Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Bolero and Eroica

Last night at the APO rehearsal, we worked for a while on Ravel's Bolero of course made famous in the 1970's movie "10" with Bo Derek. I think I have played it before in college, but I've forgotten all about it, though! It's not a terribly difficult piece, and mostly fun. The viola section acts like a giant Spanish guitar for a good part of the piece by playing lots of double-, triple- and even quadruple-stop pizzicato passages. Then lest we get too bored, there are a couple of melodic passages, some in octaves with the violins, and some in strange harmony intervals with other sections. I think the challenge is to start really soft and continue building the sound, but not to quickly. Also, keeping a steady tempo without losing momentum is not easy.

We'll be performing Bolero on a concert on April 4th along with selections from Mefistofele by Italian composer Boito. This piece will be performed with a large group of high school chorus groups and should be a sonic treat.

Then finally last night, we spent a while on the fourth movement of Beethoven's 3rd Symphony. Despite the interesting textures of the Ravel and Boito pices, it was a real treat to dig in and work on some music by the master from Bonn. As I mentioned in an earlier post, the last movement of the Eroica Symphony is a theme and variations. The theme is a very simple, almost trite bit of music. But of course what Beethoven does with it is remarkable. He creates fantastic melodies, intricate fugues, mysterious passages, etc. And then finally concludes with a musical orgasm as only Beethoven can.

Since I've been able to woodshed a bit on my part, I was able to play quite well last night. There are some fast 16th note passages in the 4th movement, and some tricky timings with 8ths and 16ths such as in the fugue parts. It always feels good to nail it! I still need some work, of course, because the final tempo is rather quick (David decided on quarter to 132, I think) and I want to be able to play securely and cleanly at this speed. It's just a matter of practice, right?


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