I haven’t been giving my blog much love lately. Real life has just gotten in the way with trips to Sydney and Singapore and an orchestral gig. Blog posts to come up soon!
One thing I have squeezed in is to continue working on the YouTube Symphony Orchestra (YTSO) violin audition. Unfortunately with travelling around and having 2 kids to worry about too, I didn’t have much time to learn or record my audition 😦 I had to fit in some of recordings just before I sent the kids to school on two mornings in the past week! Yep, you’ll see Miss 9 run out of her bedroom to get breakfast!
The audition seems a bit fairer this time around. You now need to prepare 5 pieces and it’s a more typical Symphony Orchestra audition choice – a solo Bach, a Mozart concerto and a range of orchestra excerpts.
Here’s what I chose!
Bach Partita in D – Allemande
I’ve played this before. Actually, I think most violinists would have played this – it’s something you “have” to learn when you learn to play the violin. For me, it was good to go back and polish this up again.
My interpretation has definitely changed since when I played it back in my teens. Back then, I loved the heavy, grand versions of the Bach. I used to use Itzhak Perlman’s BBC video as my yardstick. But my current mood is for a more delicate, minimalist approach and bringing out all the intricacies of the various voices all intertwined. I would have loved to have recorded this with absolutely no vibrato, but the style of your playing depends on the acoustics and my lounge room doesn’t have much reverb, so I had to use a little vibrato.
Bach is actually hard to play well. Bach was a genius in trying to use a single instrument to play multiple voices. Here there’s no double stops, yet there’s usually two voices throughout. It’s also hard because there’s a lot of semiquavers, but you don’t want it to sound like a study. There has to be some movement and phrasing, yet trying to keep time. I hope I did it justice!
Mozart Violin Concerto in A – 1st Movement
I had trouble deciding between the two Mozart concertos. I actually hadn’t learnt either of these concertos. I’ve only learnt and played the 3rd concerto many years ago. But I know wifey has been bugging me to learn one of these instead of the “great” violin concertos that I’ve been messing around with lately.
I chose the A major, mainly because I saw Renaud Capucon conduct a masterclass on this recently and was totally mesmerised by his playing of the introduction – read more here.
Mozart is deceptive. People think these concertos are “easy”. Easy – maybe easy to learn the notes, but to play it expressively like an operatic dialogue – no. I remember the comments in a couple of my AMEB exams in my teens were all about trying to make my playing more operatic. No, not like an aria! But like multiple people having a conversation, and having some meaning or direction to the conversation. After all, music is communication right?
So fast forward to today, I think I have a better understanding of what the music is trying to achieve, but whether I brought this out in my playing is a different matter altogether! I know my intonation is not bang in the center here – and that’s really because of lack of consistent practice.
Strauss Don Juan excerpt
Argh!! This is a hardy – from a technical point of view. Fast runs and arpeggios. But also so passionate!
The first thing I did was to listen to a recording of it. There’s so many other parts in the orchestra during this passage, that it’s hard to play alone. But at least I got a grasp of the tempo and what the music was trying to achieve.
I find it hard to play passages like this solo too because when you’re playing in a section of 5-8 desks of violins, and the whole symphonic orchestra around you, you get this feeling that is hard to replicate alone. Also, you can probably get away with a few inaccuracies since the section swallows you up whole!
The trouble with this excerpt is that the difficult passages just keep on coming! Especially when you think you’re out of danger near the end, but then all those quiet triplet passages hit you. Aargh!
Beethoven Symphony No. 9 excerpt
I’ve played a few Beethoven Symphonies, but interestingly not the No. 9 yet! I wasn’t familiar with this passage, so I had to find a recording and listen to this part to get the context.
I found this another hard thing to play solo. With a whole section, you can change your playing to match the others around you, and to produce the common blanket of sound as one. But individually, if I played like that, it would probably sound very plain indeed. Also, in a concert hall with more reverb, one can get away with playing less but still sounding more.
So I decided to make my own tone nice here in my dead-ish lounge room by use of vibrato.. maybe too excessive?
Mendelssohn Symphony excerpt
Final excerpt! This would be great to play in an orchestra! The challenge here is the triplets – trying to keep them going without any other orchestral part to bounce off or to keep in sync with!
Here’s the final product! I hope I at least get to the 2nd round this time.