Tag Archive: expression


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.

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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.

Snowy downs

Snowy downs

This morning I woke to the first proper snowfall; white fields and hedgerows. Despite the cold, I thoroughly enjoyed the walk to class and could almost have passed Trevor’s house by and carried on!

I rather surprised myself in the warm-up by getting through almost all of the proposed exercises from memory without slips. Of particular note, I was asked to play ‘solo’ scales round the circle of fifths (C major, A melodic minor, F major etc.) with Trevor beating a rather brisk time all the way. Only two slips, and interestingly neither of them in tricky keys! I also managed the arpeggios on page 96 of Complete Daily Exercises all the way up to Ab without any significant slips, and it was playing them once through as well.

Snowy downs

Snowy downs

However, my performance in the masterclass proper didn’t go brilliantly. I started the Taffanel Andante Pastoral too slowly, and despite feeling like I’d put a lot of work into the character of the piece, was told that I was playing in quite an insular, nervous way. By the time we got to the Scherzettino, I just wanted to sit down, and dropped quite a lot of notes. Apparently that was better, though, because I was feeling the rhythm more! I recorded the class, and so need to sit down in a couple of days time and process all the information again.

There was a general sigh of relief this evening, as we’ve made it to the end of a very hectic two weeks. Though there are studies anew to prepare for Monday, we had a bit of a night off, watched some truly awful American TV and played the board game Frustration!

First full day of normal lessons, and I can’t say that I enjoyed myself too much. After the exhilaration of yesterday, as well as my practice over the weekend, I was hopeful that my playing might please Trevor a little more than on Friday. Fat chance – today’s theme seemed to be ‘let’s point out all Naomi’s flute failings’, which can be summed up as follows:

– “You play with absolutely no expression”

– My vibrato sounds like a goat

– I don’t have an innate concept of musical line

– I can play neither loudly nor quietly enough

On the other hand, my intonation has been pronounced ‘not bad’. That is still quite a list to be starting with, and certainly not aimed to improve my self-confidence. And this entire list was based on my performance of warm-ups and three lines of the Andersen Op. 15 Study No. 1!. Considering that this is only day 6, I think that the question is not whether all this is as bad as Trevor makes out (I know I need to work on aspects of my playing, that’s why I’m here), but how to deal with his teaching methods themselves.

I’m not for a moment saying that I was the only one to cop it today, criticism was dealt out to all in some form or another, but I did seem to get something of a special treatment. So, here are the things I’m keeping in mind for the moment:

– I do come across as quite self-confident, which I’m not sure is the done thing here. Both that and the fact that I’m a bit more ‘settled in’ that some of the others (language and culture-wise) perhaps means that Trevor thinks I’m ready for the weightier criticism straight away.

– I’m into new music, which is not Trevor’s cup of tea.

– Trevor’s motto as listed in his practice books is that one must “play in time and in tune with a decent sense of line” to get through orchestral auditions. If my intonation is ok and he has yet to pick on my rhythm, then the decent sense of line is clearly what he’s going to go for big-time.

– Hopefully I can only improve from here! Tomorrow is a new day with plenty of hours in which to practise (and now a clearer direction), I’m a hard worker, and I want to play the flute beautifully.

Otherwise, we had a lovely walk across the fields to class this morning before the rain set in. I think it’s going to be wet for a while to come…