Tag Archive: Thieving Magpie


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.