Pushing my limits with Smetana....
This last month has seen a few projects starting up in the Netherlands and Europe for freelance period instrument players. It's a bit of a spring for the performances, but most of it is still recordings for audio streaming or TV. Not my favourite sort of playing as I much prefer live performances in front of an audience, but it is better than nothing...
This week is an interesting batch of recordings for a festival that is hoping to move its events online this year. I do wonder if that will be a successful transition as the Early Music (and Classical) audience in general is much less comfortable with the idea of technology... and I'm not sure that online streaming is really a suitable format for music and concerts anyway. There is so much that is missing from a live performance, the idea of streaming it sort of turns it into a slightly better version of elevator music. Still... those ideas are out of my pay-grade... I'm only interested in playing music with colleagues again!
In a few weeks, I might be going to Prague to play some Smetana. More specifically the famous Ma Vlast symphonic poems which are sort of the "national" pieces of the Czech Republic. I must say that I'm a bit nervous about it, as the composer and the language of the music feel quite foreign to me... after playing and specialising as a Baroque and Classical era musician for the past couple of decades!
It gives one of my "other" violins a little outing though. This lovely French violin from 1886 is a violin that I tend to use for the modern and Romantic repertoire at the higher A=440Hz pitches. It is half strung with thinner gut (for the higher pitch tension and agility) and half strung with modern steel strings on the bass end. It's an instrument that has been performing together with me for about 20 years... so we are like old friends! or cranky cabin-mates...
... no, I love it! It has a higher silvery sound and is quick in response, which is a bit of a contrast to the deeper and fuller sounding Baroque violin that I mostly use. The instrument is paired with a Romantic bow that was commissioned by maker in Amsterdam. It is a copy of a Romantic bow from a museum... but like all musicians, I forget these details! Mostly to annoy the bow makers who spend so much time crafting these works of art! (or tools...).
So, Ma Vlast by Smetana is a set of six symphonic poems that describe the country of the Czech Republic. It is quite famous in Czech, and many music lovers will recognise the theme from the Moldau. Playing this with a Czech orchestra will be quite an experience... I get the feeling that all of them will have lived and breathed this music since they were tiny... meanwhile, the odd guy out is only just starting to come across the lesser known symphonic poems!
... as I said, it is a completely different language to the Baroque music that I normally play and specialise in. This was quite bewildering at first... but I'm starting to remember how this all works! Just for reference, this music was written around 1870s... and the music that I generally play is from 1600-1750! So, quite a lot changed in those intervening centuries!
So, in between completing Masters assignments and study... and this week's recordings, I'm starting to make a start on learning these symphonic poems... I don't want to fly in and make an arse of myself!
Speaking of flying in... the Coronavirus restrictions are still quite confusing and best described as a moving target! Things that are in place and true at the moment could very well be different in a couple of weeks! I think the orchestra is playing it safe at the moment, and has only booked accomodation. Flights and travel arrangements will be made closer to the date... as it might be possible that I'm not allowed to enter the Czech Republic. That would be disappointing... on the other hand, a bit of a relief as I'm a little bit worried about getting sick in a different country!
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