Lately I've taken on the task of being more of an advocate for Wind Ensemble and the wind repertory. I love my brothers and sisters of the string persuasion, don't get me wrong, but I think it's a shame that the efforts (and lack of) of wind musicians often go unnoticed - especially in the orchestral world. Wind players in orchestral settings seem to dodge the bullet a lot. I enjoy dodging bullets as much as the next wind player, but let's face it - it comes at the price of lesser quality. I make it a point to prepare parts for rehearsals to the absolute best of my ability, especially for the first rehearsal, but I wasn't ready for this one!
Yesterday I took part in the first rehearsal of Mendelssohn's Symphony No. 3 for a concert the USC Symphony will be putting on later this month. For the past couple of weeks there has been a stir on campus about the conductor for this concert, who the clarinet professor here. I received many warnings that I needed to have my part prepared, and that he, for a lack of better words, "don't take no shit". In my mind I thought, "That doesn't sound much different than the Wind Ensemble rehearsals at the University of Memphis", but I took the warning. Before the first downbeat, Professor Gilad, (the clarinet professor and conductor of this concert) said that he was told to yell at me in that rehearsal, and that he had his eye on me. This caught me off guard, and made me a little nervous. He proceeded to tell the first violin section that they were to have the piece memorized by the next rehearsal, and that he would be going down the line to hear it. Yikes!
Rehearsal commences, and he is very particular about what he wants, and the imperfections that arising. In general he seemed happy with the bassoons, but both myself and the second bassoonists began to sweat a little bit when we came to the following 16th note passage in the second movement:
Now I don't know what you know about the bassoon, but something like this is pretty challenging at quarter note = 126 or so to articulate cleanly. He repped the section with the cellos (who have the exactly same thing), and then asked to hear winds alone. The bassoons, of coarse, were the only ones with this. It went fine, but I thought it was good that the conductor paid so much attention to the winds in this section, and in general. Many orchestral conductors spend most of their time dealing with the issues of the string section, and allow the winds to kind of do what they want. As a wind player I must say that it's convenient often times to be left alone, but my desire is for wind music (in and outside of the orchestra) to get a high level of attention at all times.
I'm currently working on a research paper that deal with the topic of the Wind Ensemble being able to hold its own and sit next to the symphony orchestra as equals. Although the passage above is pretty difficult, things like this appear all the time in wind music. Wind musicians, in my opinion, are forced to go outside of the comfort zone and do things that may not be completely characteristic on the instrument when playing wind literature. At colleges and universities across the country, orchestra concerts show much higher attendance than band concerts (with some exceptions). It's not much wish to diminish the orchestra, but it's good stuff, but like I said, I want winds and Wind Band to be of equal importance. So to the Wind Ensemble conductors, and orchestral conductors who "don't take no shit" from the wind sections, I tip my hat to you. As for the rest of us, we need to take more time to listen to, embrace, and enjoy the colors of the winds. As Prof. Gilad would say, "Life is not a bagel"!
Listening to: "Colors of the Wind", Pocahontas