The South Bend Symphony has a great concert this weekend that I’ve been really excited about. If you are in town you should definitely try to attend, as it features Prokofiev’s thrilling Symphony no. 5 AND our marvelous concertmistress, Zofia Glashauser, playing the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto.
However, I will not be there. This Friday and Saturday I am playing Strauss’s Ein Heldenleben with the Milwaukee Symphony, and loving every single minute. This orchestra sounds spectacular, and here’s why. They rehearse. They have plenty of time to really listen to each other and get things right. This morning, our service was a wind sectional, which blew my mind. Almost 2 full hours with only the winds and brass, just on this one 40-minute piece. The conductor worked with us on every detail. Intonation, articulation, ensemble, balance, style. And still we have another full orchestra rehearsal tomorrow as well as the dress.
I haven’t sat in a winds-only rehearsal since playing in the Civic Orchestra of Chicago, a training orchestra that I worked with right after college. It’s a student-y thing, NOT because professionals can’t benefit like CRAZY from breaking things down and focusing on ensemble and intonation, but because orchestras at the level that I usually work in do not have the time or the resources to really dig into those details. We run a piece through once, have a “working rehearsal” in which we make sure it won’t fall apart at the transitions, and run it once more at the dress, and that’s often all we get.
I haven’t been asked in a long time to examine my part this closely, and to re-explore my role in a chord or really blend with an Eb clarinet for the two notes we suddenly unexpectedly have together. I ask this of myself, of course, but what a splendid change to be taught and to have the time to work at it! To have to really concentrate and focus for two hours on the complexities of this fantastic piece. I felt like I’d just run a hard 10K – the same sense of concentration and work and triumph though a lot less sweat.
I’m sorry to miss the SBSO concert – it was the one I most wanted to play in our season – but I am so delighted to be subbing up here this week. I love my life.