A Busy Week!

When I decided to keep a blog about my time with NYO, I realized I’d be busy. I’m trying to post as frequently as possible, not only to share my experiences here, but to keep everything organized in my mind, as well. It can be hard to keep everything from blurring together, simply because there is so much music that happens every day (by the way, that’s definitely a good thing, in case there was any doubt)!

Tuesday morning was our real in-depth full rehearsal. Since I haven’t mentioned him yet on this blog, James Ross is our conductor for most of the residency, before Maestro Gergiev arrives — in his own words, NYO’s “surrogate daddy.” Maestro Ross is the Director of Orchestral Activity at the University of Maryland, Artistic Director of the National Orchestral Institute, and Associate Director of the Conducting Program at Juilliard. (Needless to say it’s been exciting to work with him.) On Tuesday, Maestro Ross explained that from our read-through the previous night, he could tell NYO would have very little issue playing loud and exciting music. Because of this, he began the rehearsal by saying that we would do some work slightly under performance tempo in order to make sure we could learn to truly “care about every single note.” With this general perspective guiding us, we worked on unifying several parts of the third and fourth movements of the Shostakovich. We also read through our encore piece!

On Tuesday evening, we attended a lecture by David Wallace, a violist (and Juilliard professor) on the lives and music of Tchaikovsky and Shostakovich, and how particular circumstances influenced what they put into the pieces we’re playing. For Tchaikovsky, as many people know, it was his failed marriage and subsequent love for the young violinist Josef Kotek which inspired him to write his Violin Concerto. Shostakovich wrote his Tenth Symphony after Josef Stalin’s death, following years of struggling to please the Soviet Regime and its leader.

This historical background definitely resonated with me in Wednesday’s string sectional (led by Maestro Ross), where we continued to work on accessing appropriate moods and tone colors for the Shostakovich string sound. For the entire orchestra, this kind of work has been a large part of our rehearsals on the symphony — truly being able to develop the wide range of emotions Shostakovich expresses, from tenderness and melancholy to desperation and hysteria (especially in the second movement).

We’ve also been working on the Tchaikovsky (sans soloist). In this and in all of our repertoire, Maestro Ross has purposely been flexible in his tempo choices in sections as well as whole movements, in order to prepare us for working with an entirely different conductor — Maestro Gergiev — next week. I haven’t been in too many situations where one conductor has largely prepared the orchestra and another has taken over leading up to performances, so even though this kind of rehearsal can be challenging, it’s definitely the best way to prepare for whatever anyone might toss our way.

Yesterday (Wednesday) we all took part in a Feldenkrais workshop led by Aliza Stewart, a leading Feldenkrais trainer, which was different from anything I have ever encountered. The emphasis, as I understood it, was to be more aware of our movements and be more thoughtful about doing motions that are natural and that best serve the purpose we are trying to achieve. As musicians, this is obviously very pertinent, and the class was tailored to our needs.

Finally (and briefly)… My chamber ensemble has been rehearsing the fourth movement of Tchaikovsky’s Souvenir de Florence. It’s a very tricky piece, partly individually but mainly ensemble-wise. There are a lot of intricate parts that have to be appropriately brought out of the texture in order for the music to sound coherent. It’s a piece I have wanted to play for a long time, so I’m glad to finally have the opportunity.

Thanks for reading this incredibly long-winded post! I’m a day behind on writing, but I will try to touch on everything important at some point!

Below: Rehearsing (official NYO-USA photo by Chris Lee)

Below: A poster for NYO’s first performance


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