I love this series from hella frisch where he relates tips from Cleveland Orchestra percussionist Tom Freer on preparing for, and surviving, an orchestral audition. This is a great resource for those on the audition trail, and an interesting read for the non-musician that is curious about what the heck this stuff is all about. Check them out:
My best results in the past for getting through auditions and recitals came after spending a good month or so beforehand treating myself well ��� balancing a solid and focused practice routine with eating healthy, exercise, and plenty of sleep. Eating bananas and avoiding caffeine before an audition seemed to help keep the nerves down, and avoiding alcohol helped to keep my joints flexible and my muscles relaxed. Thank god I don’t audition any more and can have all the booze and caffeine I want! 😀
Speaking of caffeine, I once attended a master class with cellist Anner Bylsma and was struck by how much coffee that guy was putting away during the session. His performances of the Bach cello suites are among my favorites, and maybe it’s just me, but when I listen to his recordings I swear I can hear the coffee at work in there. I myself used to hit the practice room with two or three cans of Coca-Cola in my hands, and would start off breakfast, lunch and tea time with a double cappuccino, which really made practicing fun ��� I would obsess on perfecting fingerings, create ten different ways to phrase a line, whittle away at my list of orchestra excerpts and solo pieces, and stay in the practice room for eight hours at a time. Probably it was all a bit much… Anyway…
Auditions can be a brutal process. A strategy of any sort is better than nothing at all, and the more auditions you do, the more you can refine your strategy. (Or the more you go crazy…) Another thing I liked to do for audition or recital preparations is to go and play in front of as many people as I could. For recitals, I’d offer to go play at retirement homes or go grab some people to be my audience for a mini recital. For auditions, we would put a group of people together to do practice auditions once in a while ��� we would take turns playing and the rest of us would be judges. Then we’d discuss the performances and share ideas. It was almost never all bassists; more often it was a mix. We’d hear clarinet first, then maybe a violin, and so on. The main thing was to just get the flavor of what to expect, to practice getting through it all, and to come out of it with a more confident feeling.
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.
Free Beethoven symphonies!
BBC – Radio 3 – Beethoven Experience – downloads
Download all nine of Beethoven’s symphonies here the day after they are broadcast. All the symphonies are performed by BBC Philharmonic, conducted by Gianandrea Noseda.
Bring back the NBC Radio Symphony Orchestra and weekly broadcasts!!!
I am playing with the Contra Costa Chamber Orchestra this weekend. Saturday night is at Los Medanos College (8pm), and Sunday night is the main event (Halloween) at the Regional Center for the Arts in Walnut Creek (7:30pm). Wear a costume. The orchestra will dress up – which is going to be totally cool. We discussed in the bass section about dressing up as hooded monks, the members of Kiss, or the usual horror masks with blood and splatter. This is a kid event, so bring the rambunctious heathens. There will be a magician. Total buffoonery. We are playing a bunch of appropriate Halloween music: Moussorgsky’s Night on Bald Mountain, Grieg’s Peer Gynt, Bacchanale by Saint-Saëns, and other cool stuff. Should be fun!
There is something delicious about listening to very loud Sammy Hagar and Black Sabbath right before a symphony orchestra rehearsal. It’s kind of like a nun walking back into the convent after a night with a gang of sailors on shore leave…