Wednesday, July 27, 2022


"That sounds like it's really hard to play!" 

That was the response after my valiant attempt at the difficult slow passage near the end of Strauss's Death and Transfiguration.  It's supposed to be smooth, lyrical and flowing even though the melody line jumps all over the place and demands some very long sustained high notes. But no. My most critical listener, my wife Sandy, had the correct assessment. "That sounds like it's really hard to play!"

Yes, it should look easy, but much more importantly it must sound beautiful and effortless. It should look like we are playing a single long tone, but it must sound smooth, singing, and expressive.  

Clarinet players always have this skill on display with every lyric line. Take their solo in Pines of Rome, the one accompanied by the chirping birds. No matter how wide the intervals, they dazzle the audience with seamless legato technique. That's the goal: no bumps, no fluffs, no questionable intonation, and no strain! 

So, that was my most recent one-sentence lesson. Don't let others know that it's difficult. Instead, we want to hear, that's fantastic, and you make it sound easy! 

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