How My Cello Found Me

Guest Blogger: Janet Horvath, author of Playing Less Hurt. Below is an excerpt from her blog on Interlude.

My Cello and Me — We Were Made for Each Other

I was smitten from the first moment. Finding an instrument is like finding your soul mate — you know it instantly.

I was twenty- two- years old and had just been accepted to Janos Starker’s elite class at Indiana University. My parents understood that I needed a better instrument. With trepidation they sent me to New York with a long list of dealers to see. (The only reason they even considered the idea was that my aunt lived in New York. I would stay with her.)

I decided to start at the top — why not? I happily traipsed to the famed dealership Jacques Français known to have the best selection of quality instruments. He was elegantly French — over six feet tall, impeccably dressed and haughty. A vast carpeted showroom appeared before me. The walls were lined with instruments and virtually all the small rooms to try them were filled to overflowing. Well that didn’t stop me. I introduced myself unabashedly to Mr. Français saying I wanted to try cellos — telling him a price-range that was higher than my parents intended.

Français brought me several cellos. I grabbed a chair, parked myself in the enormous anteroom and started to play. The place was packed — what else could I do? The first instrument I tried — Italian, honey colored, with a rich golden tone to match — was the one.

Keep reading on Interlude

Making music at any level is a powerful gift. While musicians have endless resources for learning the basics of their instruments and the theory of music, few books have explored the other subtleties and complexities that musicians face in their quest to play with ease and skill. The demands of solitary practice, hectic rehearsal schedules, challenging repertoire, performance pressures, awkward postures, and other physical strains have left a trail of injured, hearing-impaired, and frustrated musicians who have had few resources to guide them.

Playing Less Hurt addresses this need with specific tools to avoid and alleviate injury. Impressively researched, the book is invaluable not only to musicians, but also to the coaches and medical professionals who work with them. Everyone from dentists to orthopedists, audiologists to neurologists, massage therapists and trainers will benefit from Janet Horvath’s coherent account of the physiology and psyche of a practicing musician. Writing with knowledge, sympathetic insight, humor, and aplomb, Horvath has created an essential resource for all musicians who want to play better and feel better.

Paris Ballet Now

Guest Blogger: Janet Horvath, author of Playing Less Hurt. Below is an excerpt from her post at Interlude, detailing her experience at the Palais Garnier in Paris.

The atmosphere was electric! We were at Paris’s Palais Garnier to attend a ballet performance just five days before the one-hundredth anniversary of the riot surrounding the premiere of Igor Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring in May of 1913. To top that off, we would be seeing another world-famous work of Stravinsky — The Firebird —music that I had played countless times but had never seen danced. The excitement was palpable. To be where the ghosts of performances and premieres past was quite a privilege.

The Palais, considered one of the most famous opera houses in the world, is breathtaking. It is one of the historic emblems of Paris. The architect, Charles Garnier, was chosen to design the astonishing opera house by Emperor Napoleon III in 1861. The interior of the hall is entirely gold and marble with deep burgundy seating. The balconies and pillars are exquisitely crafted and decorated with elaborate multicolored marble friezes, columns, and lavish statuary, some of which portray deities of Greek mythology, as well as gilded bronze busts of many of the great composers. The dome ceiling took my breath away— a huge colorful fresco painted in 1964 by Marc Chagall depicting scenes from the operas of 14 composers. A gold border and small lights outline the painting. From the center hangs an immense 7-ton bronze and crystal chandelier designed by Garnier. It was difficult to stop craning our necks to look at the ceiling. Just being in this historic theater was a feast for the senses and the performance had yet to begin!

The number of performances that take place in the Palais Garnier is astonishing. It is the home of the Opéra National de Paris, which performs no less than 16 operas a season, as well as the ballet, which this season presented 14 ballets. Other series include The L’Orchestre de L’Opéra National de Paris, recital and chamber music evenings, special events and “new productions.” One could go every night of the week if one could only get (and afford) tickets. (Most events are sold out months in advance!)

Keep reading at Interlude!

Playing Less Hurt

Making music at any level is a powerful gift. While musicians have endless resources for learning the basics of their instruments and the theory of music, few books have explored the other subtleties and complexities that musicians face in their quest to play with ease and skill. The demands of solitary practice, hectic rehearsal schedules, challenging repertoire, performance pressures, awkward postures, and other physical strains have left a trail of injured, hearing-impaired, and frustrated musicians who have had few resources to guide them.

Playing Less Hurt addresses this need with specific tools to avoid and alleviate injury. Impressively researched, the book is invaluable not only to musicians, but also to the coaches and medical professionals who work with them. Everyone from dentists to orthopedists, audiologists to neurologists, massage therapists and trainers will benefit from Janet Horvath’s coherent account of the physiology and psyche of a practicing musician. Writing with knowledge, sympathetic insight, humor, and aplomb, Horvath has created an essential resource for all musicians who want to play better and feel better.

