Final week of symphony polishing

I start the morning’s composition session by looking at what I wrote Friday. I see that I then thought the shape was about right, and that it mostly needed detail work.

I listen through the ending. I feel content with the transition from B minor to C major. The ending feels like the timing is about right, but it definitely needs more orchestration doublings, maybe some other figures in the winds and brass and percussion.

I listen through the entire movement. I make a note of a trumpet part that needs a note fixed, I see a second clarinet part that totally looks incomplete, like I wrote one note and somebody interrupted me. And from page 20 on, I know I need to look through the orchestra and add in lots of doublings and more figures because it’s basically string orchestra only, and it needs to be a tutti section, more or less.

Where I had written a contrabass solo, the melody doesn’t come through well, and I’m thinking I might double them with cellos. I try it, and realize the cellos will totally overpower the basses. I give the tuba a lower dynamic, and give the contrabasses a fortissimo, and maybe it will work now.

I make the second clarinet part a little longer so he or she can stay on that trill for ten beats instead of four. I start working on the second flute part in that section. It’s definitely fuller and more complete.

The string orchestra section that is supposed to be tutti is first supplemented by a triangle part. A few measures later, I write in two flute parts, an oboe part, a clarinet, and a bassoon part. Even though the figure of the section is familiar, the new-ish bassoon part is the one that stands out as most melodious. I decide to double the gist of the line with trombones, add in some trumpets after that, and it just continues to flow with more brass parts. I know I’ll need some shimmering flutes to double the shimmering violins in the next few measures. But the trumpets have gotten to the end of the piece, which is very exciting.

I add in the timpani, cymbals. I listen through the piece again. Wondering if it’s any good. Making notes of adding in some punctuating horns, possibly a viola part, and a marimba. And then I don’t know what to do. So I’ll break for lunch soon. But first, I try to do the ideas I wrote down. It’s a good stopping point.

It’s concert day, and time for my viola to get a sound check, so I spend the rest of my day taking care of my instrument, warming up, playing through the most difficult parts of the orchestra pieces, and drive my daughter to climbing practice, drop her off and head straight to call time for the orchestra concert.

Orchestra concert is fun. It’s a new venue, and at our preconcert practice I can hardly hear most of the orchestra. I just hope we sound together. I sit close to the cellos this time, but when the concert is going on, I can hear most of the sounds I’m supposed to. It’s surprisingly well-balanced, and it’s a lot of fun. I think my favorite part of the program is Danse Macabre by Camille Saint-SaĆ«ns. Because it’s the last on the program, it’s easy to have the melody linger in the mind after the concert is over.

Playing the Imperial March this time, the trombones are glorious, and I am basking in the fun accompaniment that the violas participate in. Our conductor has some weird Star wars helmet on which brings a kind of gravity to the piece.

It’s my first time performing Peter and the Wolf (by Sergei Prokofiev). It is kind of an odd piece, that has lots of little parts. I think my favorite part is when the duck is swimming in the water. If you’ve heard this piece, you may remember that it’s the oboe that plays the duck theme. The violas accompany in divisi, meaning there are two viola parts and we split.

I know I’ll try and finish the orchestration either tomorrow or the next day. I might have time to also go over all the bowings and phrasing for the strings.

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