Break it all down


Three weeks out from my recital having just endured a second (and much more intense) bout of sickness, I have rather a lot of work to do to make this thing happen and be at least half decent. I’ll try to refrain from too much moaning ala “why does this always happen?” and just get on with the vision from this point forward.

I’m planning to play seven works – as outlined in a previous post on the topic, plus György Kurtág’s Bagatelles for flute, double bass and piano … if I can find a double bass who doesn’t have an AYO audition on that exact day! The Bagatelles:

Cool, huh?

Some of the works I’ve performed before or I’m feeling fairly on top of (namely the Saariaho and Takemitsu, and the first Sketch of Liam’s), although there’s so much more that can be done. The Maderna and Kurtág are not difficult pieces that are more about ensemble than notes, so they won’t need excessive amounts of practise time. But the Dean and especially the Hurel are not at all easy, and although I got the latter almost to a stage where I could play the first movement right through for someone early this year I need to do a great deal of work to get it off the ground now. But let’s start with the easy ones – I’m hoping to create a really structured division of the pieces so I can just assign sections to practise each day in the same way I do with my tech practise plan

Saariaho – Oi Kuu

For this I need to get my bass flute chops into shape, and my lungs – I’ll have to work at the longer phrases bit by bit, building up to the full length. The overblowing and attacks need a bit of attention to make them really explosive. Both multiphonics and singing-and-playing sections also need a bit of work. Then pulling all the pieces together and creating a cohesive (and beautiful) whole. Plus, of course, a few extra rehearsals with Katherine, the cellist.

More concretely, the piece is in six major parts, which I can then break down into individual phrases. I think the best way to attack this is to see which of those phrases presents real problems and then group them back together into bigger lines (as represented by brackets below – and <these signs> show joined phrases) before putting the whole section together and working on joins.

  1. Sostenuto e dolce – (1 2) (3 4) (5 6) (<7 8>) (9 10 <11 12>)
  2. Più mosso – (1 2) (3 4) (5 6) 7
  3. Libero (tempo primo) – (1 2) (3 4) (5 6) each of these ‘phrases’ is pretty much a note or a tremolo held for a whole breath
  4. Più mosso #2 – 1 (2 3) (<4 5>) (6 <7 8*>) these last two seem to be in little fragments but make up one line with the cello
  5. Meno mosso – (1 <2 3> 4) (5 6 7 8)
  6. Doppio movimento – (<1 2> ❤ 4>) 5 (6 7) (8 9) (10 <11 12>)

Takemitsu – Voice

This one I worked on a great deal with a number of teachers while overseas. Much of this is about working on individual sounds – attacks and multiphonics mostly – then ensuring I can still make those sounds as part of the whole phrase, line, page. To divide this one up, I’ve listed the 17 lines and then the phrases within them as letter names. The plan would be to select a few of these phrases daily, identify the sounds most in need of work, find the right physical instructions to create the sound, make sure that’s still possible with playing the whole phrase, working on coordination, then building back up to full lines.

  1. a b c-
  2. -c <d e>
  3. f <g h-
  4. -h> i j <k l-
  5. -l> m n o-
  6. -o p q r-
  7. -r s t-
  8. -t u v
  9. w x
  10. y z a b c
  11. d e  f-
  12. f g i
  13. j k-
  14. k l
  15. m n o p-
  16. -p q r-
  17. -r s t

This work might require some different ways of working as the recital approaches… I’ll reassess then!

Maderna – Dialodia

I haven’t actually confirmed a second flautist to play this with me … I really ought to get onto Kathleen or Janet! So that’s the first task. The work is straightforward playing-wise, with the parts strongly linked to one another. The only exception is the very end, where it breaks into note rapids, but it’s pretty short. Still, task two is to get on top of that. Numbered tasks, that’s what this one needs. Some will take much more work than others.

  1. Confirm 2nd flautist
  2. Last line (veloce, molto irregolare) – work from start slowly w/ metronome and/or rhythm variations, and from end quickly in small chunks/chaining
  3. Dynamics and intonation throughout – play with a tuner
  4. Rehearsals
  5. Polishing and a practise performance (or two)

Not quite so much clarity of attack as for the above works, but it is a lot simpler (and without so many extended sounds). It doesn’t really need to be broken down into the individual phrases for me to work on phrasing etc. throughout the work.

Kurtág – Bagatelles

This is a little suite of six movements, each of which presents a couple of little difficulties – mostly ensemble, but a few trickier bits for the flute. But once again the first problem is finding a double bassist! AYO auditions seem to be on the same day unfortunately, so I’m waiting to hear back from Gerard McFadden… fingers crossed.

  1. Furious chorale – flute: pitch & tone, colour & character, grace notes on last page, vivo fingers; ensemble: balance & dynamics, intonation, cueing, coordination (esp. in the vivo)
  2. Hommage à J.S.B. – flute: legato (esp. large leaps), phrasing & breaths, correct character, pitch, working grace notes in without interrupting movement, bringing out some special harmonic moments; ensemble: providing steady pulse, intonation, coordination, rubato
  3. Like the flowers of the field – flute: legatissimo lines, steady movement without dragging, colour changes; ensemble: good cueing and understanding of how parts fit together w/ joining runs, playing a little with space, coordinated dynamic changes
  4. Wild and tame – flute: scales & good knowledge of note sequences, hard attacks, staccato runs, fluttertongue (esp. low D); ensemble: fitting together, cueing
  5. Flowers we are, mere flowers – flute: dolce tone, legato between intervals, sustained notes, pianississimo; ensemble: intonation, balance, colour coming from piano opening and then developed & echoed by fl/db
  6. La fille aux cheveux de lin, enragée – flute: runs & the problems that accompany them (execution, evenness, pitch, articulation, timing), articulation & tension through repeated arpeggios, changing tempos, coming back to very soft & maintaining pitch, changing character/energy; ensemble: coordination (esp. through changing tempos & fast passages), cueing, entry points, rhythmic accuracy, sudden character changes

That’s quite a bit to be going on with…! I think the Dean and the Hurel require posts of their own (in fact I started one on the Dean about a week and a half ago, and will revisit it tonight). But this I can adapt into a document something like my tech plan to just make sure I’m getting through what I need to each day. Should be able to start practising again tomorrow as my airways clear … trying not to think about what I’m trying to achieve in very little time. Not like I haven’t been in this situation before!


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