Tag Archives: Sibelius

Henning plays the Sibelius with WASO

Wow!  My favourite violin concerto.  Henning, a young and talented violinist that I had the pleasure of seeing a masterclass of last week.  Good combination 🙂

Henning played it through effortlessly – letting his violin sing the passion that’s in the Sibelius, as well as hitting the technical work. 

I loved the attention he gave to the conductor and orchestra during the performance (and joining the string pizzicatos in the 3rd movement).  I was amazed at the way he hit the jumps to the high notes and fingered octaves in the first movement and arpeggios in the last movement with no problems.  But I was most surprised by the volume of sound Henning is able to produce from his violin.  I don’t think WASO played with a smaller orchestra for the concerto – it was the full thing.  But I heard Henning with no problems.  

How?  I’m guessing great bowing arm and wrist, full bow hair on the string, and playing next to the bridge but without scratchiness.  The only fault I can give was I wished there was a bit more space in between some of the phrases in the first movement – they nearly rushed into each other.  But the second movement was so soulful and well played it’s inspired me to get the notes back out and learn it.

The Perth audience applause was great, and Henning treated us to not one, but TWO encores!  The first encore was played by Henning leading the string section.  I believe this was “La Melancolie”, composed by Norwegian violinist Ole Bull (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ole_Bull), when Ole’s wife passed away.   Great to hear something not so passionate, and more subdued.   The second encore?  I don’t know – let me know if you know what it was – it was nearly sounding improvised at some bits.   I would have loved to have hear him play the Ysaye Ballade (like Vengerov and Vadim) but it was not to be.
Violin/piano score to La Melancolie here – https://urresearch.rochester.edu/institutionalPublicationPublicView.action?institutionalItemId=4056&versionNumber=1

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Henning Kraggerud Masterclass

Our state orchestra, WASO, started an excellent program last year where they get visiting soloists to give a masterclass to local musicians.  

Last night, I quickly rushed from work, dropped Little Miss 10 home, then made my way to Hale School to see Henning Kraggerud give a violin masterclass.  He’s in town this weekend to play my favourite violin concerto, the Sibelius.

It seems that WASO, together with partners UWA, WAAPA and AUSTA, rounded up 4 lucky local violinists to play.

And what a great night it was!

We heard movements from the Prokofiev and Korngold violin concertos, a showy Smetena tune, and Ysaye’s extremely difficult Ballade.

And like Renaud Capucon’s masterclass, much of what Henning was trying to draw out from the players was moving from beyond notes to making music and story telling.   Is that the key ingredient that sets these elite apart from the rest?   There definitely was some “magic” that Henning was able to make when he made his violin sing.

It’s not just story telling and musical interpretation but amazing technical prowess too.  I was extremely excited when it was introduced that Shaun Lee-Chen was playing the Ysaye (and jealous! I wish I had the time and ability to learn and play this!)  Shaun played it really well – his technique is definitely very solid and intonation was really good.   I thought, what could he say to Shaun?

A lot apparently!  Henning knew the Ballade back to front, playing it with even more ease – unbelievable.  The interaction between them and going into details and “tricks” of the Ballade was purely brilliant, insightful and entertaining.  Reading his bio, no wonder he knows it so well – he has recorded all the Ysaye unaccompanied Violin Sonatas! 

And the volume and depth of sound that came from Henning and his violin – amazing.  I wonder if he really was playing on his Guarneri del Gesu last night.

WASO and sponsors (Apache Energy) – thanks for putting this on.  It definitely is a win-win – raising the profile and respect for WASO’s soloists as we get to see them work behind the scenes, but also improving and inspiring the music community in WA.

More info

WASO’s Masterclass program – http://www.waso.com.au/default.aspx?MenuID=292

Henning’s Biography – http://www.imgartists.com/?page=artist&id=207

WASO concert this weekend – http://www.waso.com.au/EventDetail.aspx?ProductID=2485

Sibelius at the Freo Eisteddfod

All yesterday, I was just riddled with nerves.  I had that weird sick feeling in my stomach all day at work, knowing that my Freo Eisteddfod heat was later that day.  I did try to calm down, clear the worries out of my head.

