Friday, July 28, 2006

A day late and a dollar (or four) short

What an exciting past two days of the IDRS conference! I'll start with yesterday's events.

I got up bright and early to go to Francois Leleux's masterclass at 9am. He rose to the occasion yet again. We often wonder if a great performer is any good as a teacher. Leleux had all the tools, and he knew exactly what to ask of his students in the class (he pinpointed several problems immediately, always in a kind way), but he lacked some ability to explain how to fix those problems. I did write a page of notes, however, and I will use a couple of his analogies in my own teaching. I particularly appreciated his empathy towards the class participants. For example: to demonstrate a nuanced phrase with flexibility and rubato in its ornaments and deliverance, he played the big solo from Scheherazade. (Jaws dropped to the floor.) Afterwards, he turned to the girl (high school-aged maybe), and said, "do you know that piece?" She said, "umm, no," (which I think takes guts to admit!), and everyone in the audience laughed. Leleux admonished the audience and told us we, too, had all not known this piece at some point. He turned back to the girl and said, "it's ok not to know something," then turning towards the audience said, "it's not ok to laugh about it." That was awesome.

I ran into Peter after the masterclass, and he said he was in awe of Leleux and that last night’s Strauss was some of the finest oboe playing he’d ever heard. That says a lot, coming from Peter Cooper. Peter and I caught up a little, walking towards the exhibits building. He was playing on Thursday night, so it would be hard to get a lesson in on that day. We’d try on Friday. I then continued to the exhibits and spent about 3 hours trying English horn bocals (on my new Cheryl Wefler (Cascade Oboe Reeds) reed—highly recommend them if you’re looking for good reeds btw). After talking with Thomas Hiniker about my English horn, I decided not to buy a bocal right now, as the instrument itself needs fixing. He lives in Rochester, Minnesota, so I may drive up in the beginning of August and have him fix it. I talked to the makers of my English horn, the Bulgheroni family from Italy, and if Hiniker can’t fix it, they said to send it to them and they’ll fix it. I wonder how much that would cost me. Well, I love my instrument, but it may be time for a new one. Maybe at the next conference. I tried the Marigaux EH, as well as Rigoutat, Lorée and Howarth. Marigaux has the sweetness of my Bulgheroni and the projecting power of the Lorée. I also liked the Howarth horn, but it’s about $1500 more than the Marigaux. We’ll see.

It’s hard to buy an instrument at these conferences, as there are a hundred other oboists and bassoonists in the same room trying instruments. The exhibits are amazing! I have one day left in this conference, and I have yet to reach the second floor of vendors. The large room reminds me of a casino in Las Vegas: they’re void of natural light, you’re sucked in by all the flashy lights and toys to try and buy, and before you know it, you’ve spent all your time and money. I bought three CDs—two of Christian Schmitt and one of Emily Pailthorpe (the Poulenc sonata, trio, sextet). Actually, I still owe the Howarth people money for Emily’s CD. They didn’t have a five dollar bill to give me change, so I’m to come back before Saturday. Vendors here are so trusting! I’ve walked off with CDs, EH bocals, and nobody asked for any sort of good faith retainer or form of i.d. Little did they know…heheheh… Anyway, for the CD money, I thought a good solution would be for me to buy ONE spool of reed thread for $4.50, then I’d have exact cash for the folks at Howarth. Hmm…ONE spool? Can we ever stop at one? I got a beautiful pink (I’m pretty sure I don’t have that colour…) and a very cool golden orange-yellow. Dave asked why I needed so much thread. It’s not about NEED, it’s how we accessorize! Of course, now I’m $4.00 short for the CD. I’ll have to busk outside the exhibit room. I’ll take orchestral oboe excerpt requests.

Yes, I did go to some performances on Thursday. In the afternoon I heard Sandro Caldini, Martin Schuring and Pietro Corna play some reed trios, then there was an amazing recital by Pauline Oostenjijk and Christian Schmitt. Schmitt played two premieres, a solo oboe work and a work “for Christian Schmitt and live computer.” What was even more impressive than his staggering technique and ability to play modern music was the piece in between these two works. Sandwiched between the Paulet and the Schilingi was Bach’s Sonata, BWV 1020. Schmitt was able to transform himself into a Classical oboist, playing with nuance and precision, which shows two things: 1) Schmitt can adapt to any style with great flexibility. 2) Modern works and standard works are not that different from each other. Yes, our approaches to two seemingly opposite languages must differ, but beyond the notes and extended techniques, modern works should be given the same amount of tender care we give to Bach. I could go on and on…

Last night’s evening concert was a little disappointing compared to the other concerts this week. I know Peter was disappointed with his own playing of the Mozart Quintet in C minor, K. 406; this piece is actually an arrangement (by Mozart) of the Wind Serenade in C minor—arranged for viola quintet. Peter then played the first violin part on oboe. I thought it was a pretty good rendition, but he could have picked a much better piece. He’s such a beautiful player, and that still came across to all of us, but the overall effect wasn’t one of great interest, vitality or passion. Anyone that knows Peter knows that he’s anything but bland in his playing style or interpretation of any piece. The other unfortunate part of his performance was that he got water in his key(s), I think the G key, but maybe B-flat, near the beginning of the first movement. What a pain! He struggled with that throughout the entire movement and took his time to fix the problem before the second movement began. He looked up at one point and said to the audience (mind you, this is in a large concert hall!), “has this not happened to anyone here during a big concert?” Sympathetic laughs and claps.

Michel Bettez and Barrick Stees also played in that concert (not together), as did Ariana Ghez and Frank Rosenwein (playing Rathbun’s 3 Diversions for 2 Oboes) and Merrill Greenberg, playing Carlo Yvon’s beautiful Sonata in F minor. He was sharp the entire time. I know he was struggling with pitch (much different than in Israel!!), but the audience struggled along with him. It really affected my appreciation of his performance. Ghez and Rosenwein were great on Rathbun’s piece, but it seemed to lack passion. Overall, the concert was not the best.

This evening's concert, however, was fabulous. It was end-heavy in wonderful-ness, with the last four performances being some of the best playing of the conference. I will write about that tomorrow because...

The big news from us today is that we were in a car accident this afternoon. Not serious, but we were rear-ended at a stop light. Not much damage to our car (and none to his car), but there was something not quite right with the other driver. We thought he might be on drugs or drunk, so we called the police. It turns out this man is really old, has Alzheimer's disease, and when the police called his family, they said he'd been missing since 1pm (it was 6pm when the police arrived on the scene), and he lived 60 miles away. The old man didn't know he was in Muncie. So, it could've been a lot worse for all parties. He's ok, we're ok. Very very tired though, and a bit of a headache for me. I'm sure it's not from the accident, just from the stress of it all. It's been an amazing conference, but after all this traveling, I'm really looking forward to getting home. More on today...tomorrow!

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