 

Paris Ballet Then

Guest Blogger: Janet Horvath, author of Playing Less Hurt. Below is an excerpt from her blog, at Interlude.

Paris Ballet Then

What was the Paris Opéra Ballet like six decades ago? My Uncle Arnold was posted in France after the Second World War in 1946. A dedicated music aficionado, he could hardly wait for his furlough to attend the ballet. This is what he related about his experience:
(written in early 1946 by Arnold Rosenberg)

Although hunger is stalking the arts in Paris today, one cannot help feel the drive and persistence of Parisians to get back on their feet again. The French are remarkable despite war, enemy occupation, severe rationing and hunger, they take great pride in their outstanding cultural achievements. Call it escapism if you will, but to those who know the French people it seems rather indigenous courage and determination to preserve their culture and way of life, despite all handicaps.

Artistically, Paris is now as brilliant as ever. True, musical and artistic organizations have suffered somewhat in quality, but they still manage to turn out an almost perfect product even in 1946. Top-notch Jewish performers were ousted during the war from their posts with orchestras and ballets, and afterward, artists were forced to leave because of their collaboration during the occupation. Of those who remain, besides endeavoring to do first class artistic work, many are forced to seek other employment in order to maintain a living wage. Rehearsal hours are short and inadequate in number, but these dedicated artists take it in stride.

Despite everything, Paris can boast five first-rate symphony orchestras, two grand opera companies and one of the finest ballet companies in the world. Concert halls and opera houses are packed every night with enthusiastic audiences. Of course people are starved not only for bread but beauty.

Keep reading on Interlude!

Playing Less Hurt

Making music at any level is a powerful gift. While musicians have endless resources for learning the basics of their instruments and the theory of music, few books have explored the other subtleties and complexities that musicians face in their quest to play with ease and skill. The demands of solitary practice, hectic rehearsal schedules, challenging repertoire, performance pressures, awkward postures, and other physical strains have left a trail of injured, hearing-impaired, and frustrated musicians who have had few resources to guide them.

Playing Less Hurt addresses this need with specific tools to avoid and alleviate injury. Impressively researched, the book is invaluable not only to musicians, but also to the coaches and medical professionals who work with them. Everyone from dentists to orthopedists, audiologists to neurologists, massage therapists and trainers will benefit from Janet Horvath’s coherent account of the physiology and psyche of a practicing musician. Writing with knowledge, sympathetic insight, humor, and aplomb, Horvath has created an essential resource for all musicians who want to play better and feel better.

Conductor “Quips”

Guest Blogger: Janet Horvath, author of Playing Less Hurt, talks about some famous (or infamous) conductors on her blog.

Audiences have little comprehension of the nuances that are determined by the conductor and the musicians in the rehearsal process. The audience sees elaborate gestures that somehow result in exquisite music making. What actually goes on? It is no exaggeration that every note is discussed.

Musicians come to the first rehearsal quite prepared to play every note perfectly since there is little time together before we actually perform. It is our job to react to the interpretation of the conductor. Sometimes it requires the intervention of the concertmaster or the principal players to discern what the conductor is trying to achieve musically. These details might include: adjusting the phrasing or bowing, varying the dynamics, changing the length of notes, balancing sound levels so that a particular musical line is featured, and playing precisely together and unified in approach. A musician’s job includes playing exactly as the conductor indicates no matter how you feel about his or her interpretation.

Conductors vary in their technical style. While some are demonstrative others are spare in their motions. Their approach to the musicians varies too! Maestros can be respectful and agreeable or insulting and raging.

I remember a rehearsal with Sir Neville Marriner who quipped, after hearing a plucked line in the violins, “Those pizzicatos sounded like golf balls landing on dead sheep!”

Stanislaw Skrowaczewski, when he was the Music Director of the Minnesota Orchestra, often shouted in frustration at the strings when he wanted a passage to be played extremely softly, “Play with one hair!!” After years of hearing this, a bass player showed up to rehearsal with a bow actually strung with one hair.

To finish reading the article, go to Janet Horvath’s blog at Interlude!

Playing Less Hurt

Making music at any level is a powerful gift. While musicians have endless resources for learning the basics of their instruments and the theory of music, few books have explored the other subtleties and complexities that musicians face in their quest to play with ease and skill. The demands of solitary practice, hectic rehearsal schedules, challenging repertoire, performance pressures, awkward postures, and other physical strains have left a trail of injured, hearing-impaired, and frustrated musicians who have had few resources to guide them.

