Blog 7: Mahler 9 at NEC, 2008, some rehearsal comments
4/14/2008 1:36 PM
I wrote and thanked Larry Katzen, long-term member of the Boston Symphony Orchestra horn section, for his wonderful sectional with the brass for Mahler 9th.
This is his reply:
"Thanks for the note. I always love doing sectional work with the students. They seem eager to soak up the attention to their specific issues (and it's fun to conduct my favorite pieces!).
"I felt they were very interested in ensemble issues, and receptive to the work I tried to accomplish on dynamics and sound-blending. It is a tricky piece in many ways, and I tried to show them the characters needed to pull it off. (I love the hesitancy and interruptedness of each movement's themes and treatment of them, especially the third movement. Very evocative.)
"As this week brought my last sectional rehearsals as an in-town teacher, I told both groups (Mahler and Heldenleben) about our beginnings of this sectional program, you, me and Marylou Speaker Churchill. We started in '85, I think, with Mahler (5) and Heldenleben!! They got a kick out of that, especially since most of them were not even born then!
"I've really enjoyed working in your shadow these years, Ben. I'm hoping that Margie Apfelbaum and my horn colleagues in the BSO and NEC will ask me to come back and do some fill-ins as an 'outsider' from time to time. The University of Arizona expects me to travel to do outside work.
"All the best, Ben!
"P.S. I'm still kicking myself for not being able to do your idea of a farther-away offstage horn call answer in Mahler 2 back in 1982 Let me know if you decide to try it again!"
* * *
Here are some comments from the students' white sheets from the Mahler 9 rehearsals:
The last pages of the 4th movement are so breathless - it creates a permeating sense of paralysis, where even involuntary body functions, such as breathing, are frozen in suspension - hovering above, lilting and anxiously waiting for the unknown of eternity.
—Will Knuth, second violin
This piece is so gorgeous! Especially the fourth movement touched me more than any other piece I've played so far.
This piece reminds me of the reason why I do what I do.
—Yeolim Nam, first violin
I LOVE how you are getting back to Tempo I at the end of the second movement - it's as if you've been walking around outside with all sorts of disorienting things going on and you suddenly walk into a room to find people dancing. Only something is wrong - it's familiar, but certain people are missing and things are falling apart. Amazing....
When you said in the last movement that the part we were playing was Mahler giving thanks for life, it struck me very powerfully. "He had such a heart-breaking life, what did he have to be thankful for?" I thought. It is an important reminder for those of us who complain about our lives and we really don't have anything to complain about at all!
—Molly Gebrian, viola
Abide with me! I thought I knew that melody from somewhere...Well, OK. You've won me over, or rather Mahler has. Such great music! The concert will be very special, I'm sure.
This has been such a wonderful journey! Can't wait till Wednesday!
—Kacy Klopton, cello
Who knew that an orchestra could play that soft!
Bars 54 and 55 in the last movement!!!!!! They make me cry every time.
—Jenny Banks, second violin
I love the 4th movement! Every time we have to stop I get upset. I just want to keep playing!
—Ruth Valente, cello
I heard Mahler 9 when I was 17, it was one of the reasons I became a musician. The Adagio mesmerizes me.
I just don't want it to end...
I love the violin solo in the 4th movement. We have got such a good concert-mistress!
—Kazuki Oya, timpani
I was angry that I had to wake up at 8 o'clock in the morning on the day of my recital. However, when we got to the Molto adagio subito in the last movement I forgot that I have it
—Amit Even-Tov, cello
Please continue to insist that the Tempo 1 in the second movement not rush.
Perhaps you could also say something about ambient noise in the last movement. I know it's still a rehearsal, but we need to practice being quiet, if we are going to do it in the concert.
—Nate Chase, bass
I hope everybody will come to listen our 4th movement. It's so touching and I can tell audience will cry.
It is my goal to play the whole series of Mahler symphonies before I retired!
—Yi-wen Chen, clarinet
Every time I play this symphony, I feel a deep happiness (combination of joy and sorrow), which I rarely feel. I am very excited to perform this piece and to share it with people.
—Yoon-Jung, first violin
Hello Mr. Zander, I didn't write this on my white sheet, but as I was practicing this afternoon, I remembered your comment to the horn player this morning. You encouraged him not to get tense in his audition, but go and play his heart out. I can't describe how I felt at that moment, but it was as if I was reminded (after a long time!) of the main purpose we do music. This completely changed my perspective in preparation for my upcoming recital! When I returned home, my friend was practicing hard for the Naumburg competition. I told him about your comment and encouraged him to do the same, sing his heart out, and sure enough... fireworks start to fly out of his cello right away and he plans to do the same in his competition! :-)
Thank you for reminding us of the ultimate goal and help us get untangled from aspiring to perfection at the expense of expression.
In the 4 years of playing in the orchestra, I have never been so excited about the coming performance!