Tag Archive: Andersen studies


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.

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After spending the weekend taking some time to de-stress and refocus, it was back to class again this morning. No snow, but the frozen fields and paths made the walk to Trevor’s much easier than when it’s wet and muddy.

I was expecting something of a tirade about my performance in Juliet’s class on Friday, but Trevor ended up being quite level-headed about it. We all had to reflect on our own playing and then give each other feedback, then Trevor went round and share his thoughts with us. He didn’t go into the nerves side of things (luckily I have some lovely friends elsewhere who are giving me some tips and ideas there), but did touch on the result of them. Yes, I had played some wrong rhythms, with some sloppy intonation, but he felt that the goal for me was still to focus on the music and being expressive rather than trying to be too analytical.

With that in mind, I launched into my offering of studies with beautiful music as the number one priority. Everything ended up going rather well, and apart from a few sharp notes my three Moyse studies were passed as “expressive and well-phrased”. The three Altes studies were also fine, and I was even a bit annoyed that Trevor made me skip bits of the Midsummer Night’s Dream arrangement – I’d practiced getting through the whole thing and then playing the solo beautifully at the end! However, I finished off by starting Andersen No. 13 rather too fast, and had to re-start at a slower tempo not once but twice. Better to do the Andersen studies solidly but a little more slowly, I think.

Some of us have now been prescribed yet more studies, this time by Drouet. Here, I’m really not sure what Trevor’s playing at, as they’re sight-readable and really rather boring harmonically. They were originally suggested for Shannon, and then Trevor dropped in an “oh, Naomi, you can do these as well, just power through them”. Challenge accepted, I’ll see how many I can learn for next week!

We don’t have another class until Friday, since we’re heading up to London on Thursday to watch the Emily Beynon masterclass at the Royal Academy, and then another LSO concert. I’ve tried to be good and get some of my flute history project done this evening, but am also thinking that Silent Witness in 15 minutes looks like a good wind-down.

Another day without an evening walk as Trevor is’t totally sure he’s over his laryngitis. I took advantage of clear skies in the afternoon to go off on a cross-country de-stress ramble, and came across Spong Wood quite by accident down a winding track. Carol, my landlady told me about the wood way back in September, but never told me exactly how to get there. Though terribly wet and muddy, it’s a lovely little pocket of English woodland magic. The trees (are they hazel?) grow outwards from the base, creating a dense and twisted canopy even in winter, and the ground was covered in moss and fallen leaves. The path would open out into clearings before plunging back into the foliage, and I was certainly the only person there. Sheltered from the wind, I wandered about happily for an hour, though always with half an eye out for something to leap out of the trees (and perhaps a fairytale!) at me.

Tomorrow marks a return to the Practice Book 6 exercises in our rotation of finger exercises, and as usual I gave myself a day’s head start. I was quite surprised to find that exercises A to D were speeding along much more quickly than last time I practiced them. The last metronome marking I’ve got cross out in my book (I write them in a line above the exercise) is crotchet = 126, and my memory if it a month ago was one of decided discomfort. However, when I turned the metronome up to 128 today, the exercises still felt easy!

Studies are less wonderful. Both Altes no. 20 and 21, as well as Andersen no. 13 are getting there and by the end of a twenty-minute session sound good. The problem is that I when I come back to them, my fingers have forgotten some of what I’d done previously. I need to keep working on methods for really getting them into the fingers for good, but it’s tricky when there is such a quick turn-around 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.

There were only five of us for class today, as it seems like colds are doing the rounds. So far I’ve been ok, and I’m hoping that it’ll stay that way!

As I said in my post yesterday, I was feeling a little trepidation about today’s studies, particularly the two Altès that I’ve spent a lot of time on. By contrast, I’d spent very little time on the Moyse studies, and (unfortunately) not as much as I should have Andersen No. 12! The results were interesting:

Moyse #5 and #9: Good following of notes with my lips, though both could have been faster. After no. 9 we talked a little about my needing to open up the tone in my top register. When I played the study again I did it with a lovely full tone, but need to be doing that all the time rather than just when prompted.

Moyse #8: “Lovely” – just get rid of a few wrong notes. I’d practiced this one a lot at the start of the week, but not in the last few days, and so just decided to go for it.

Then Trevor was a bit mean and made me sightread the next three studies so that he could show everyone what needed working on with them! It seems that he wants me to prepare all these in time for Monday which isn’t going to be much fun.