Playing Less Hurt addresses this need with specific tools to avoid and alleviate injury. Impressively researched, the book is invaluable not only to musicians, but also to the coaches and medical professionals who work with them. Everyone from dentists to orthopedists, audiologists to neurologists, massage therapists and trainers will benefit from Janet Horvath’s coherent account of the physiology and psyche of a practicing musician. Writing with knowledge, sympathetic insight, humor, and aplomb, Horvath has created an essential resource for all musicians who want to play better and feel better.

Beethoven’s Immortal Beloved

Janet Horvath_019#2 4x5Guest Blogger: Janet Horvath, author of Playing Less Hurt. Below is an excerpt from her music blog, Interlude.

Beethoven’s love life is a mystery. He wrote a series of passionate letters — a total of 10 pages written in pencil — to a woman, his “Immortal Beloved.” These heartbreaking letters were found after Beethoven’s death. To this day the debate rages as to who the intended recipient might be of these unsent letters.

There were several women in Beethoven’s life including Giulieta Guicciardi, Thereza von Brunswick, Amalia Seebald and Antonie Brentano. In the 1950’s a watermark was analyzed which clarified the year and the place the letters may have been written. They were written during the summer of 1812, in Teplitz.

Historians believe the woman may be the latter — the daughter of a diplomat and the Viennese wife of a Frankfurt businessman, mother of five children. Beethoven and she met in 1810 and did spend quite a bit of time together. Beethoven dedicated his Diabelli Variations Opus 120 for piano to her and she was “in the right place at the right time” giving birth nine months later. A flurry of speculation surrounds the idea that perhaps Beethoven fathered a child.

Czech and American music scholars published an essay in 2000, claiming that a woman heretofore unmentioned is the true Beloved.

“This candidate has never before been suggested and is the strongest to date,” says William Meredith, head of the Ira F. Brilliant Center for Beethoven Studies at San Jose State University in California, that houses the largest collection of editions of Beethoven’s music, over 3,000 books and a large collection of recordings. They also have the famous lock of Beethoven’s hair, which was purchased at Sotheby’s.

Keep reading at Interlude!

 

Playing Less Hurt

Making music at any level is a powerful gift. While musicians have endless resources for learning the basics of their instruments and the theory of music, few books have explored the other subtleties and complexities that musicians face in their quest to play with ease and skill. The demands of solitary practice, hectic rehearsal schedules, challenging repertoire, performance pressures, awkward postures, and other physical strains have left a trail of injured, hearing-impaired, and frustrated musicians who have had few resources to guide them. Playing Less Hurt addresses this need with specific tools to avoid and alleviate injury. Impressively researched, the book is invaluable not only to musicians, but also to the coaches and medical professionals who work with them. Everyone from dentists to orthopedists, audiologists to neurologists, massage therapists and trainers will benefit from Janet Horvath’s coherent account of the physiology and psyche of a practicing musician. Writing with knowledge, sympathetic insight, humor, and aplomb, Horvath has created an essential resource for all musicians who want to play better and feel better.

Envy the Cellist

JanetHorvath_019Guest Blogger: Janet Horvath, author of Playing Less Hurt. Read more about cello envy on her blog at Interlude.

Why I Love the Cello

Because it is me. Because it is the closest sound to the human voice. Because I can engulf it with my body in an embrace. Because when I tell people that I play the cello they say, “ Oh! I love the cello. It makes me cry.”

The demeanor of the cello is complex and varied. The room resonates with the low baritone counterpoint notes; sears the soul with amorous melodies. The cello can dazzle with virtuosic flights of fancy in its uppermost range. The cello soothes and inspires; stirs and arouses.

Our playing position is quite natural. We don’t have to contort our bodies to play the cello — not like poor violinists who must unnaturally twist their left arms, and on top of that, hold the instrument under their chins.

Other performers have cello envy. They even steal our repertoire. It is not unusual to hear the Bach Solo Cello Suites on — heaven forbid — the trombone, or The Swan, from the Carnival of the Animals by Camille Saint-Saens on the double bass. (Shouldn’t they just stick to The Elephant?) The piccolo player must play shrill high passages; some people snicker at the bassoon players — leaving so bassoon?
If your electronic device goes off you will be forced to play the bassoon! 

The violists are typically relegated to play the oomm- pah-pah of a piece of music and other boring accompaniment figures. Rarely does a composer throw them a bone — a short melody once in a while. Viola players are the brunt of jokes too — How is lightning like a violist’s fingers? Neither one strikes in the same place twice.

And pity the pianist who has to learn a vast repertoire of music, performing entirely from memory.

Keep reading at Interlude!

Playing Less Hurt

Making music at any level is a powerful gift. While musicians have endless resources for learning the basics of their instruments and the theory of music, few books have explored the other subtleties and complexities that musicians face in their quest to play with ease and skill. The demands of solitary practice, hectic rehearsal schedules, challenging repertoire, performance pressures, awkward postures, and other physical strains have left a trail of injured, hearing-impaired, and frustrated musicians who have had few resources to guide them.

