Ooh I do like a bit of Fauré

Hey everyone! Sorry for not blogging for absolutely weeks however I was busy in orchestral rehearsals for the last two weeks and I had little time for anything else. Recently I have listened to far too many Russian, hearty, gutsy and loud symphonies and orchestral works. I have resorted to my quieter, more conservative choral music. One of the composers I was listening to was C. V. Stanford, an extremely underated Romantic choral composer, and whose work, Bluebird, I am pretty sure I have shared on this blog already, however if not here it is again:

This is actually one of my favourite pieces of music and is certainly my favourite piece of choral music. I find it so serene and peaceful, complete with amazingly simple imagery of a lake (I always imagine it at dawn – with mist hanging over) and bluebirds. Stanford was predominantly a religous choral writer, writing for the church services and for organs, however this text that he sets is quite refreshing after hearing a lot of Christian texts that he put to music.

The second composer I was listening to again more recently was Gabriel Fauré, the 19th Century French music genius (at least I think so!). Most have heard something by Fauré in their lifetime, perhaps without knowing so, and his work Cantique de Jean Racine is a sublime masterpiece, one of his most famous:

This is very much a religious piece of music, telling of the grace of god, etc. Fauré had a strong belief in the afterlife, something recognised by his famous Requiem. This piece was written when he was just twenty years old, and is quite a masterpiece. I hope you enjoy these treats and I promise to get back into writing some bigger posts soon!

If you want to read up on Fauré then visit this Classic FM page: http://www.classicfm.com/composers/faure/

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Daily Prompt: Born to Be With You

Got a soul-mate and/or a best friend? What is it about that person that you love best? Describe them in great detail — leave no important quality out.

Hello everyone! I apologise for not blogging in over a week, however I was caught up in a flurry of concerts, workshops and work – all of which are finished for the time being as term has ended now!

I know this may sound cheesy, but I was thinking a lot about music today and I realised how my cello is one of my best friends, and how music is my soul-mate. Right now, I have been going through a lot of stress for multiple reasons, and where some people have a partner/significant other, I have music to hold on to.

Having been thinking a lot (I do this well – I am over-analytical of myself and everything) about, yes, everything, I have found myself undergoing yet another process of change. In life it is important to change, despite it being utterly terrifying – I should know. That being said, everyone needs ‘a constant’ in their lives. This last week started with me feeling refreshed and awake, ready to do everything I needed to do (late night rehearsals, the biggest concert of the term, etc.), yet through the week things changed – I had restlessness nights, moments of extreme panic and worry, emotional challenges.

Going through life you must realise that changes in yourself and everything is natural, however something that I have been questioning is whether you can change back into someone you were. I was at a concert on Thursday night at the Usher Hall (that’s in Edinburgh, if you don’t know). My favourite living cellist, Steven Isserlis (amazing hair, amazing talent), was playing Dvorak’s Cello Concerto, my favourite cello concerto, with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra. My teacher has known him for years, however I only just met him earlier this week. I only made the second half of the concert (the Dvorak was in the second half), and sat with three friends in the Upper Circle where we had a great view and great place for hearing Isserlis and the orchestra.

It was stunning. I can say to you now that I have never been to a better concert in my life, and that I was incredibly moved by his playing. I had heard this recording on YouTube before, however even though this recording is outstanding the concert was inhuman. We all faced each other after about six minutes of the concerto and were all starstruck. His technique and musicianship are flawless and absolutely incredible. There were moments in the second movement where I wanted to cry it was so beautiful. Everything about it was perfect. The piece itself is incredible, however I never knew music could be that perfect – and that’s saying something.

I think that it’s ironic how I describe music as ‘the constant’ in my life, however so much changes within the course of, say, a piece like the Dvorak Cello Concerto. I now appreciate how much music reflects our own humanity – it changes like a person would change, yet you still feel as if you can depend on it. Like some people, music can tie together a community, a group of friends. I was in a relationship with someone at the beginning of the year whom I had grown close to very quickly. She is a clarinettist, a fabulous one at that. Music brings people together like that, yet music changes people too. What do you think of that?

