Crumb, take 1

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First rehearsal this morning for George Crumb’s Vox Balaenae (‘Voice of the Whale’), and it went very well – in fact Jonny Ng said after the first read-through that it was probably the best first run of that piece ever! This probably has a lot to do with the fact that he’s already played the work twice before, and I was slightly obsessed with it in second year and have now been practising it on and off over the last year, and also Katherine Philp is a simply wonderful cellist. So all in all I think it will come together very nicely!

The only parts we really had to work on ensemble-wise were the Paleozoic and Mesozoic variations – Mesozoic in particular is quite difficult to get just right. The piano is playing polyrhythmic percussive patterns with a glass rod lying across the strings jangling away, which obscures the quaver pulse – the cello and I have to discern it anyway and come in together (in total unison, with me playing right up in the top of the flute range) counting the quavers accurately. And it’s fast! Still, it’s kind of exhilarating, skin of your teeth kind of stuff.


At this stage, this is probably the piece I am feeling most confident about for my recital. Apart from this very promising first rehearsal, the work also happens to be almost universally appealing, very theatrical, and really fun to play. Sure the exotic scales he uses and the tonal melody of the Sea-Nocturne are a bit naff, but what the hell!

What I’m looking forward to now are cleaning up the ensemble difficulties so that we can really engage in the theatre of the work and see just how well we can hold an audience spellbound…!

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