Practice Notes for 6/3/2005

I received an invite last week to sit in on a rehearsal for some great music — the Saint-Säens Septet and Schubert’s Trout Quintet. The Trout I’ve played before at Chautauqua, but the Saint-Säens I’ve never played before. Good double bass parts on both.

In the orchestra, we’re playing Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture, Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite, and parts of Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet. I like this kind of program… bass parts are fun to play and the overall program is pretty much the classical equivalent of head-banging.

I’ve been putting in a little daily time on Carl Flesch’s Scale System, transcribed of course for double bass. I started working more on Flesch after a conversation with a violist who had a funny story: He was coming in to a lesson with a guy from the Chicago Symphony and he was blowing through something wild on the viola. My friend then asked “So what is that? Some concerto, a cadenza or something?” To which his teacher replied with total disgust that he hadn’t recognized it at first: “No…. that’s Flesch!” If you know the Flesch scale patterns, this is extremely funny, for two reasons. One is that the patterns go through several arpeggio variants for each key, they throw in a scale sequence, and some of them are harmonized. The other reason is that it’s so common — every violinist and violist probably had gone through this regimen (and should continue to do so on a daily basis) and it’s been transcribed for cellists and bassists as well. It can be a brutal workout and I usually practice them nice and slow to work on intonation, as does my friend on his viola and most other string players I know that bother with Flesch. And this guy was plowing through the hardest of it at some ridiculous tempo like it was nothing. We are humbled.