Monday, December 16, 2013

Meaningful Music

In November, I completed my final graduate recital. The program included:

Bach: Flute Partita in A minor
Richardson: French Suite
Bakaleinikoff: Elegy
Ewazen: Oboe Concerto No. 2, “Hold Fast Your Dreams”

It was a challenging program, especially because it was difficult (or flat out impossible) to find good recordings of these pieces. This meant that I had to work a lot harder to learn the repertoire, but I really enjoyed all of these pieces and I was really looking forward to sharing them with my audience.

The piece that I was most excited for was the Ewazen. I think that all musicians have a composition that is very dear to their heart, and the second Ewazen concerto is mine.

Two summers ago, in 2011, I first heard Linda Strommen play this piece during a recital at Interlochen as part of the Advanced Oboe Institute. I instantly fell in love with it and wanted to perform it myself, but it had not yet been published.

The following summer, in 2012, I again heard Linda Strommen play this concerto, this time during the faculty recital at the John Mack Oboe Camp. Hearing the piece again only confirmed my desire to play it, even though it still had not been published.

When the piece was finally available for purchase in 2013, I jumped on the opportunity. That summer, I was also fortunate enough to meet Eric Ewazen when he came to Interlochen to work with the World Youth Symphony Orchestra as they prepared to perform his Triple Trombone Concerto.

Although I had instantly fallen in love with the piece, it had become even more special to me over the years. It reminded me of Linda Strommen, who has always been an incredible inspiration to me, and of the John Mack Oboe Camp, where I have learned a lot over the years. It reminded me of my first summer at Interlochen, when I was new to the music library field, and of my last summer at Interlochen, when I worked with the World Youth Symphony Orchestra -- a group that will always be very, very special to me.

This piece reminded me of the things I love most, and represented the things that have helped me most to grow. I first heard this piece when I was just starting to think about what I wanted to do with my life. Two years and many memories later, I performed it, having chosen a direction and knowing that I was truly capable of accomplishing it. It's been an incredible journey, and I couldn't think of a better end to my final graduate recital.

What piece is very special to you? Share in the comments!

1 comment:

  1. I've lived long enough and heard enough music that I should hesitate to call out one piece too easily, but, since you are an oboist, one piece that does come to mind from a relative of your instrument is PÄ“teris Vasks's English Horn Concerto. I first heard it a few years ago performed by Robert Walters and the Cleveland Orchestra. (Some of Mr. Walters's remarks about it and some examples are on the Orchestra's YouTube pages, and there's also an interview with Mr. Walters about it out there somewhere in the Cleveland musical Internet.) The concerto is meditative and expressive of solitude, and in other moments it has qualities of folk music and dancing rhythms. A melodic motive is played one way and then turned about and played another, “Never the same river twice, but the water is always familiar somehow,” as Mr. Walters describes it in one of those videos. In the versatility of the instrument is always this familiarity, and I think that Vasks composed well for this property of the english horn. It's a piece well worth the listen.

    I can also pick it out for personal reasons of poignancy and experience, because, right around the time that I heard it, someone in some online community asked a question about experience and learning from experience, and I wrote a little essay recalling some of my own—a departed loved one, where my life had gone by that time, and so forth—and noted the Vasks piece. It resonated with all that, as indeed these woodwind instruments have some inherent ability to do, an ability to seem to drift through memory.

    I actually just quoted right from that essay of mine up above there a bit, by the way, to make my comment easier—which also explains how easily I was able to put in the Robert Walters quote too. :-)

    Very nice post. I envy you your own learning and experiences.