Now in the final two weeks of preparing for the Vivaldi Concerto project. I am taking the unusual step of concentrating fully on my own preparation… family and students are all willing to wait a couple more weeks before I turn my attention to them again. The cat, however, is a different matter. She demands food more frequently then ever!
This is a mini-sabbatical, an opportunity to train and revisit that time in my life when I could pursue sound through the music, reeds and my own physical/mental connections. I think that time may never have really existed, but it kind of existed in my early symphonic days… somehow the important thing is to combine intense private work with the opportunity to bring it to the sonic stage.
Of course I could continue with my daily life and juggle everything, because that is a skill that I have honed for years now. But instead, this is what some people would call a holiday — time spent working on Vivaldi bassoon concerti. This is hard work that is infinitely worthwhile… a goldmine of possibility exists in this music and will reveal treasures to any player who spends time with it.
I continue to face all of my musical and mechanical decisions and push to have the concertos memorized in time for the sessions. I am more than halfway there, and will need to spend much more time with the scores, but I continue to work towards that goal.
Last month, I concentrated on getting a grasp of the whole project. Now I am visiting the short sections of each concerto that require a major, life-changing leap in technical command. I am using all of the techniques that I have ever given my students when it comes to untangling and drilling a persistent technical challenge, and above all, I am practising the hardest passages by memory. Sometimes I focus on seeing all of the notes in my imagination, planning in advance the inflections that I will want along with releasing tension from the gestures. Sometimes (and this is both strange to admit and very difficult to do) I will attempt to hold my own gaze in the mirror as I navigate a passage. In any event, Vivaldi has transcribed many incredible sonic effects from the violin to bassoon, the most notable being string crossings in the very large scalar leaps. All technical work is always followed by another interpretive run … I always want to see if the polishing has led to any increase in expressive clarity.
I am adding basic technique again. Vivaldi’s music really benefits from doing as many intervallic scales as possible… today I played chromatic major sevenths. Any interval will help because he uses them all!!
Anyway, every day is a fresh start… a chance to put aside insecurity, doubt, to choose to do the work and make the reeds that allow me to navigate the music, every day gives me another chance to rededicate myself to the music and to flip on my high beams and enjoy every second of this experience.