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I got a bit more done today than yesterday, and enjoyed my practice more, which was a relief. This coming week of classes is thankfully going to be a bit of a break for me. Trevor heard so little of what I’d prepared (not brilliantly) last week that I’ve been able to sit back and consolidate on the same studies over the last few days. Andersen No. 14 is now sounding quite good, which is exciting!

After a short run in the afternoon, I headed over to the Hastingleigh village hall again for fish and chips, and a film. The fish and chips were yummy and top notch, though with not one but two pieces of fish I’m still feeling rather full! Then they showed the film Mrs Brown with Judy Dench and Billy Connolly, which I rather enjoyed. It was lovely to get out, do something a little different, and take a bit of a break from my flute.

Just a short one tonight as it’s late and I’m very tired. I had quite a lazy day, doing bits and pieces of practice, as well as some of my flute history paper.

This evening was whist, and I managed to come second last! This earned me the final picking on the prize table: a floral-patterned tea cup and saucer.

Class today has some distinct ups and downs, but I have learned something important. My nerves are definitely in relation to things that I feel aren’t solid, such as repertoire I’ve prepared quickly. When I’m confident in my abilities, I can overcome the nerves and actually use them to my advantage.

Warm-ups went well in terms of memory, but I struggled with a rather simple tune that Trevor played and then immediately wanted me to copy “with expression”. I panicked over the notes, and so didn’t do a crescendo as he wanted. Once he started berating my for failing to produce the crescendo, I got progressively more flustered.

Fast forward to orchestral excerpts, and I played both the Thieving Magpie and St John Passion excerpts expressively and without any mistakes. The only comment was that I needed to start my crescendos softer in Thieving Magpie. As I said in yesterday’s post, I worked a lot on both excerpts. But I can’t do that volume of work on everything.

The Godard Suite de Trois Morceaux was a similarly mixed bag. While I played the first two movements expressively and with a good memory for what Trevor had told others before me, I also played too many wrong notes and got flustered about relatively minor things. I didn’t play the movements one after the other, as several of us played each and then we moved on. After the Allegretto, I tried to calm down a bit before the Idylle, which was somewhat successful, but I still didn’t play it brilliantly. Neither movement is terribly hard, and by lunch time I was feeling rather frustrated with myself.

In the afternoon, I wasn’t expecting to play the Valse as well, but when few others volunteered I got up again. I’ve played the movement a few times before, but hadn’t done a huge amount of practice on it this week. So, as with Madrigal last week, I just played with my heart and tried to embrace the nerves. And the result was quite good!

So I think the question for contemplation this weekend is how to practice in a way that makes things feel more solid in a shorter time.

I feel like I spent most of the day practising articulation! Both the excerpts for tomorrow are quite heavy on the tonguing, and then we’ve arrived at a patch of Moyse studies that are all about tonguing as well. On the one hand, I’m quite pleased that my articulation has come on in the past months, particularly in the realm of double and triple-tonguing. On the other, tonguing fasted dotted and double-dotted rhythms is still something of a minefield.

My approach with the excerpts today was not to spend ages on them but to play through them just once a couple of times per practice session. Since Trevor has been critical of my wrong notes of late, the goal was to get rid of them at all costs.

The St John Passion excerpt is mostly about getting through the passage without making any mistakes, and so this approach worked quite well. The goal was to play it perfectly the first time through, without any restarting or fumbling around. By the final practice hour of the day, I made it through several times without error, though it earlier sessions I noticed that I tend to make a mistake in the bar directly following a breath. My solution was then to mark in each and every breath (allowing for nerves in class) and really make sure that I learned them in as well. It seemed to work.

By contrast, the Thieving Magpie excerpt is about just getting through it all triple-tonguing, with a preference for dynamic contrast as well! I found that once I’d got through the first bar or so, that the tonguing wasn’t so bad, but that I often made mistakes when starting because I was still getting comfortable. So then I played just the first bar every ten minutes or so to get it really nice and clear. While the final build-up is still a little bit hairy (my tongue gets tired), I’m happy with the expression in the rest of the excerpt. I played Thieving Magpie with an orchestra only last year, and still am having conniptions about it!

I also went for a run this morning, the first in a while. It wasn’t amazing, and I’ve definitely got out of the habit over the last month. Hopefully Friday will feel a bit better!

I’m still not sure how to interpret Trevor’s attitude to me lately, and it in an attitude. This morning’s trip to Tesco continued in the same vein – everything I said earned some sort of backlash or negative comment. This was despite me having learned the usual good selection of composers (beginning with K and L)! The saving grace of the morning’s trip was a stop off at Perri Court Farm, where we haven’t been since Christmas due to Trevor’s cold and the bad weather. I took the opportunity to stock up on lots of apples and dark chocolate ginger.

Alas, after yesterday’s negativity I wasn’t feeling terribly inspired to practice today. Instead I had a long and lovely Skype with some friends before revisiting the flute in the afternoon. I got in about 3 1/2 hours but felt that the only really good session was the one just before dinner. I managed to spend half an hour doing some really solid and focused work on Andersen No. 14 – mostly making sure that I could play through each line without any wrong notes and with all the marked dynamics.

