Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Did You Catch That?

Deep in the balcony students' binoculars are transfixed on the orchestra stage. The famous horn solo is approaching! Next, the beautiful flute cadenza followed by that very long and winding bassoon solo. Inevitably, the entire brass will impact the audience right between the eyes. Tonight each section will have its shining moments.

Eyes and ears prepare to take it all in. Undercover recording devices are turned on despite the risk. Then on cue, the solos pour forth with all the style, voluptuous sound, and panache one could want. The spotlight shifts from solo to solo, section to section. Like the awaited entrance of a glamorous Hollywood icon, the stage is now owned by one person at a time. All attention focuses on these soloists.

At last the final movement of the symphony races to its awesome climax. The last held note is milked for all the gusto available! The bows follow, solo and corporate. The audience then files out to return to their lives. But hopefully the students have stored enough inspiration and renewed love of their instrument to last them. They will remember the fireworks, but they may not have noticed some equally valuable skills that were clearly on display for any who would take note.

The featured excerpts were delivered, but so too was the control of every delicate entrance by every member of the orchestra. Chords were struck together, in balance and in tune. Pianissimo attacks were repeatedly executed flawlessly. All players were on the same page with rhythm and articulation. For two hours you were pretty much in a mistake-free zone!

In short, most of what contributes to successful performances is the control of the "nuts and bolts" of music-making. Great basics are the building blocks of great performances. The exciting solos are only part of the picture. What good is a cake with only icing? How valuable is the ball player who hits home runs, but who is a poor fielder? Great musicians have control of all facets of technique as well as impressive communication skills. Let's aim at being able to catch every detail on the page.

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