Thursday, 9 September 2010

Tristan & Isolde - Act 3

There's a fair few notes here...  and the passages I've picked out here are in because they really fly by!  The first few pages are there to lull you into a false sense of security.  Let's just look at some of the more interesting tempo markings, in German & Italian:

  • Sehr allmahlich belebend - Animando molto poco a poco - OK...
  • Belebt, doch nicht schnell - Animato ma non troppo - getting a bit quicker.
  • Immer mehr belebend - Sempre piu animando
  • Bewegt - Con moto - things are really picking up now
  • Etwas gedehnt - Poco steso - OK, now you've lost me.
  • Sehr bewegt - Molto mosso.  erk
  • Sehr allmahlich langsamer werdend - Poco a poco ritard.  Just as well, 'cos it'll take you the ten bars at this tempo just to read the speed.
  • Massig beginnend, und schnell bewegter - Moderato cominicando e poi stringendo subito.
That little lot is just in the space of under 150 bars.  And I've missed a few out.

So.  The moral of this story is "watch.  No, I mean it.  Watch.  Watch until your eyes feel like they're popping out, like Arnie's were at the end of Total Recall."

And, based on my experience of the last rehearsal, it's all too easy to lose count in the few bars rest that you actually get...

And so, on with the notes...  nothing too bad early on in the scene.  However, over the page from the directions shown above, we get to bar 516:
A tricky little rhythm, but it only lasts for a couple of lines.

And a couple of pages later, we get this bit of out-and-out unpleasantness:

I like the tempo marking - "Etwas schleppend".  Apparently that means "poco strascinante", but I have no idea what that means either, beyond "watch!"

And then, at the bottom of that page, we have a few really quick bars, with a change of time signature every bar just so you can't settle down:

A couple of pages later (nearly there!), we get this:  "Noch schneller"?  what?  You want more speed?  With another cockeyed rhythm?  Gah.

As for the remains of the piece...  well.

Act 3 - Scene 2 - the whole of the first page (60-odd bars) needs a look.

Act 3 - Scene 3 - most of the first 100 bars here.

You'll just have to use the link I provided earlier to download the part and have a look for yourself, if you don't believe me!

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Tristan & Isolde - Act 2

And now, after a decent interval (and not too much beer - it's a long night!), Act 2.

I've just gone through the part again, and I can't see a single marking indicating that this caused problems.  Hurrah!

There are a few naughty bits in Act 3, however, and I'll get to those shortly.

Tristan & Isolde - Act 1

We had a run-through of Tristan & Isolde on Sunday last...  A nice surprise - for a couple of hours there were four double bassists!  Unfortunately, one of 'em had to go at lunchtime, but it bodes well for the main event weekend when we should have up to five...

It's a far cry from the bad old days when I was all alone, boo, sniffle...

Right.  On to the notes.  I think I may have been slightly hampered by the rehearsal room - instead of our normal large hall, we were rehearsing in a nightclub, and the lighting was not all that it might have been.  Wagner with a glitter-ball...

I think my friend was a bit optimistic when he described the notes as being straightforward...  generally, yes.  There are, however, a few bits that would benefit from some study.

Starting with Act 1, Scene 1, half way down the first page, we get a few unpleasant bars of heavily-accidentalled quavers:

The good news is that that should more-or-less fall under the fingers, if you've got the right starting point, and a big-ish left hand.

Nothing to worry about in Scene 2, which is good.

And on to Scene 3. Just a couple of oddments:

It's a combination of speed, dynamics and accidentals that put paid to being able to read that on the fly in the dark...  but the next bit from just over the page was more fun:
"Sehr Schnell" is about right.  "Goes like stink" is another way of putting it.

Just before the end of Scene 4, we have the following:

"More of the same", I hear you think.  And that's what some of us thought, as we went at it at full tilt, failing to realise that it's rather slower than it looks...  Oops!

The rest of the first act is straightforward.  Apart from about half of the last page of it.  You have been warned!

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Tristan & Isolde - the preview

It's Northern Wagner Orchestra time again!  This time, we're working on Tristan & Isolde, a 5.5 hour monster of an opera.

By way of initial preparation, I asked a friendly ex-pro double-bassist I know if he had any advice.  He came up with the following musical points (as well as a couple of physiological issues that I don't think we'll go into here...):

  • The notes themselves aren't difficult
  • It's the changes of tempo that are likely to trip us up.  (Reminds me of the old saying - if you don't know what it means, it means "watch!")
  • Watch carefully for the pizzicato - these need to be together.
Having had a quick look at the part that's available at IMSLP, all 85 pages of it!, he was mostly right.

However, I'm not quite at his standard, or at his match-fitness (as it were), and I've already spotted a few quaver runs that could be interesting.  I'll make some notes during rehearsal, and if there is anything untoward I'll put it up here.

(Note: the reason that the PDF of the bass part is 85 pages is that whoever put it up in IMSLP helpfully included part of the 2nd bassoon and the 3rd bassoon part!  It looks like the bass part is really only(!) 45 pages...)

Friday, 18 June 2010

Aida - Acts 1 & 2

Just got in from the band call for tomorrow's Northern Wagner Orchestra's rendition of Aida.  I'm not going to be able to practise this myself, but I need to keep an eye on the following bits, 'cos they're nasty...

Act 1.
click to see all

This bit is awkward, fast, and generally unpleasant.  And, to make matters worse, you turn the page, and the whole passage is repeated with a minor change - the penultimate note is the high E rather than the low one.  Gah.

(We've got a big cut missing the semiquaver runs in the Danza Sacra delle Sacerdotesse... indeed, we're cutting that whole number.  But, looking at them, they don't look too bad.)

