Saturday, September 12, 2009

Distracted by Brahms (Practice Session 5)

My blog is an accurate representation of my progress with the cello, so nine days without a post did indeed mean I hadn't practiced in nine days.  My excuse is thus: I spent five of those days in New Orleans at a LGBA Conference, and when I got home I had three straight days of meetings after work for the Queer Urban Orchestra and the Lesbian & Gay Big apple Corps.

Finally, yesterday, Mathew came over and we practiced.  We did scales and some of the music for QUO rehearsal, but I had barely looked at the music and was getting frustrated.  I think Mathew was getting frustrated with my frustration (he's a naturally cheerful person, and it must have been exhausting to deal with my gloom), so he suggested we play some of Brahms's Cello Sonata no. 1 for which I'd told him earlier I was working on the piano accompaniment.  He'd been practicing the cello part at home.  We played through the exposition section of the first movement a few times, stopping to correct things and try again a few times, and it was actually really fun.  Mathew enjoyed playing with an accompanist which he'd never done before, and I enjoyed being competent on a musical instrument again :)

I've never been a good accompanist, which I think is because accompanists usually have no connection to the music they're playing.  They're often doing a favor for someone, sometimes called in at the last minute, and of course, the soloist chose the piece and the accompanist doesn't necessarily have any interest in the piece itself.  Often the part is a piano reduction of orchestral music.  As a young pianist, I tried accompanying several times and each time was an embarrassing failure both for me and the soloist.

What's different about this situation is I LOVE this piece.  I've been listening to a Yo-Yo Ma recording of this piece (and his other Cello Sonata: no. 2 in F Major) since I was a teenage Barnes & Noble customer (Borders hadn't come to my town yet).  The piano part is pretty easy (I only sightread it once before playing it with Mathew yesterday), and when I don't know an area of the music from the page, it's easy to fill it in from my memory of how the sonata sounds.  I'm looking forward to learning this piece well and perhaps one day performing it with him.

But back to the cello.  I need to practice, seriously.  Mathew commented that my intonation had improved.  My biggest challenge was understanding where the notes are on the instrument.  I can read music just fine, but I can't sightread a cello part because I'm still learning what pitch each string is where on the fingerboard each note is.  He said that will come with practice.

My opportunities to practice between now and our first Orchestra rehearsal on Wednesday are minimal.  As I type this entry, I'm already running late to meet my sister on Long Island to try on suits for her wedding, and the rest of the day is consumed with a LGBAC gig.  Sunday is my grandmother's unveiling, followed inevitably by a long family lunch, and then I have to write the first band newsletter of the season (I'm the Board Secretary of the LGBAC) and catch up on two month's-worth of minutes and a number of other things I stupidly volunteered for.  Monday is LGBAC rehearsal, so that leaves Tuesday.  I'm nervous about rehearsal on Wednesday not only because I'll have not practiced enough, but also because my cello still takes a good fifteen minutes to tune, and then continues to go out of tune for the first half hour of playing.  I'm going to have to keep stopping in the middle of rehearsal to tune.

Still haven't named the cello yet.  Maybe that will help.

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