There’s an audition coming up in June, and I am thinking of taking it. Whether or not I do, I enjoy dusting off the excerpts and Haydn D for some critical work, which is amazingly never finished, even after 15 years of assault. The erstwhile Blake characterized Don Juan best when he said that it was a panic and then a blackout until the high B. It’s funny, but I have always escaped that excerpt in auditions. Even when it’s been assigned, it’s rare that you will be asked to play all 6 or 7 snippets. I usually get one real baddy like the Bartered Bride, and then the very tough but more lovable La Mer, Brahms 2, some Beethoven 5, or the presto from the Haffner. All that is after the first page and a half of a concerto, usually Haydn D or Lalo, to shake it up a bit. But no Don Juan! I am pretty relaxed under pressure and enjoy the process, and have succeeded in some of these auditions, so it’s not that they heard the concerto and thought I would frack my way through the Strauss. I just think that Mr. Juan and I have not been destined for each other.
Until this audition. You see, if I take this audition, it will signify a huge change in direction for me (details forthcoming) and everything about it has the hallmarks of turning point in one’s life. Which I welcome, should it be the right thing for me. It feels different this time, tidying up my résumé and carving out more time for practice. I get a little bit of a tingle even posting this on my blog: I hope it doesn’t dilute the magic by sharing it.
I have decided to delay the push to the finish on the book until the Great Summer 2008 Student Dropoff. I have about a month until they start looking towards the horizon, at a season full of 11am wake ups, car trips, and that feeling you get when water goes up your nose. Funny what makes you nostalgic. At that point, I will be more securely on my way to solidifying this audition business, and will also have more time for the book. As for now, I am devoting my non-teaching time to the usual smattering of gigs and a boosted practice regimen, a-like so:
1. Warm up with scale up one string, sustaining adjacent open string for intonation. Never less than up and down 3 times, half notes, quarter note no more than 56.
2. Chromatic scale into stratosphere, with emphasis on sweet vibrato, careful not to favor one side of the wobble over the other.
3. Get up and have a drink of water.
4. Beethoven 5, 2nd mvt, of course. Bow finesse and genuine intonation. Several run throughs at Paleolithic speed. Then run through with metronome at speeds varying from a brisk 112 down to the miserly 60. Then a few goes with my recording of Ron from that infernal excerpt CD.
5. 10 moderately paced run throughs of the last 1/3 of Haydn D, with metronome. Too many people neglect the end of a piece, seeing it only as a vehicle to get to the Ta Daaaa of the last chord.
6. 20 reps of the first phrase of Haydn.
7. Get up for a drink of water, do a few handstands (!) and stretch my neck.
8. Don Juan. Oh yeah, that guy. Working the opening gesture in all kinds of bow configurations. It’s more than passable as it is now, but I want to raise the bar and make it a bolt of lightning, followed by an exclamation point. It is an impressive opening statement.
9. One full run through of first 2 pages of Haydn, and I’m done.
Rinse and repeat as needed. Tomorrow will be La Mer bottom 3 parts and Haydn double stop mania.
Wow – thanks for the detailed plan. Could you clarify please:
1. Are these one octave? Two? One finger? Standard fingering? One string? All strings?
2. What tempo for chromatic scale? Why chromatic?
8. How many bowing variations/reps do you typically do at one sitting?
(In general, the number of reps is impressive. I knew I needed more BIC.)
3 and 7. That’s lots of water in, and no water out. You must be drowning.
And BTW, that is very exciting news, though still mystifying. Thanks for sharing the magic.
I think I need to start thinking about chromatic scales, I haven’t really gotten into them yet.
I have been ever thankful of my teacher for instilling in me the need for tea breaks in your practise time. Or water. But what a critical piece of advice!
1) One octave, yes. I like to just do normal fingering, because it primes three essentials, that (like I talked about in my “easy”? podcast) sometimes get dismissed because they’re so common: First position spacing, the shift into fourth position, and extensions. Across all four strings, because each one requires different technique.
2) Chromatic scale tempo varies, but it’s around 80, with two clicks per note. I do this scale because it’s a sort of aural palate cleanser, with no tonal center. Tuning pure intervals is important, and also the fingering I do is 0 1 2 3 1 2 3, so the 4th finger, which is easy to injure by asking it to do too much right off the bat, gets a little sympathetic warm up without all the strain.
8) I did 2s, 3s, 4s, etc. The whole opening in one bow. The whole opening in an up bow. Dotted rhythms (long short AND the inside-out sounding short long). Spiky short bows that are more grunts than tones, and last, my favorite, The Build. This is where I play it at tempo, but build up. So it goes
1st note (breath)
1st note 2nd note (breath)
1st note 2nd note 3rd note (breath)
This makes it manageable, and also lends itself nicely to interpretation. When you look at it as a build, you have to ask “where to?”. I repeated some of these as few as 3 times, and others more than 10. While I like to keep count on things like Haydn, on others, I just keep going until I feel like the point has been made between my brain and muscle memory.
And yes, lots of water, tea, and even some wine. The thing about taking short breaks is that you take 5 minutes off, but add 20 minutes of additional stamina and patience with yourself, which is worth its weight in, er, water. 🙂