I was prepared for my recital. I knew all of the notes and all of the ornamentation that I intended to do, and I had rehearsed multiple times with my pianist and I had planned my entire script. Under controlled conditions, I knew I could play every note in the Rouse Oboe Concerto
But live performance is not a controlled condition, and I am not ashamed to say that I intend my four spring recitals to be a tool for my own development of that concerto.
I had my first performance yesterday, and in some ways I pleased and surprised myself. Many aspects of the recital went very well. I was proud of my Bozza and of large sections of the Vivaldi. And I found that I could easily play through the entire program without worrying about endurance, which for me is always a concern.
In part, giving four full recitals incorporating the Rouse was an intentional plan to build my endurance for my single symphony performance in May. Like swinging dummy bats before it’s your turn in the lineup – I figured if I could play the piece live after two others I could certainly do it once, fresh, on stage.
But every piece has something to teach me, and in the Rouse the challenge is not the one I had expected. I anticipated endurance problems because of the long long long sustained notes in the slow movement and because of the frantic busyness in the first movement, and because I have bumped up against this issue in the past while playing long concerti (Strauss! Chen! Mendelssohn!)
But the piece is actually more manageable than I had expected. It’s well written for the instrument, with sufficient rests to get my air and embouchure reset. Even more to the point, it’s all over the instrument, bouncing constantly from octave to octave, which is very tricky for the fingers but doesn’t exhaust my mouth. In the Mozart Concerto, in contrast, the solo line sits in the second octave almost all the time, and somehow keeping my embouchure set for that particularly delicate part of the range can be more tiring than playing a combination of low and high passages.
What I do need to work on, though, is the overall shape. I was relieved and happy to have gotten through the piece, in front of a live audience, without disgracing myself too much. Somewhere in the middle of the third movement, though, I popped outside of my own head for a moment and observed that I was just HAMMERING away at the piece and the technique. And had been for a solid 17 minutes or so at that point. My hands hurt from the pounding I was giving them.
The piece is technical, yes, and relentlessly quick in the outer movements, but it doesn’t have to be a continuous wall of sound and energy for the audience. There are low points to contrast with the high points, and moments of ethereal beauty to play against the more primal passages. On stage, in real time, I was not finding those, and it showed.
Also, I seemed to have forgotten that aspect of good technique in which soft fingers move more gracefully and flowingly than hard ones. And certainly don’t ache the next day. The speed of the notes does not need to dictate my tension level.
I’ve been practicing for months, and I’ve gotten to the point where I can ACHIEVE a performance of this concerto. Now I am completely eager to find the gentleness, the variety of sounds and colors, and the arc of each movement so that I can SHARE my performance with the audience instead of attacking them with it.
I can’t wait to hear and feel how this concerto evolves!
Tuesday, March 22, 7:30 pm CDT, Duesenberg Recital Hall, Valparaiso University
Friday, April 8, 7:00 pm CDT, First Presbyterian Church, Michigan City, IN
As Musicians for Michiana: Sunday, April 10, 4:00 pm EDT, Church of the Savior, 1855 N. Hickory, South Bend, IN
With the South Bend Symphony: Saturday, May 7, 8:00 pm EDT, Morris Performing Arts Center