Other soul-mates:

  1. Thirteen Time Zones Away and Still Side by Side | Kosher Adobo
  2. Neurosis From A to Z | The Jittery Goat
  3. From My Heart, with Love | From Hiding to Blogging
  4. Born to be With You – Bess you is my woman now. (Daily Prompt) | Roving Bess
  5. Bitten by the Love Bug!! [Wish Come True] | She Writes
  6. Daily Prompt: Born To be With You -Psychology Behind Choosing To Like People We Met | Journeyman
  7. EMILY AND JUSTIN: THE PROPOSAL | She Writes
  8. Daily Prompt: Born to Be With You | The WordPress C(h)ronicle
  9. Born To Be With You | The Magic Black Book
  10. DP Daily Prompt: Born to Be With You | Sabethville
  11. Born to be With You | Faith, Life and Compassion
  12. Be the Edward to my Vivian | Expressions
  13. Daily Prompt: Born to Be With You | seikaiha’s blah-blah-blah
  14. About a Panda | jigokucho
  15. Drama queen | Perspectives on life, universe and everything
  16. Layers | Perspectives on life, universe and everything
  17. Love, Life and Loss | MC’s Whispers
  18. My Soul Mate: Daily Prompt | ALIEN AURA’S BLOG: IT’LL BLOW YOUR MIND!
  19. I’m On Riot ! | Life Confusions
  20. Yearning for The One : a misguided human quest? Daily Prompt | ALIEN AURA’S BLOG: IT’LL BLOW YOUR MIND!
  21. She Loves Me | My Author-itis
  22. The one I love… | Life Sans God
  23. Born To Be With You (Daily Prompt) | Wordy Wings
  24. Recharging the Cell Phone | The Zombies Ate My Brains
  25. people let me tell you about my best friend | eastelmhurst.a.go.go
  26. Born To Be With You | The Giardino Journey
  27. Opposites Attract! | meanderedwanderings
  28. An ode to a soul mate who doesn’t exist | The Bohemian Rock Star’s “Untitled Project”
  29. He is the soul-mate because…. | The Gilded Lotus
  30. Cradle « Averil Dean
  31. My Sun, My Life | Flowers and Breezes
  32. In Step with an Angel | Speculative Paradigm Shifts
  33. The Rainbow Of My Life | The Insight of a young soul
  34. Welcome Back! | Views Splash!
  35. Born to be with You: Daily Post | Destino
  36. This Kid I Know: Michelle | Never Stationary
  37. How To Be A Best Friend | Never Stationary
  38. Zip you lips because loose lips sink ships | Lisa’s Kansa Muse
  39. “Give her the truth serum, NOW!” | I’m a Writer, Yes I Am
  40. Daily Prompt: Born to Be With You | My Atheist Blog
  41. Soul Mates | Kate Murray
  42. Born to be with you | Asianchemnerd
  43. Let Me Tell You a Secret | Out From Under the Umbrella
  44. Every Fiber of my Being | The Ravenously Disappearing Woman
  45. My ‘virtual’ best friend | Prompt Me Please
  46. Born to be with you? | An adventure? Alpaca my bags.
  47. An Open Letter To My Person | Sloppy Etymology
  48. Love Crime, Acts of Love, and wacky love bits: this week’s weird news « psychologistmimi
  49. we go together like a bird and a feather | the REmissionary
  50. Mr.Know-It-All | bratz626
  51. Dear Stephen, | 1+1-1=0
  52. The swale and the swirl of now. | The Seminary of Praying Mantis
  53. Daily Prompt: Born to Be With you | daniellemcfarlane
  54. Soulmate: BornToBeWithYou Daily Prompt | Starting Write Now
  55. Daily Prompt: Born to Be With You | Basically Beyond Basic
  56. How I Met My Beast, My Love, My Christopher | My Renaissance Blog
  57. My Person | Yellow Brick Road

Schubert Sick Leave – Competition Adventures

Lo – I have returned! Apologies for the absence of posts in the last couple of weeks. I always forget how busy March is every year. My excuse for not blogging is that I have had lots of concerts and rehearsals in the last fortnight. The only reason that I am blogging today is that I am at home, off sick, exhausted. Though all the concerts to do have not been done yet, I have until Monday until rehearsals get back into full swing, so this seemed like a good opportunity to catch up on rest and cure illnesses.

Last night our Schubert Quintet competed in a Chamber Music competition. We did the 3rd movement of the Schubert String Quintet in C Major – the Scherzo -, just a few hours after a few of us had competed in a Solo recital class. The leader of our Quintet won the recital class – he certainly deserved it as his musicality is fantastic and his technique is exquisite – and we all were very proud of him as we walked to the next competition venue. We grabbed some food on the way, ate, and then started rehearsing (again) – two whole hours before the competition started!

We practised in a small chapel, did plenty of intonation exercises, and went over beginnings and endings of sections of the piece. Before long, the competition started, and we went into the main hall of the church – a grand, ornamented, wonderous place in all honesty. After the first group performed we grabbed our instruments, which we had perfectly tuned beforehand, handed the score of the Schubert to the Adjudicators, and set up.

