Day 125 – February 2nd – Back on track?

After spending the weekend taking some time to de-stress and refocus, it was back to class again this morning. No snow, but the frozen fields and paths made the walk to Trevor’s much easier than when it’s wet and muddy.

I was expecting something of a tirade about my performance in Juliet’s class on Friday, but Trevor ended up being quite level-headed about it. We all had to reflect on our own playing and then give each other feedback, then Trevor went round and share his thoughts with us. He didn’t go into the nerves side of things (luckily I have some lovely friends elsewhere who are giving me some tips and ideas there), but did touch on the result of them. Yes, I had played some wrong rhythms, with some sloppy intonation, but he felt that the goal for me was still to focus on the music and being expressive rather than trying to be too analytical.

With that in mind, I launched into my offering of studies with beautiful music as the number one priority. Everything ended up going rather well, and apart from a few sharp notes my three Moyse studies were passed as “expressive and well-phrased”. The three Altes studies were also fine, and I was even a bit annoyed that Trevor made me skip bits of the Midsummer Night’s Dream arrangement – I’d practiced getting through the whole thing and then playing the solo beautifully at the end! However, I finished off by starting Andersen No. 13 rather too fast, and had to re-start at a slower tempo not once but twice. Better to do the Andersen studies solidly but a little more slowly, I think.

Some of us have now been prescribed yet more studies, this time by Drouet. Here, I’m really not sure what Trevor’s playing at, as they’re sight-readable and really rather boring harmonically. They were originally suggested for Shannon, and then Trevor dropped in an “oh, Naomi, you can do these as well, just power through them”. Challenge accepted, I’ll see how many I can learn for next week!

We don’t have another class until Friday, since we’re heading up to London on Thursday to watch the Emily Beynon masterclass at the Royal Academy, and then another LSO concert. I’ve tried to be good and get some of my flute history project done this evening, but am also thinking that Silent Witness in 15 minutes looks like a good wind-down.

Day 97 – January 5th – Quartets

As always, class today had its ups and downs, though for once warm-up time was one of the ups! It seems that the mental practice as well as all the repetition of the various exercises is paying off, as I was able to play many of the exercises at speed without getting flustered or making too many mistakes. The two Reichert exercises felt almost easy – a wonderful sensation after spending so long getting annoyed with my inability to play them! The Boehm study wasn’t perfect, but I didn’t look at the music and got through it without loosing my place. Thought it might seem like small steps, I’m happy that the fast memory work finally seems to be getting somewhere.

Trevor had another set of devilish finger exercise for us today, this time Moyse’s Scales and Arpeggios: 480 Exercises on the Major and Minor Scales and Arpeggios of 3 and 4 tones. We read through the first three exercises, the first one in all the major keys. I have come across this book before: my teacher Sylvia gave it to me when I was about 17 and I diligently played through of the exercises according to the plan proposed on the first page. I remember them being challenging, even though I was probably doing them at a fraction of the speed that Trevor would like! One of the things that was pleasantly surprising during our read-through today, however, was how agile my pinkie finger has become. Though the sequences with low Cs, Dbs, Ds and Ebs weren’t always comfortable, I could playing them at the tempo without too many problems.

The rest of the class was ok, though tied myself in some knots with the Moyse melodic studies. I had spent so long trying to get the staccato in no. 3 nice and short that I wasn’t thinking enough about even rhythm. Then, when I played with even quavers, I wasn’t playing expressively enough. It really does all need to come together rather than one bit being good and then the other not. My long studies were generally good, with Andersen no. 10 being pronounced “quite musical and nicely phrased”, and Altes no. 15 coming across well despite the speed. No. 14 wasn’t as good – I was holding the ends of 3/4 bars when I should be cutting them, and started out too slowly. Trevor really does seem to want speed above all else in the Altes studies, which I need to keep in mind for next week’s selection. The Moyse articulation studies (Bach variations) were also a case of not everything coming together at once. I could play the rhythm in no. 5, but then was doing some funny things with phrasing as a result. When I fixed the phrasing, the rhythm wasn’t as precise. Nos. 6-8, all alternating slurring and tonguing, were quite good but all needed to be faster!

This evening we did a group dinner and then spent an hour sightreading flute quartets. Reica and Furstenau were on the menu and were a lot of fun. After all the sightreading that I’ve been practising, as well as the sheer volume of music that we have to learn for the course, the notes themselves were easy to play and I could focus on the interaction between various voices in the ensemble. It’s a pity that some of the others were tired – I would have gone on for a few more hours!