Andersen #12: Started out well but then I fell apart at the end of the B section where there were some particularly nasty leaps. Trevor didn’t seem terribly perturbed though, which was a bit strange. He just said ‘thank you’ and asked what was next – it seems he could tell I just hadn’t spent enough time on it. Looks like that’s back on for Monday, along with no. 13 which is a whole lot of chromatic scales.

Altès #18: “Some good things about this study, but you’re not bringing out the tune” sums this one up, and I agreed. I had spent so long on the notes and making sure that the articulation patterns were right that I hadn’t thought enough about musical direction. I need to play it again on Monday, which is a bit of a pain, but I do think I’ve learned a lot from this study.

Altès: #19: Fine, though I think Trevor would have liked it a little faster. I can play segments of it up to speed, but my tongue still feels like it’s going to fall off when I try to do a page of triple tonguing at crotchet =100!

Bach Variations #12 and #13: Ok but not tight enough…. I need to being doing little bits of this every day for a few minutes to get it tight enough.

Bach Variations #14 and #15: Trevor seemed quite pleased with these, but then tried to push and see how expressively I could play. The challenge with all these studies is achieving the articulation challenges as well as making them sound musical, and I was almost there with both. A case of attention to detail and then forgetting it and letting the music come through.

With regular class as well as the two masterclasses, we still have five to prepare for in the two weeks. Trevor’s solution to this is to set us even more work, and has asked us to write a cadenza for the first movement of Mozart’s G major flute concerto as well for next Thursday. Looks like I’m spending the evening working!

Though we started a little later than usual, it was back to class today now that Trevor’s on the mend. Having had the extra few days to practise, I was quite confident that I could present something a bit more polished than usual. I’d also taken some more time to focus on my recurring weak spots – dynamics and sloppy dotted rhythms in particular. Overall, my playing was quite good, dare I say a step up from previous weeks. In a nutshell, the feedback was:

Moyse 25, no. 4 – Good expression, good dynamics, but accompanying line wasn’t always even when oscillating between C and D.

Moyse 25, no. 5 – I’d tried to learn the notes to play quickly, rather than thinking about “following each note with the lips”. Back on the menu for next week, along with its partner study no.9.

Moyse 25, no. 6 and 7 – In character and expressive, though a little on the slow side. When I get faster, I need to remember to accent the first part of the beat rather than the triplet in no. 6.

Andersen no. 11 – A few wrong notes here and there, but expressive and even. A little more diminuendo on the last semiquaver of each beat would be good, but at least I wasn’t cutting them!

Altès no. 16 – Expressive, with a particularly good cadenza. I need to watch my trills, which were too fast for the character of the piece, and make sure that my crotchets in the opening melody “disappear into the silence” like a lifted violin note.

Altès no. 17 – Fine, though could have been faster (yes, I know I need to learn to tongue faster – doesn’t everyone?!)

Moyse 50 Variations – Having spent a lot of time on these this week, Trevor seemed much happier about how I was getting along with them. After a few outings, no. 5 was finally passed (jump for joy!), and nos. 9 and 11 were “perfect”. No. 10 was a little harder, and it took a few goes for me to make the difference between the melody line and accompanying parts big enough. I need to keep remembering that for everyone else to hear a big dynamic contrast I have to be making a really huge, supernatural-feeling difference between the loudest and softest notes. Finally, no. 12 was “a bit unstable” and is back on for next week.

I was rather hoping for a bit of chamber music this evening but nobody else seemed terribly interested, so I’ve spent the time working on my new website. Though it’s nowhere near complete, it might be worth taking a look!

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!

Everyone was a bit slow to get going this morning, I think as a result of the fondue last night! It was wet and rainy for most of the day – perfect weather for good solid practice sessions.

Once again, I need to keep reminding myself to look at what I have improved on over the last three months. Though all the various Reichert and other warm-up exercises aren’t perfect, they’re definitely faster and more fluent that even just a few weeks ago. Though the minors with lots of sharps and flats continue to frustrate me in Taffanel and Gaubert-style scales, on the whole they’re faster as well. I’ve been trying to spend less time on each individual exercise and jump around a bit more, in the hope that it will encourage me to play from memory more spontaneously. So far it seems to be helping, and I’m playing things correctly the first time through rather than making silly slips.

My feeling of achievement today was that I managed to get through all the Moyse finger exercises at crotchet = 128. The experience wasn’t exactly comfortable, but all the notes were there and even. The Boehm study, which I’m trying to memorise with the aid of a lot of mental practice, is getting there. Eb, Ab, Db and F# are still a bit hit and miss, but the others are sounding alright. Now it just needs to be faster!