Doing chamber music from memory is unconventional to say the least, and when we placed our stands to the sides of the stage we got some chuckles from the audience. There was only one piano stool (cellists tend to prefer sitting on an adjustible piano stool as opposed to a chair) so I had to sit on a chair which, in truth, was far too low for me to sit on. We checked our strings for tuning. We were all out of tune ever so slightly. This really took us by surprise, however we tuned fairly quickly, checked everyone was okay and calm, then played.

The performance was a bit shaky, even though everyone said it was a fantastic performance, and there were a couple of memory slips from a couple of us; however the music went on regardless and seemingly these mistakes were undetectable. We received enough applause for three bows, and then the Adjudicators came up to our group and said “We’re speechless”. It was very exciting – we really didn’t think that we were that good!

After they had asked us a few questions, such as “Where do you study?”, “How long have you been playing together?” and “Will you be doing all fifty-five minutes of the piece by memory?”, we sat down and watched the last group (there were only three groups as the other six had withdrawn!) perform. In all honesty, this trio of musicians were outstanding. They played this practically unknown “Fantasy Trio” for Clarinet, Cello and Piano. They were all post-grad music students, and their performance was very refined indeed.

In the end, the trio and our Quintet were both given an “Outstanding” mark by the Adjudicators, however the trio received the medal. We all agreed that our performance was far from perfect. In truth, little things can throw you off your game. In this case, the surprise of our instruments being out of tune after we had tuned them was probably the thing was distracted us. That being said, my advice to all musicians performing chamber music is this:

Always remember that you are playing music.

Music is expressive art at the height of its glory.

In the end, everyone has to express themselves when playing music.

Feel the connection with your fellow musicians.

There is a known phenomenon amongst musicians:

When you cut out all your visual senses,

(Which take a lot of energy from the brain),

Your other senses take over, and are heightened,

If you can feel this all the time you have entered a whole different realm of music-making,

And I assure you that you will never feel the same about music again.

End-of-week Music-making

Hello everyone! Today I have had a really amazing day, possibly the best I’ve had all year. I had a Schubert String Quintet rehearsal from 12.30-7.30pm today. By the end, we said that we could have gone on for twice that.

It was really sunny today in Edinburgh – quite extraordinarily so actually. We were slow to start the rehearsal, so we properly started at about 1pm in the Chapel which is amazing to play chamber music in. Because we knew we had ages to rehearse, we decided to take loads of time to do intonation warm-ups as a group, and we did scales in C and Db Major (the two main key signatures of the Schubert String Quintet), whole tones scales in both of those keys, and then chordal whole tone scales (which are fantastic to warm up with).

We rehearsed mainly the 3rd movement, as we have a lunchtime concert and a competition in which we are playing the 3rd movement; however we did also play the 1st movement (ah, the joys). Anyways, we had plenty of breaks, lots of fun, and it was generally amazing!

The part I must tell you about is what happened in the final two hours of the rehearsal. We were doing the 3rd movement – the Scherzo (lively, fast and upbeat) and the Trio (slower, relaxed, sad but utterly gorgeous) – and a friend of ours who is doing the 1st movement came in to listen to our rehearsal. We decided to do both the lunchtime concert and the competition by memory, which is quite unconventional for chamber music; however this gives us an even better connection with each other which is ultimately what chamber music is all about.

When our friend had left we asked her to switch the lights off, and we played in total darkness, starting with the gorgeous Trio. We were so in our own world. With our eyes closed, we felt this “sixth sense” that is, in truth, possibly the most phenomenal thing about playing chamber music in the dark, and all of our entries that we would have usually looked at each other for were perfectly together! We were so into the music, we ended up going onto the Scherzo for the second time (it comes back to it after the Trio) and finished the piece, with only a few memory slips.

All in all, it was fantastic, and these “Schubert Saturdays” will certainly be happening again soon.

Daily Prompt: Twilight Zone

Ever have an experience that felt surreal, as though you’d been suddenly transported into the twilight zone, where time seemed to warp, perhaps slowing down or speeding up? Tell us all about it. If you haven’t had an experience in real life that you can draw from, write a fictional account of a surreal experience.

Photographers, artists, poets: show us SURREAL.

Today I had my recital assessment like I told you about last night. It went really, really well! To be honest, I was really glad that I had written a blog post as preparation for the questions as well, because I think I impressed them with my knowledge of the pieces and their composers. Funnily enough, I felt so ‘at home’ when I was playing. The surreal properties of it make it an ample story to tell today.

