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The Chamber Music Competition

Last week was my first time at the Chamber Music Competitions!

I played with my school piano trio first, also known as The Golden Trio (Harry Potter reference intended!) We played the first movement of Dvorak’s Dumky Trio. We played at the Ray Freeman centre at Epsom Girl’s Grammar School, which has the most disconcerting acoustic as it is very dry. It was a little like all of us were playing together yet sitting on different countries! (That’s what the pianist related it too.) From what people said, I think it went quite well, though the adjudicators wrote VERY little on the report sheet as one had studied in Hungry and, as Hungry is quite close to Bohemia, the Dvorak took him someplace else! The only thing they said in the comments after the concert was “lovely cello solo in the beginning” which, although flattering, didn’t really help us in improving our playing for next time. However, the performance was great fun, showed me that I can play fast, tricky sections without falling off (as I had been fretting over), and let me know to work on a beautiful, open vibrato for the next day.

‘The next day’ being important as I had a second piano trio. The Summer Trio. We performed Grieg’s Andante Con Moto C Moll. And it was such an amazing experience – particularly the journey getting there. All of those rehearsals! At Auckland University! They’re such lovely people!

There were a few weak spots in our performance, the off-beats for one, and we had a few unanticipated tempo changes, yet the performance was full of feeling and it was the best we could have done (keeping in mind the tired, over-worked children we are – thank you, school and crippling perfectionism!) Again, I am pleased to say, was the “lovely cello solo” in the comments! Blimey!

I really hope to do it all again next year.

News

My New Teacher

Eight days after my first proper lesson I write this. Apologies. I have been exceptionally busy and, over the past few days, unwell.

The lesson was lovely! We spent a whole hour on scales and practice techniques (the main difference being to focus on the “slide-stop” technique as opposed to the “stop-place”.) For scales, I have new, logical fingering for my dominant sevenths, which will allow for me to play any dominant seventh in any key without music as well as support me to do three octave (and beyond) dominant sevenths next year and in the future.

The next hour (and I think that it is an appropriate time to mention that the lesson was only supposed to be one hour, yet he just kept generously teaching!) was spent working on the Fauré. He played chords on his cello, which was essentially the piano accompaniment, while I played. At first, it was off-putting, but as I listened to the chord changes, it became apparent that they were an indicator to the important notes in the piece. It was fun! We also talked about how Fauré’s Après un rêve was originally for singers, consequently discussing the timbre of the two instruments (cello and voice) and how fingering could be altered to respect the composer’s intended feel (such as going up the D string in the very beginning.) This also relates to the translation of the title: “After a Dream.”

I have been experimenting a little with the relationship between the placement of the bow, bow speed and pressure to get different types of beautiful sound. I’ve also been reading a little about Fournier’s technique and views on music. And Jacqueline du Pré! And Romberg!

Goodness! I did write so much in my cello logbook in the car on the way home!

Practices

Grieg Trio Rehearsal

Today was very exciting!

My Grieg piano trio rehearsed with Stephen De Pledge at Auckland University today! Although he focused mainly on the pianist (which is fantastic as she’ll now be listening to the strings a little more), I managed to get a few main points from the hour:

  • The piece is made to flow through different tempos and emotions. You push in some parts, hold back in others.
  • The offbeats don’t need to be exact! As long as they are melodic, quiet and more ambient sound than anything, it’s appropriate and good (for want of a better word!)
  • We can take time! We know the music really well, and now is the perfect stage to experiment with the tempo and different aspects of the piece; these include the solo passages – it’s fine to place the octave jumps! It’s wonderful to take your time in the higher parts! We don’t need to rush!
  • There has never been a single performance of this piece of which all the notes are played in their correct spots! It is all relative, and notoriously difficult in the offbeat stanzas, so the effect is in the general emotion and feel/movement of the music.

We rehearsed in the performance room! This was the most wonderful part of the evening for it took me right back to when my father was studying his masters and I was dragged along to every practice; hiding in the heavy, red velvet curtains, reading in the seats with those charming, flippy desks.

– Phoebe P

News

A New Teacher

Well, dear readers, I have exciting news!

Tomorrow, I shall be meeting my new cello teacher! My father is moving down south later this year, so I shall be taught by a cellist from the APO. Apparently, he attended both my most recent competition (the North Shore Comps) as well as the Grieg Piano Trio performance!

I am rather nervous, and shall play the first Bach Bourree from the third suite and, perhaps, Fauré’s Après un Rêve.

That is all for tonight; I shall keep you posted.

– Phoebe P

Concerts

The Swan

Today I spent the day off school with the rest of AYS to perform thrice to Auckland Primary schools.

Overall, successful, but I’m writing a blip about it because this was my first time performing Saint-Saën’s Swan (from The Carnival of the Animals) in public!

It went really well on my part, though the harps and piano were frequently out of sync…

My father sat in on the final concert and recorded it. I am rather pleased by my performance, though it is amazing how much uncertainty can put one off! I found that I could go through every thought I had throughout the piece and, especially when the parts weren’t together, it was reflected in my playing! Quite a potent way to discover this…

Concerts, News

Grieg Trio – First Performance!

Hello readers!

After a lot of rehearsing, we had our first performance of the Grieg Piano Trio!

It went rather well; and was such fun! The pianist sneezed mid-way through the first page of the piece, causing the violinist and me to giggle – quite a lot!

Although we all had our bought of little mistakes, it really helped us find out what parts to focus on for Friday’s rehearsal (with a new, well-known tutor!)

For the strings: sustaining the sound through the whole note, looking and chords/double-stops

For me: Solos – ensuring that I have all of the bowing and fingering sorted! Also, expression and the feel of the first page…

– Phoebe P

Concerts

APO, St Matthew’s and APO

Oh! I have this late! So much so that I have far to many concerts to even begin to think about to cover – all in the past week!

I have gone to three public orchestral concerts this week:

Firstly, the concert with soloist Stefan Dohr (principle horn player in the Berlin Philharmonic) with the APO. It was superb! They performed Strauss’ first horn concerto, which was written for his Father in 1882/’83. The encore was Messiaen’s From the Canyons to the Stars, which really was fantastic as it showcased his experience and talent brilliantly – being a contemporary piece for solo horn and having little (or no) set tempo with lots of rests! People initially didn’t quite know what to make of it, resulting in an opulent amount of tittering amongst the crowds… an interesting reaction to music.

The APO’s Beethoven (as the overture) was, in my opinion, even nicer than the body of the concert; probably as a result of my upbringing and favoured, more comfortable music. There was also the gorgeous Second Symphony by  Rachmaninov after interval, of which I thoroughly enjoyed.

Now, to the second concert: St Matthew’s Chamber Orchestra. I only stayed for the first half (I had a concert of my own to attend afterwards, as you can read in my next post!) though I found it interesting how there was such an obvious leap from NZSO/APO to St Matthew’s – and how this affected even the feel of the music! St Matthew’s first piece, a collection of dances, was something to learn from, I suppose… however, one of the APO’s bassoonists, Ben Hoadly, played a few gorgeous concerti by Weber; of which was much more enjoyable.

The third concert I listened to was with school: an APO discovery concert. It was rather nice, though they stayed around the Romantic/ 20th Century in the choice of music which, for a discovery concert, was a little frustrating! Admittedly, they did begin with Bach’s Toccata and Fugue on the organ, but that’s scarcely far back enough, let alone in depth enough! Never mind.

– Phoebe P