunction, and have to get through the week using only one towel.
Tomorrow, our first full rehearsal with the musicians of the BSO and Marin Alsop.   That will be me ducking when the Rimskey-Korsakov solos are assigned!

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