As for studies for this week…all of them need to go very fast. Andersen no. 10, which I’m playing again, has an awful lot of accidentals but needs to sounds easy with four in a bar. At the moment I can do that for all the bars with few or no accidentals, but then I’ll hit a wall of D, E and F double sharps and it will fall to pieces! Today I practiced only the hairy bars with the metronome set to where it just felt uncomfortable. Hopefully I can still maintain the same speeds tomorrow. As for the Altes studies, they’re less scary and more just an awful lot of notes to get under the fingers.

We woke this morning to a heavy frost and deeply frozen puddles. On the walk to Trevor’s, the fields and paths lay glistening before us, iced in an ever-so-slightly spiky design. Look closer, and each fallen leaf was individually decorated and embellished, frosted round the edges and along the veins. Here smoky and dark, there crystal clear, the ice warped and cracked under my feet. In some, pockets of air had slipped in under the ice to create an ethereal marbling that foretold the rapid melting to come.

Class itself, and I was starting to feel like I might be getting my aunt’s Christmas cold, which wasn’t great. Trevor was keen to talk about things that we still need to work on over the coming months, and I earned a good list: playing expressively from the beginning, playing loudly, shorter articulation, not waving my flute around and not cutting the ends of notes. Despite these things and my feeling decidedly under-prepared (or maybe because of them?) I ended up playing quite well.

Moyse 25 Melodic Studies no. 1 was too slow, but otherwise make the mark for playing expressively and with good phrasing. Or almost – it took a while for me to play one phrase with the loudest point in the right place!

I then took a bit of a gamble and sight-read no. 2 in the same book. The notes aren’t hard, it’s just a lot of staccato semiquavers, and I did a pretty good job of getting them short. The only problem was that I was unnecessarily accenting the groups of four in the process. Overall, I still need to work on maintaining an even staccato across all dynamics and the entire flute range.

Andersen no. 10 was my low point for the lesson, which I was well and truly prepared for! There are just a few too many notes to cram in a short time. When Alyssa played earlier in the class Trevor asked her to play faster and “make it sound easy”, so I knew I wasn’t going to get too far. The first three lines (relatively accidental-free) were ok, but sure enough I feel apart a bit come the next few. Trevor seemed pretty happy with how the start was sounding though, and my request to spend some more time on it for next week was taken quite well.

Altes no. 12 and 13 were both pronounced fine but too slow, which I was well aware of. No. 12 is double tonguing hell, and to be honest I was happy just to get through it at all. Like Andersen 9b, this is a study for life rather than for just a weeks practice. I also still need to watch C#s here, as they were “horribly sharp” to begin with and I should have pulled the headjoint out before being told rather than after.

As for the impending cold, I’m really hoping that my sinus headache and general grogginess will go away with an early night and keeping warm. Fingers crossed.

Today has been a busy one, and I’m definitely ready for an early night! It was also a day of ups and downs, and of trying to figure out whether a few of the downs were just in my head.

Class this morning went well for the warm-ups. IfI trust myself and don’t get flustered, I can play a lot of the exercises, and now I’m also trying to use mental practice a bit more to help strengthen things and avoid learning in mistakes. At the end of the warm-up session, Trevor announced that some of us were “absolved” from using long Bb in our studies, and that I was one of them. To be honest, I almost fell of my chair!

Studies, however, didn’t go as well as I wanted. For some reason a combination of being really cold and some funny nerves made me jittery, and I made silly mistakes. Andersen No. 9 (including the double-tonguing variation) were quite good, but my selection of Moyse studies earned quite a lot of criticism. Altès No. 10 just felt uncomfortable, as I hadn’t learned the accompanying part well enough, and my 50 Variations No. 5 was not in the correct rhythm. However, when I later mentioned to Trevor that I’d been feeling a bit off colour, he looked surprised and replied with “oh, I thought you did quite well today”. I must keep focusing on the learning process rather than the day-to-day.

This evening’s short concert for the village Gardeners Society Christmas party went pretty well. We played three sextet pieces, Alyssa and Roya did The Emperor and the Bird of Paradise for flute and spoken voice, and I played Ulpirra by Ross Edwards. I’m not totally sure what the audience made of my final performance direction to ‘stamp and shout’, but they seemed to enjoy the concert overall, and Trevor was pleased. As an ensemble, we played well together considering it was our first concert, though the different acoustic of the hall made a few people a little nervous. I need to remember to compensate a little more for a cold piccolo!

Our flute history papers are finally submitted and the cheese, biscuits and two glasses of wine at the gardeners’ party was a nice reward.