Not much to report today other than that I practised a lot. Six hours playing flute and then some time listening and studying scores. What with two trips to London in the next few days and Trevor’s zeal for more studies, I felt like there weren’t many options but to knuckle down and really do as many hours as I could manage.
Compared with yesterday, I felt like all the practice sessions were productive. The Reinecke Ballade isn’t terribly difficult note-wise, and I could focus on the music, which was nice. As for studies…they’re happening. Andersen No. 14 is a lovely piece of music but being in D#/Eb minor makes it a bit of a minefield for notes!
In the afternoon, I took myself off on a long walk across the fields and round the back way to Bodsham. The fields were still half-covered in snow, and the air was crisp and delicious. We’re heading up to London tomorrow, and to be honest I’m glad of a day free from playing!
I had a rather bitty day today, what with our weekly Tesco outing. Though walks are still off, Trevor seemed in good spirits and approved of my being able to recite the entire compositional output for flute by André Jolivet!
Almost as soon as we got back it began to snow, and by mid-afternoon (and after a few hours for scales and exercises) the countryside was beautifully white and sparkling. I took myself off for a walk across the fields, and had a wonderful time.
Alas, practice today wasn’t fantastic. I felt a bit rung out and tired from the start, and have probably spent a bit too much time note-bashing to try and get all the studies into my fingers. The repertoire for Friday is Gaubert’s Madrigal and the Reinecke Ballade. While neither are terribly hard, the Ballade will need a bit more work on notes tomorrow. I would love to play both musically and with Trevor-sufficient expression. Hopefully I can achieve that in the short time I have!
Our final masterclass with Juliet is set for February 27th and I’m playing the Copland Duo. It’s a piece I really love but haven’t played before, and from my read through today the main things will be tasteful phrasing across the mixed meter sections, and indicating tempo changes. Hopefully I can do a better job that last time.
The last day of January marks two thirds of the way through the flute studio course! A little more if we’re splitting hairs, since February is short. After a rather turbulent January with classes being shifted around, lots of trips up to London and then a particularly crazy last two weeks, today was a good moment to stop and collect myself a little in preparation for the remaining two months. In aid of that, I took myself off on a long and blustery walk across the Downs this afternoon. It was chilly, and the melted snow made for very soggy ground, but there is something wonderful about squelching through mud. I got back just as it began to snow again, and had a lovely practice session while watching the farm outside turn white!
After the last few days of particularly noticing nervousness and tension, my goal today was to practice well and without tension. I think that in my panic to get things prepared this last week, I’ve tended to note bash, learning in mistakes and then tension associated with them. Not good at all. Anyway, hopefully now that I’m a little more aware of what I’m doing, I can stop doing it an practice a little better.
I’m preparing Andersen No. 13 for Monday, which is a chromatic study with the odd whole tone put in for good measure (to trip us up!). After doing so much practice of patterns and scales, I am noticing that much more of these studies falls under the fingers easily. I suppose that’s why this one feels so devilish – I fall into the pattern and then it changes.
I’m supposed to be doing Altes No. 20 and 21 for Monday, but keep jumping ahead and practising no. 22 as well. It’s a duet arrangement of the Mendelssohn Scherzo from Midsummer Night’s Dream, and I really enjoy playing it. Getting through the whole thing is a tongue stamina challenge rather than (apart from one or two tricky passages) any problem of notes. The first flute part (which I play) doesn’t get the main solo until the very end, after seven pages of double tonguing, and the challenge is to make it still sound fresh, clear and bouncy. I’d like to think I can manage all three studies for class, but we’ll see how things go tomorrow.
This morning I woke to the first proper snowfall; white fields and hedgerows. Despite the cold, I thoroughly enjoyed the walk to class and could almost have passed Trevor’s house by and carried on!
I rather surprised myself in the warm-up by getting through almost all of the proposed exercises from memory without slips. Of particular note, I was asked to play ‘solo’ scales round the circle of fifths (C major, A melodic minor, F major etc.) with Trevor beating a rather brisk time all the way. Only two slips, and interestingly neither of them in tricky keys! I also managed the arpeggios on page 96 of Complete Daily Exercises all the way up to Ab without any significant slips, and it was playing them once through as well.
However, my performance in the masterclass proper didn’t go brilliantly. I started the Taffanel Andante Pastoral too slowly, and despite feeling like I’d put a lot of work into the character of the piece, was told that I was playing in quite an insular, nervous way. By the time we got to the Scherzettino, I just wanted to sit down, and dropped quite a lot of notes. Apparently that was better, though, because I was feeling the rhythm more! I recorded the class, and so need to sit down in a couple of days time and process all the information again.
There was a general sigh of relief this evening, as we’ve made it to the end of a very hectic two weeks. Though there are studies anew to prepare for Monday, we had a bit of a night off, watched some truly awful American TV and played the board game Frustration!
I woke up this morning to some proper snow, though it was in the air rather than on the ground. My morning practice accompanied the flurries and eddies playing round the dairy. Sadly, I couldn’t persuade it to settle, and by lunchtime any little traces at the side of the road had all melted.
It reminded me of another long practice day I spent accompanying snow, five years ago now. I was in Helsinki on my exchange year, and ended up in one of the big practice rooms in the ‘P-talo’ (P-house) with two grand pianos, a couch and a wall of windows. It had snowed for months, and the fluffy morning whiteness no longer astounded me the way it had at first. Yet that day the snow danced as it fell, whipped up by the wind into great swirls and currents of fairy floss. I was practising scales, and remember trying to make them ebb and flow in the same way the snow did, flourishing effortlessly as I ascended. Today wasn’t quite as magical as five years ago, but I tried to capture the same feeling nevertheless.
Tomorrow is a studies class rather than repertoire, as we’re still getting back on track after Trevor’s illness. This time yesterday, I was trying not to panic too much about my studies, the two Altès in particular. I find both of them difficult – no. 18 for the combination of a tricky 6/8 articulation pattern and lots of leaps, and no. 19 for the speed at which I’m required to triple tongue! However, as often happens on the final day before class I really felt like I made a lot of progress today, and am now playing both at something approaching the marked speed. I dealt with the triple tonguing one by playing it every twenty minutes in all my practice sessions today – I probably drove the others a bit mental but it’s working. As for no. 18, I’ve learned the notes and will probably play it better tomorrow in class if I take a step back and trust myself rather than being too pedantic about trying to get every single note.