So, I started with the Prokofiev Cello Sonata, 2nd Movement, and it went really well. My accompanist actually came and got me to rehearse with me this morning unexpectedly. In the assessment, Prokofiev was better in areas than I had rehearsed, and likewise there were also some mistakes. However, and this is where the surreal part comes in, I did experience during playing both my pieces this feeling whereby time did actually seem to warp.  When you are so enclosed within your own world I think time can go at different speeds at different times. I felt so at peace and at war, the emotions I felt reflecting similar moments in the pieces.

I would love to hear about other peoples experiences of performing, not just music, but anything – poetry, juggling – ANYTHING.

Sorry it has to be a shorter post today, however I am really busy. Sayounara!

P.S – here are some other surreal posts:

  1. Karma For a Lapsed Veggie | AS I PLEASE
  2. Mad Hatter and I | Perspectives on life, universe and everything
  3. Ecclesiastical rocket | Perspectives on life, universe and everything
  4. Lime Plant in White | Exploratorius

Spraffer’s Music History Lesson #1

Hello everyone! Sorry about the lack of DP post today, however it was pretty uninspiring to be perfectly honest as I have danced before – even had lessons – but I don’t do it regularly.

Tomorrow I have two things on: a recital and a recital assessment. The recital assessment is something that happens once a year. You have to perform a programme of up to 15 minutes (I will play two pieces – 5 minutes and 12 minutes – and I know the maths doesn’t work) and talk a bit about your pieces. The marking scheme works as so:

  • You are marked out of 10 on your performance capabilities. This includes how you interact with the accompanist, how you present yourself and how you finish off the performance. The idea is that the assessment should be carried out as if it was a normal recital, even thought it is adjudicated by only two people – a senior tutor (who happens to be a legendary cellist – argh!) and a guest senior tutor (this year it is the Head of Strings in some university in England – a violist, so bring on the viola jokes!)(No seriously – what do you do if you run over a viola player? You make sure you got him.)
  • You are marked out of 25 on your technique. Important factors include making sure that you are not tense during playing, you are perfectly in tune, and you make a really good and appropriate sound.
  • You are marked out of 25 on your musicality. For the purposes of the assessment, this includes whether you approach the piece musically, your choice-making during a performance, your choices regarding what you do musically when preparing the pieces for the assessment, etc. It can also include your performance attitude, and how you appear during a performance (e.g. if you make a tuning error and screw up your face, then they may deduct marks). Because the tutors are naturally very musical, and obviously very musical, it can be terrifying to play to them. I know a few friends who are really worried about their assessments.
  • You are also marked out of 10 on your knowledge about the pieces and composers, as well as your general know-how on what possible things you could have done with the piece to prepare it. Questions may include things like “What did you find hard about learning these pieces and how did you approach these?”, or perhaps “How did the composers experiences influence your piece?”. This is new to the assessments this year, and to be honest has been terrifying everyone as no one really knew that this was going to be marked!

So, tomorrow I will be playing two pieces, one of which is not too hard and the other is quite tricky. These are Prokofiev’s Cello Sonata, 2nd Movement, and Bruch’s Kol Nidrei for Cello and Orchestra (although it is going to be played by my legendary piano teacher whom everyone loves because he is literally ridiculous at playing piano).

Here is the Kol Nidrei, played by legendary cellist, Jacqueline Du Pré:

And here is the Prokofiev Sonata, 2nd Movement, played by legendary cellist, Yo-Yo Ma:

As practice for my exam, I’m now going to write about my two pieces and their composers – briefly.

Max Bruch’s Kol Nidrei is for Cello and Orchestra, as I said, and was finished in Liverpool, England and published in 1881 for the first time in Berlin. It was premiered by Robert Hausmann, the cellist of the Joachim Quartet, for whom the piece was written. The piece is, ultimately, in binary form (there are two sections), with two different subjects. The first subject is based on the Kol Nidre prayer, a Jewish prayer recited in the evening service on Yom Kippur. The beginning of the piece, as you can hear, is supposed to imitate the hazzan who chants the liturgy at the synagogue. The prayer, I believe, is about asking God for mercy – when the cello solo comes in after the introduction, you can imagine a Jewish man praying, even begging, to God for forgiveness with “Lord, have mercy” which, not surprisingly, also fits in with the notes of the solo Cello part. The second subject of the piece is much like the sun rising in the morning, and is in the tonic major key (the same key, only major, as opposed to minor at the beginning). It is based on the middle section of Anglo-Australian composer, Isaac Nathan’s arrangement of “O Weep for Those that Wept on Babel‘s Stream” (written by Lord Byron). This again is a Hebrew inspired subject, and keeps to Bruch’s original idea.