Act 2.
This is a cut-down version in orchestral terms, so I was slightly surprised to find myself playing a solo with one of the big tunes:
click to see all

A double bass tune? Yeah!

Then we cut the ballet, and, before you know it, we're looking at this frankly gratuitous arpeggio:
click to see all

I'll write up some bits from Acts 3 & 4, including some double-stopping (hey - I am, after all, the Lone Double Bass!), in the morning.

Monday, 14 June 2010

Beethoven Septet - Tricky bit

I love this piece of music - so many memories tied up with it.  However, there's just one bit that gives me a slight "urk" feeling when I see it hove into view - that's this bit in the middle of the third variation.

Yes, it's nice and slow, but it's still a little bit fiddly.  And it's such a good theme - Harmonious Blacksmith.  Still, it's something else for me to think about for next weekend...

I wonder if the non-aggression pact between the horn and violin is going to hold?  For those who don't know the piece, the Trio (of the Minuet) has a tricky horn bit, and the violinist has the potential to have set a cracking pace...  but if the violinist does do this, then the horn-player gets the option for revenge by setting his own blistering pace with a pseudo-hunting call at the start of the Scherzo.

It's too complicated to describe.  Just go and get a copy, or find it on Spotify...

"Sonata for Seven", Schmelzer

(Schmelzer?  Who he?  ed.)

(No.  Me neither.)

Schmelzer.  1623-1680.  Wrote a septet for recorder ensemble.  You now know as much about him as I do.  This has been rearranged for a Beethoven septet ensemble (vln, vla, vlc, cb, clt, bsn, hn).

Not much to worry about, except, for some reason, I'm finding this difficult:

But why?  There's nothing there to worry about!  So why in the name of all that's sane am I missing that E on the sixth quaver of bar 28?  I'm losing it - it's the only rational explanation.  And it's not a good sign for the week ahead, as I've got a rehearsal on this (+ the Beethoven septet), and the Northern Wagner Orchestra's production of Aida at the weekend, and we're heading rapidly towards the Leeds Youth Opera's production of Faust.  Gah...

Saturday, 29 May 2010

Busy - sorry

Sorry for the suspension of normal service here.  I've been a bit busy with the day job - I've actually got one at the moment, which is novel.

But I have got some musical stuff to blog about - I'm currently in rehearsals for a performance of Beethoven's Septet, and for a run of Gounod's Faust with Leeds Youth Opera Group.  I last played Faust for them about 12-13 years ago, and a girl called Sarah Estill sang Marguerite.  Sarah is now a full-time opera diva, working with Opera North, and is back with LYOG, this time directing the show.  She's also one of the main drivers behind the Northern Wagner Orchestra.  (I really need to redo that website...)

That reminds me - must dig out a score of Aida and see if there's anything tricky I need to be aware of, as we're playing that next month!

Saturday, 6 March 2010

Mikado excerpts

Probably a bit late for my own use, given that the run has started, but the following two little corners would repay inspection.

Firstly, from the "Wand'ring Minstrel" number near the beginning of Act 1, a tricky little semiquaver passage.

The other passage is from the Finale to Act 1.  It's quite exposed, and it is in unison with the rest of the strings, which may (or may not) make it easier.

That's it in terms of tricky note passages.  The rest of the problems are caused by the times being pulled around, but, as the notes themselves aren't so bad, it's easy enough to keep watching the conductor!

One performance down, eight to go.

Sunday, 28 February 2010

"As some day it may happen"

After a delay, the next musical extravaganza looms on the horizon.  A slight change of pace from the most recent "Orpheus" - I'm getting ready for a week and a bit in the pit of Gilbert & Sullivan's "The Mikado".  I don't recall any nasty traps, but I'll take notes if there are!

In other news, I've recently been approached to perform one of my all-time favourite pieces - the Beethoven Septet.  The concert will be in June, so I've got plenty of time to find and practice the fiddly bits.  As ever, anything worthy of attention will be put up here for future reference.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Double Bass Chamber Music

I've just seen a post on Jason Heath's "Double Bass Blog" that neatly summarises the problem that many of us face, and that is the perception that there's a very small amount of chamber music that involves the double bass.  This is true, but the situation is not quite so dire.  The article in question, by a guest writer, lists rather more than I was expecting (including my old friends Onslow & Farrenc), and a few that I've not come across yet!

So, the challenge for the summer is on.  Find more music, play more music!

Sunday, 10 January 2010

"Orphée aux enfers" - excerpts

We didn't get all the way through the score in this afternoon's rehearsal; however, I've found the following bits that require a bit of attention.

Act 1, No6 - Invocation à la mort, bars 17-25.  Pizzicato, goes quicker than I would like...  According to our conductor, this is to imitate a laugh.

Act 2, No12bis - Entrée de Pluton, bars 9ff.  Fiddly little semiquaver runs.

Act 2, No16 - Final, bars 82-82.  Fast quavers, accidentals everywhere.  Maybe I just needed coffee by this time, but it still felt awkward.

Act 3, No17 - Intermezzo, bars 9-12.  Again, just fiddly accidentals.

My other bit of homework is to write out the last eight bars of act 2, and the first sixteen of of the Intermezzo - there's a big cut in one, and we're reusing the other elsewhere.

That's it for now...  next rehearsal is next weekend, and this may throw up a few more bits for further attention.

It's all Greek to me

This is fun.  Just been to the first orchestral rehearsal for Orpheus, and found that the part not only hasn't been cleaned by the previous borrower, but has pencil markings in English, French, German, Italian and Greek.

"διαλογοσ" - I can cope with that one.  And seeing "αccelerando" is a bit weird, but OK.  However, there's some stuff here that I really can't understand, not that it matters.

Lots of cuts to mark in, and a few corners to practise.