Did you think that I’d forgotten about our little project? I’d understand if you thought so. I’ve been slow to write and slow to shoot video, but not for lack of desire. I’ve simply been rehearsing, performing or traveling every spare moment! That’s been great for recharging my creative battery, but not so great for the Challenge. But now I’m back… so rosin up once more, and let’s knock out the rest of this list so that we can look at everything for a second time. Not to mention steeling ourselves for the home stretch later on.
Let me say, also, that I read every one of your submissions for Week 10 on why you took up the Challenge. I loved hearing your stories! And I felt inspired to practice and perform this past week, knowing that you were practicing alongside me. I might as well tell you my personal reason for starting the Challenge, now that we’re almost halfway through.
It’s a lonely endeavor, taking auditions. You set out alone and you finish alone. And unlike a great hike, there usually aren’t too many wonderful sights along the way. More like tramping through swampland actually. So I wanted to create a new way to prepare: one where you’re not alone, and where you pause every now and then to take stock of the journey and to enjoy how far you’ve come. It may sound corny, but as you know already, working hard for so many weeks at a time takes some encouragement! For the professionals who take these auditions for a living, the encouragement is mostly practical: professional survival and advancement. But even then, there are days when the work seems pointless. As much as you’re aware of the possibility of “one step forward, two steps back”, it still hurts every day that it happens. So I wanted a group to experience the preparation together, to see (some for the first time) what happens when they sustained their efforts toward a particular goal over a period of several months. And so far, the group has been larger, and the effort more meaningful, than I could have hoped for when I started the Challenge! If you will stay with me until the end, I know that you’ll remember Week 0 for as long as you play the violin.
We’ll have to call Week 9 a scratch, since I gave you no assignment and we have to continue counting down. So now, for Week 8, I’ll let my video do most of the talking. I start out with a nice exercise to open your ears and recalibrate your hands in case you’re out of practice or just need a reminder to put sound first. Then I go on to the Mahler and the Schubert excerpts:
As I mention in the video, the most common fault that I found with “first impressions” of the Mahler was trying to do or say too much with the excerpt, especially in the opening. Just listen to a recording of this piece: it takes a while to unfold, doesn’t it? By doing less in your performance, you’re showing the committee that you understand that concept. But even in this small sample from the movement, there’s a big chance to open up. You just have to wait for it!
The ending of the Schubert will give you fits, if you’re anything like me. And there are other fingering solutions than the one I give in my video. I’m curious to see what you favor. If you do go with mine, make sure to practice covering two strings at once with your finger (whether that’s the first or second finger… I prefer 2 because it’s a bit longer and wider). A scale in perfect fifth double-stops wouldn’t do you any harm. Some of the greats prided themselves on how easily they could nail perfect fifths at any spot on the fingerboard!
I know that time is short this week, but you’ve already gotten a head start on these two excerpts. Next week we’ll tackle Brahms, and following that Debussy, after which we’ll circle back to revisit and polish. So have these two excerpts to me by Sunday end of day, and we’ll go from there. All my best to you as the fall season begins!
Week 8 Assignment
Complete takes of the Mahler 5 and Schubert 2 excerpts.