As my Wifey told me, I shouldn’t need to have nerves.  I mean, I hadn’t even played yet!  No-one is going to die, no-one is getting injured, the audience aren’t there hanging on the edge of their seat waiting for me to make a mistake, they’re there to enjoy music.

But that still doesn’t help.

So I turned up after 8pm and found that there were still 4 or so to go before me.  Bad.  It meant I had to wait.  I didn’t want to watch the others so I hung out in the main hall.  There was no real place to warm up as the whole building has so much echo that it would leak into the main hall.

But all that circulated through my head for that hour was the thought of having a memory lapse.  I was replaying the concerto in parts in my head and would find a part that I “forgot”, rush to the music to check what’s next.  Bad.  My hands were cold and clammy which would make it harder to shift and play the fast passages mroe agile.

The other players before me played really well.  Pianists, violinists – I resigned to the fact that I couldn’t compete with them.  Many are Uni music students.  I wasn’t there primarily to compete anyway.  That was not my prime objective.  But that still didn’t stop the adrenalin from rushing in my head.

Then it was time for me.  I was called up, I walked to the bare stage at the Freo Town Hall, a place I hadn’t played a solo on since my Saint-Saens Introduction and Rondo Cappricioso with WAYO so many years ago (is it 14-15 years ago?).

I tuned up and tried to loosen up, listen to the acoustics in the hall, playing some long notes on open strings.  I looked out on the audience, saw the judges sitting in the upstairs gallery seating.

A thought went through my head that I was going to forget some part of the concerto again…  but I took a deep breath, looked at my accompanist, gave him a small nod and we started.

I was going in cold – not having warmed up.   F1 drivers have that warmup lap where they try to get their tyres to the right temperature.  I was thinking – why couldn’t I?  Oh well..   The nerves definitely died down once I had my bow on the string.

I played my heart out on that violin.  It was definitely more passionate and had more feeling than I usually play.  I really “milked” it.  But my intonation was a bit more shaky in parts.  And my left hand was still stiff from adrenalin, making runs not as crystal clear.  Luckily I did get the huge interval jumps and most of the double stopped octaves and sixths were OK.  The cadenza part came off better than I expected.  It was weird, at times I almost felt like I was observing myself play.  It wasn’t in “automatic” mode, but almost like my soul had lifted out of my body and was watching from outside myself.

All of a sudden, it was coming to the 2 last pages in my head.  No memory lapses so far – good.  But I started my run into the high E trill a little too fast because of nerves and so my accompanist thought I wanted to go fast.  But no!  I didn’t mean to!  I tried to pull the tempo back but too late, the horse had bolted.  I stressed – I knew I couldn’t play the last runs at this speed, but I had to try.  We got a bit of out sync with each other with all the action and passion and notes speeding by, and my last fingered octave scale run was not good at all. And then it was all over so quickly!

I was disappointed.  I know I can play those last 2 pages MUCH better.  My performance was definitely not indicative of how well I could play this piece.  But a different setting, nerves – it all adds different elements than just playing in trackies in the comfort of my lounge room.  But then, all competitors are in the same boat – it’s your performance on the day that counts.  It’s not just who can play, what you can play, or how you play it – it’s also a test of how well you can play in public under stressful conditions.  Not having played like this in public for 14-15 years wouldn’t help.  Maybe I need to do some small public recitals for Musica Amica or the Royal Schools.

I was so relieved.  It was over.  No more nerves or sickly feeling in my stomach.  What a blast!  My Wifey and my Dad who came along thought I played really well, better than they expected 🙂   Wifey said I even put a tear in her eye and didn’t realise how beautiful the Sibelius violin concerto is.