I did get in a bit of work on the excerpts and piece for Thursday: Overture to The Thieving Magpie (Rossini), Wur durfen niemand toten from St John Passion (Bach) and the Godard Suite de Trois Morceaux. I’ve played both the excerpts before, but want to make sure that I can play them even under pressure in class, and need to spend a bit more time tomorrow on both. As for the Godard, I’ve played the Valse before and so am in that annoying situation of remembering exactly how I want to the music to sound but my fingers not always remembering where to go quickly enough! But then I’ll play a passage or run flawlessly because it’s all the scales and arpeggios which are now so comfortable. I think slow practice tomorrow is the key – slow, steady and calm.

For the first time in ages, we returned to walking tonight, though it was only a short one. All of a sudden, Trevor was being friendly again, and invited me to walk with him and Ching Ting where I would have been quite happy to fade into the background and stay out of the way. He was conversational, even jovial, chatting about a baroque flute maker in Australia, asking some questions about degree structure there. I confess that I don’t get his mind games at all.

Tomorrow morning I’m going running again. It’s been too long, and now that it’s no longer icy and there’s a little less on class-wise, I really have no excuse.

Not much to report today, as it was a rather confusing class. Having prepared a whole lot of studies, Trevor only heard five of the Drouet. They weren’t note perfect, and while I agree that they should have been, they also weren’t terrible. Trevor then went on a long rant about playing written dynamics and accents, then said that was enough and he didn’t need to hear any more.

While I know that I could have playing with greater dynamic contrast, once again, I didn’t think I was doing a bad job. The class has left me feeling rather frustrated and deflated because I’d done a huge amount of work over the week, and it wasn’t acknowledged at all

Spong Wood

Spong Wood

Today was a bit of a cramming day before our studies class tomorrow. I say cramming because it really does feel like I have more music than time to practice it in what with all Trevor’s studies that he keeps throwing at me. Of the new Drouet set, I’ve managed to prepare nine, which I’m pretty happy with. That, along with two of the Moyse 25, Altès No. 23 and 23B and a couple of the Bach variations are all sounding quite good. I’m a little more dubious about Andersen No. 14, which sounds ok after I’ve spent twenty minutes or so working on it, but tends to fall apart rather horrifically the first time I play through it. It’ll be a little under-tempo tomorrow, in the hope that playing expressively and with good line is a better goal.

Spong Wood

Spong Wood

In the afternoon, I went back to Spong Wood for a walk. It feels like spring is almost on the way; something in the light when the sun shines, or in the way the air isn’t quite so crisp. There are snowdrops here and there in the village, and I’m constantly on the lookout for my first daffodils of the year. The wood was quiet, and felt removed from the rest of the world. It made me feel calm – studies and scales were for a different space, there I just needed to breathe and be. I think I’ll be going back quite a lot.

Only a part day of practice today as we headed up to London again in the afternoon to see the Nash Ensemble perform at Wigmore Hall. I’ll write up a proper review tomorrow, but I thoroughly enjoyed the concert – I just wish it had been longer! There were three works that had been commissioned by the ensemble through their 50 year history, one for solo viola, then two chamber works. I could happily have listened to more.

Beforehand, I went for a long walk in Regent Park, which was busy despite the chilly, overcast weather. Then I caught up with my lovely flute friend Brönte for rather decadent slices of cake in a lovely little cafe come food store on Marylebone St.

Back to studies tomorrow…

Quite a lot to write about what with yesterday’s trip up to London and class today, but now that I’ve spent a while on my review of the LSO concert it’s late again. I’ll try to keep things brief, get a good night’s sleep, and then write a longer post tomorrow!

Yesterday’s masterclass with Emily Beynon was really interesting, as much for just hearing some different musical opinions and ways of explaining things. It reminded me that I’m probably suffering a bit from Trevor fatigue, as in such an intensive environment his is the only voice giving feedback week after week. Emily Beynon talked a lot about musical story and character, and was adamant that every performer have a strong narrative in their mind for a piece. She wanted to be convinced by every note they played, and encouraged them to express their musical ideas verbally. I found her description of dynamics, vibrato and colour as being totally separate sliding dials quite useful.

Class today was back to Trevor, and as always had its ups and downs. As usual, I had a ‘solo’ turn at the warm-up tune, which Trevor made me play again and again asking me to ‘make a crescendo’. I was so tied up in the notes (yes, I got nervous again) that it took me several goes to get a suitable crescendo going. The thing that frustrated me was that he could see I was nervous, that that was the reason I couldn’t get notes and expression happening together, and yet he kept pushing. Clearly it’s all good training for more stressful future situations.

My rhythms in the first two movements of Dvorak 8 weren’t quite as solid as I’d though, and I earned a telling-off for totally re-composing the start of the solo in the second movement! Once I’d sorted the rhythms, though, I played expressively and eared some ‘very good’s here and there. Of the two repertoire pieces, I ended up playing the Gaubert Madrigal, which was also pronounced “some of the best you’ve played recently”. I still felt like a nervous wreck afterwards though, so calming down in class is very much a top priority.