Bruch himself was a German Romantic composer. He lived from 1836 to 1920, and is probably most famous for his first Violin Concerto. He began composing from an early age, when he wrote his mother a piece of music at age 9, and received an early musical education from Ferdinand Hiller, the pianist to whom Schumann dedicated his wonderful Piano Concerto in A minor. Bruch enjoyed a long career as a teacher and composer, taking up jobs all around Germany. He composed very much in the traditional German Romantic style, much like Brahms, as opposed to Liszt and Wagner who composed “New Music”. He worked with musical legends of the time, such as Joseph Joachim who premiered Brahms’ Double Concerto for Violin and Cello with Robert Hausmann.

Contrasting to the Romantic German style of Bruch and his Kol Nidrei, Sergei Prokofiev’s Cello Sonata is a truly vibrant and modern piece of music. My favourite movement, despite playing the second tomorrow, is the first, however I haven’t put it up yet. So here it is:

The piece was premiered in 1950 by yet another legendary cellist, Mstislav Rostropovich, and extraordinary (pianists of this standard are also legendary, however cello must take priority…) pianist, Sviatoslav Richter, in the Small Hall of the Moscow Conservatory. It was composed for Rostropovich himself in 1949, after Prokofiev had been inspired to write the piece following hearing one of Rostropovich’s recitals the same year. Much of Prokofiev’s music as banned because of the composer being accused of formalism by the Russian Government. Many artists in Russia who lived at the same time (and a lot of whome knew each other), such as Dmitri Shostakovich and Sergei Rachmaninoff, also suffered from the terrible conditions in Russia at the time, resulting in many of them (including Prokofiev) emigrating to places like America. I think this also had an effect on the Cello Sonata. The second movement has march-like qualities about it, however there is a really, as my cello teacher would say, “wishy-washy” (great adjective, don’t you think?), romantic tune in the middle which I think reflects upon Prokofiev’s relief from the fact that he could openly premier and publish, as he did in 1951, his music in Russia again. The piece usually takes about 25 minutes to perform from start to finish, and has three movements: (i)Andante grave, (ii)Moderato, and (iii)Allegro, ma non troppo.

Sergei Prokofiev was a Russia composer who is famous for his Peter and the Wolf (a personal favourite of mine!) and his five piano concertos. He was born in 1891 Sontsovka, now Krasne in Eastern Ukraine, which was under rule by the Russian Government. Inspired by his musically devoted mother playing Chopin and Beethoven on the piano, he composed pieces from an extraordinarily young age of 5. He studied in Moscow most of his life, and moved between Russia and America during his life time depending on how turbulent the situations were in Russia at the time (although he was tempted back by Stalin’s government, he was subjected to more accusations when he returned – his wife was sent to a gulag in Siberia).

I hope that this will give you some interesting stuff to learn and talk about, as well as letting me pass my assessment! Do listen to the pieces – they are all fantastic! Anyways, I hope everyone’s having a good evening!

Daily Prompt: Those Dishes Won’t Do Themselves (Unfortunately)

What’s the household task you most dislike doing? Why do you think that is — is it the task itself, or something more?

Photographers, artists, poets: show us HOME.

By household task, I hope one means ‘a task which is done within a household’. At home people put up with me playing on the piano (it’s crazy having a baby grand in a tiny flat, I know). It drives them up the wall sometimes. Shouting. The slamming of doors. All because I need to practise. Music feels like it’s the whole world around me. For example, I was walking through Princes St. Gardens today at around 8am, and I saw the first squirrels and rabbits I had seen since Autumn last year. There were noticeably more bird calls – some very elaborate ones could be heard.

This is what I mean by music being the world. Even though I’m not a massive fan of extremely contemporary music, contemporary composers use sounds and noises in their music. I find that bird-call can be surprisingly tuneful as well as noisy. Similarly, pitches of the whines of vehicle engines as they speed past you can also be tuneful. It breaks my heart sometimes when I have to be silent to let others work, I guess, because of how much it means to me. When there is silence I feel trapped in my own head. It’s true that there is music in silence – you can very easily hear music in your imagination. However, for someone like me who uses music as a means of communicating to people, it can feel restricting.

That’s the household task I hate the most. The silence of a working home.

Other homes:

    1. Daily Prompt: Those Dishes Won’t Do Themselves (Unfortunately) | Basically Beyond Basic

    1. Pipework | Perspectives on life, universe and everything

  1. The Travels of Zack | The Jittery Goat