I didn’t get through to the final 4.  Interpretation and passion are not the only factors adjudicators judge by.  Ensemble and my last 2 pages definitely was a negative.  They did say that they were clear on 3 of the finalists, but not the fourth.   I’m going to live with the hope that maybe I was a potential candidate.     I was disappointed, but I keep reminding myself that that wasn’t my goal.  My goal was to work on the Sibelius first movement and play it at the Freo Eisteddfod, as something to work towards and because I LOVE the Sibelius violin concerto.   Actually, I am relieved that I don’t have to go through all the nerves again to play it on Friday night!  But it would’ve been nice to play it in front of a larger audience.

So from here, I get to put that aside and work on something new.  I think I’ll do the 2nd and 3rd movements, then move onto the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto, and then the Brahms.

Sibelius Concerto Practice

It’s less than 1 week to the Freo Eistedfodd where I’ll attempt to play the first movement of the Sibelius Violin Concerto!  

I’m starting to feel the nerves.  I don’t know why – I have nothing to lose really.  I keep telling myself over and over that it’s not for the competition or glory – but really as a milestone otherwise I have nothing to work towards.   There’s no way I can compete against students who have time to practice daily for multiple hours at a stretch!   I can only practice for 30 minutes to an hour every odd day after the kids have gone to bed…  after helping to clean up dinner, make lunches, read the kids bed time stories, etc…

Had my first rehearsal with my accompanist last week.   It was great to hook up with an old friend and play through it.  But what a shock!   It was weird having to play “in time”!   I’ve been practising so ad lib that some of my timing was totally way off.   Margie had hinted this at my lesson and afterwards I practised some parts with a metronome.  But there’s nothing like playing with someone else!  Luckily it wasn’t a full symphony orchestra!

So for this last week, I’m starting to polish it up, continue playing through in one shot to build up my stamina – both mental and physical.  I find that by the time I reach the last 2 pages (the final fast bit), I start to get tired.  I can’t concentrate.  My arms start to lock up.  My intonation starts to go.   All when it’s the hardest part technically.

Yesterday I decided – let’s use the practise technique I used for the YouTube Symphony Orchestra audition – RECORD MYSELF!   That really starts to put the pressure on.   So, first thing in the morning after breakfast, I did this take..  fresh..  no warming up.   I’ve uploaded it in all its raw, scratchy glory for all to hear 🙂  

Sorry about the clipping, and I obviously made a few mistakes but I wanted to march to the end, just like a real performance.   But listening back to it, I now realise I need to work on a few things.   For example:

  • I’d love the intro to be more legato
  • Intonation of my fourths was shocking
  • Intonation of one of the first arpeggios needs work (Eb arpeggio)
  • Gotta nail the huge shifts
  • Need to work on right arm (bowing) and left hand (fingering) co-ordination at the beginning of the fast section at the end
  • More dynamics throughout
  • Some parts need to move on more, they started to sound stodgy

Sibelius Violin Concerto – 1st Movement by Jason Chong

I’m more than welcome to constructive feedback.   Please let me know your thoughts and suggestions in this post’s comments.

Sibelius violin concerto

Don’t know why, but I’ve decided to enter the Freo Eisteddfod and play the Sibelius violin concerto!

Wifey thinks I’m having a mid-life crisis.  But I told her – adults who play sports enter amateur sporting competitions, adult photographers enter amateur photography competitions, why can’t adults enter amateur music competitions?  Why do we think they should be for primary, high school or uni students learning music only?    Actually, I think there are some “adults” who enter the choral sections – good on them!   Being an amateur, I really have nothing to lose right??  Besides spending my free time practising!

So, I basically set a target to learn the first movement and bring up to scratch in about 7 weeks only.  Pretty tough…

Here’s my plan:

March 23rd week – learn last 2 pages, commit to memory

March 30th week – learn previous 2 pages, commit to memory, be able to play these till the end

April 6th week – learn previous 2 pages, commit to memory, be able to play these till the end

April 13th week – learn the rest and play all from memory, maybe go for a violin lesson this week

April 20th onwards – practice with accompanist, maybe organise another lesson during this time, work on playing from start to end non-stop

May 12th – the heat!

