Day 109 – January 17th – Sleet

I had rather hoped to wake up this morning with even a little bit of snow on the ground, but it was just icy and rather grey. Instead, we had half an hour of sleet in the afternoon. Great clumps of soggy wetness that turned to water as soon as they hit the ground. At least it was fun to watch – from inside, snuggled up in my over-sized woolly jumper with a cup of tea!

My painstaking efforts with the Bach E minor sonata are definitely starting to pay off – I’m almost there with memorising the first movement! While it in itself doesn’t seem like much, thinking through all the exercises that I’ve committed to memory over the last three and a half months does make me feel like I’ve achieved quite a bit. The Maquarre exercises are also coming from memory, and I made it through to D minor without glancing at the music this morning. After spending quite a bit of time in flat key territory with them (starting at the top of the page, it works through from C major in descending 5ths), I was really excited to find that the tail end of the circle from A major to E minor felt very easy.

Trevor cancelled our walk again this evening, but my proposal of chamber music was finally taken up and I walked over to the Old Dairy to play quartets with the girls there. We read through some lovely Schmitt, an arrangement of Chopin piano preludes (nice melodies, but my 3rd flute part was rather dull), Ravel’s Pièce en forme d’Habanera for four flutes, and then ended up once again with the Furstenau Op. 88 quartet that we read last time.

I love the last movement of this piece, which is variations on Deutschlandlied (the German national anthem). I can’t find any recordings of the flute quartet on youtube, but there are several of the tune in its original and arguably more pleasing form. It was originally written by Haydn as the slow movement of his Op.76, No. 3 string quartet, the ‘Emperor’. This is a recording of the wonderful Takacs quartet, and though the slow movement starts at 9:35, I’ve just very happily listened to the whole thing through twice!

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!