It will take several blog entries to fully describe to you everything that I want to do with the Vivaldi Project.
First, let’s step back and think about Vivaldi writing incredible music for incredible orphan students. We don’t know for sure if there was an incredible baby bassoonist, but there were incredible girls on other instruments so chances are that there was a little Gaga Bassoonista in the band. There must have been… these concertos are harder than just about anything written in the hundred years following (just my bias)… that is, if we play them to the same virtuosic standards as the violin concerti.
Anyway, the best laboratory for a genius to try new ideas has to be a group of eager students, full of talent and with enough time to try seemingly impossible things! Students are never cynical unless they have been studying with the wrong people.
Can we get this culture of intense experimental virtuosity and curiousity at a young age? A comeback of high culture maybe without the orphan, women-of-fallen-virtue thing? Rather than the “will this be on the test/audition” mentality that currently diminishes our students?
Can I play this music for enough young people that dozens of them (boys and girls) will say to themselves and their parents, “I can do that!” or better yet, “I can do that BETTER!”
Because that is what I want.
And even better, some of them will be so young and pure hearted that they will just feel and know how it goes… last year at the Ottawa Chamber Festival, when Guy and I performed our kids show for the first time (Buzz and Crow), a tiny girl asked if she could play my bassoon at the end. She was five years old and her head reached my elbow. I did the fingering and she blew and she played a perfectly in-tune G Major scale followed by some excerpts from the Hummel Concerto. She knew how to play from listening to me for the half hour show and her small body vibrated with confidence and tone, not with strain. Amazing to all of us who heard it. And I had no qualms at all about letting her play my best reed… I told her what to do and she did it.
My rehearsals with strings for the Vivaldi Project start in 12 days, followed by 2 days of recording. With all of the preparations and the huge effort and the prospect of the glorious music, it feels like preparing a big party.
Once it is recorded, I want to take this music to as many universities and schools as possible, to play for as many people young and old as possible, to have it live vividly. I want people to know it well enough to have opinions on the interpretations!! I want them to notice what we are wearing and to have opinions about that too. I want to live with this music for a long time.
Thoughts about practising the Vivaldi concerti:
Last week, a very fine student asked if he could listen to me practise some day. He became alarmed at my long silence and withdrew his request, but really, I was just considering the novel idea. Mostly wondering how the circuitous logic of my mind would ever reveal itself to a listening ear… I told him that maybe someday he could make reeds somewhere in the house while I worked and that maybe some of my work would make sense to him. But really, every day is different despite the existence of an underlying discipline.
His question motivated me to offer some of my attempts to capture my process in words as of today (again, each day IS different).
Sometimes practise ideas emerge as I play — often many wishes about much longer-term prep!
My main “if-only-I-had-done-more-of-these” wish for long-term preparation is to have developed fast(er) scales in all intervals (both chromatic and major scales… minors in the next lifetime)
New long-term tech idea – fast scales with repeated pedal (both lower and upper).
I do these things anyway, even as I wish I could do them more fluently and certainly wish that I could play all of them at the speed of the concerti.
Other points of current practise —
-always practise standing (goes without saying in my world)
-allowing response to certain repeated gestures — movement is relevant/interesting if it doesn’t build tension —- I have spent a lot of time developing serenity of movement and now think it is overrated.
-walk off tension between drills (something I only remember to do if I set timer or if I get a FaceBook alert)
-practise releasing specific tension (easy, just do it between repeats of drill) drill – release – drill
-hard to explain without examples, but in the intricate passage sequences, emphasize the non-lyrical notes to gain control (often the repeated pedals on weak sixteenth beats) – so often I practise my highest intent in terms of voicing and phrasing, only to realize that if I practise with emphasized the awkward beats, then and only then will I gain the control to release them in rapid-fire voicings.
-once the difficult phrases have been shaped into understand (prior to perfection), then take them to the slowest plausible tempo and increase speed one click at a time… find the breaking point in terms of technical command… repeat the process until goal is achieved
-goes without saying, practise hardest parts without music (look if needed, but always aim to play without page)
-eventually cognition/relaxation/repetition combine in a way that captures both mental and physical control. simple (just kidding).