Haven’t been able to practise much this week, but tonight I practised a bit and then did a run through from the cadenza until the end.   Whoa, by the time I got to the last 2 pages, I was quite tired (physically and mentally) – but that’s when all the fingered double stops hits ya!   I need to practise more run throughs I think, so I can be mentally on top of the last few pages by the time I get there.

Back to the Violin again!

Well, the other weekend, I went with my Dad to watch the Open Concerto heats for the Freo Eisteddfod.  It’s been a while since I’ve seen what the local young musos are up to.  The last thing I saw was the WAYMA Concerto Competition where Alexandra won playing the 1st movement of the Wieniawski.  This time it was a mixed bag.  Just looking at the program it looks really impressive – violinists playing the Prokofiev, Wieniawski and even the 1st movement of the Tchaik!  Either I haven’t been monitoring the scene for a while, or people just “skipped” the concertos that traditionally lead up to these types of concertos.  I must say, it’s a great feat to even be able to play the notes and get to the end in these concertos at these kids’ ages (16-17ish), so it was quite impressive and well done to those involved.  However, a common trend I see is that so much concentration and effort is put into the notes, that the actual music making is missing.

It reminds me of this saying I see at our kids dance school – “It takes an athelete to dance, but an artist to be a dancer”.  I believe the same can be applied to music.   But these kids ARE young – we often say that they’re not old enough/haven’t experienced enough life to be able to put that feeling into the music and stop playing like a robot.  But then I wonder – should musicality be an afterthought after the notes?   I went through the same problems when I was younger.  When practising it would always be the notes only – only a few practices before performance would I even think about musicality, phrasing, musical style, etc.  But even back then, I remember I used to be told to practice musically all the time.  My Dad would always give advice on how to play more musically, but I always thought it was better to nail that difficult run/arpeggio first.  I’ve been recently listening to Hilary Hahn’s Bach and even when she recorded it at 16/17, her interpration is not robotic at all (plus her intonation and tone is absolute amazing!)

But now with a more years under my belt, I’d say that I do play more musically from the start. Not that I’m thinking about it conciously, but maybe/somehow living a few more years of life, makes a difference?  How?

In any case, watching these young kids tackling those concertos has provided some temporary inspiration again.  This week I replayed the Chaconne for memories :), then went back to work on the Back G minor Fuga and stated more detailed work on the Sibelius and sight read the Tchaik which I never wanted to do before – wanted, as in, it’s something I’ll tackle only when I think I’m ready.  But maybe that’s not the right attitude – maybe I should just give it a go?  *sigh*  There’s so much repertoire that I want to work on – but I should really concentrate on a couple at a time 🙂

More Sibelius

Well, Vadim Repin’s concert has got me all inspired again.  Ran into Semra earlier in the week and she said that on Friday night, Vadim played the Carnival of Venice as an encore.  How cool!  Luckily, I’ve got him playing this already on a DVD called “World Encores” that I picked up in Singapore when we went for SEAJam.   I’m sure it would have been just as fun here in Perth!

Then I started listening to the Leonidas Kavakos version again when my Dad reminded me that I had bought it a few years ago!  Now that’s a great version, so much drama and emotion in the playing.

I really want to finish off the Wieniawski now so I can move onto other concertos!  I had a good 1.5 hour practice two nights ago – my fingered octaves aren’t going that great, but the 3rd movement is mostly just learning the notes for the moment.   I’m trying to balance the 2nd movement so that it’s not too soppy and so each phrase has movement and direction.  I’m relatively happy with the 1st movement now I think – I’ll have to wait and see what Margie thinks of it at my 2nd lesson with her tomorrow.  I’m still semi fudging some of the arpeggiatic runs, or more like the intonation/shifts aren’t exactly in tune…  I guess since I’m doing it more for fun, I don’t have to get it perfect right??? hahahaha