Playing Less Hurt addresses this need with specific tools to avoid and alleviate injury. Impressively researched, the book is invaluable not only to musicians, but also to the coaches and medical professionals who work with them. Everyone from dentists to orthopedists, audiologists to neurologists, massage therapists and trainers will benefit from Janet Horvath’s coherent account of the physiology and psyche of a practicing musician. Writing with knowledge, sympathetic insight, humor, and aplomb, Horvath has created an essential resource for all musicians who want to play better and feel better.

Ravel’s Boléro

Janet Horvath_019#2 4x5Guest Blogger: Janet Horvath is the author of Playing Less Hurt. Here is an excerpt from her blog on Interlude.

In touch with Ravel’s Boléro

by Janet Horvath

Music lovers and musicians adore the music of Frenchman Maurice Ravel. Whether it’s his moving Pavane for a Dead Princess or his more esoteric String Quartet, his colorful orchestral work La Valse or his dazzling piano concertos (one of which is for the left hand only), he was considered an innovative and inventive composer of the impressionist period along with his co-patriots Debussy and Fauré.

One of his most famous pieces is Boléro — a one-movement orchestral piece. Ravel originally composed the work as a ballet commissioned by the Russian ballerina Ida Rubinstein. Ravel decided to try something new and controversial with this piece —to use one insistent melody with a recurring incessant rhythm.

The première at the Paris Opéra in 1928 was a sensation. Choreographed by Nijinska, a gypsy dances on a table surrounded by men in an inn in Spain — a stunning and seductive theatrical experience. Choreographer Maurice Béjart’s “Bolero” is one of his most well-known and popular ballets. In 1979 he decided to have a man dance the central character surrounded by women. There is a third version consisting of all men. The impact of the work is quite different as the gender changes.

Boléro is frequently performed as an orchestral piece. Boléro’s hypnotic snare drum beat and inexorable climax never fails to bring the house down. How does Ravel achieve this with merely one melody and one continuous rhythm?

Keep reading on Interlude!

Playing Less Hurt

Making music at any level is a powerful gift. While musicians have endless resources for learning the basics of their instruments and the theory of music, few books have explored the other subtleties and complexities that musicians face in their quest to play with ease and skill. The demands of solitary practice, hectic rehearsal schedules, challenging repertoire, performance pressures, awkward postures, and other physical strains have left a trail of injured, hearing-impaired, and frustrated musicians who have had few resources to guide them.

Playing Less Hurt addresses this need with specific tools to avoid and alleviate injury. Impressively researched, the book is invaluable not only to musicians, but also to the coaches and medical professionals who work with them. Everyone from dentists to orthopedists, audiologists to neurologists, massage therapists and trainers will benefit from Janet Horvath’s coherent account of the physiology and psyche of a practicing musician. Writing with knowledge, sympathetic insight, humor, and aplomb, Horvath has created an essential resource for all musicians who want to play better and feel better.

David Popper: Cellist and Composer

Janet Horvath_019#2 4x5Guest Blogger: Janet Horvath is the author of Playing Less Hurt. Here is an excerpt of her article on David Popper at Interlude.

David Popper

Composer and cellist David Popper is well known among cellists. His High School of Cello Playing is our Bible—40 Études comprising every acrobatic feat of cello pyrotechnics.

Popper was born among the narrow streets of the Jewish ghetto of Prague, Czechoslovakia June 16, 1843. David was five years old when in 1848 the Hapsburg emperor granted civil equality to the Jews and their isolation in the ghetto ended. The gloomy, unhealthy homes of the ghetto made a lasting impression on Popper despite the fact that most of his music is cheery and uplifting. The family was able to move out of the area when Popper was eight years old. By then employment restrictions had been lifted and some trades were permitted, as was being a musician.

Popper’s father was a Cantor—the religious leader who sings the prayers in the Synagogue. At a very young age Popper began to imitate his father’s singing. Popper’s talent was such that he was allowed to study with the famed cello pedagogue Julius Goltermann, (a name cellists are familiar with due to his cello compositions.)

In December of 1862 Popper was bestowed the coveted title of “Kammervirtuoso” by Prince Constantine Hohenzollern-Hechingen. In appreciation, Popper composed a series of pieces that are among his most cherished works Arlequin and Papillon from the Six Character Pieces. Conductor Hans von Bülow, heard Popper perform and was so impressed with the young man that he helped arrange a concert tour for Popper, his first, in 1863. As a solo cellist Popper had the opportunity to try his own compositions as well as to perform the major works for cello and orchestra. He was always dedicated to the music of his time, premiering several new cello concertos.

Find out more about David Popper on Janet Horvath’s blog!

Playing Less Hurt

Making music at any level is a powerful gift. While musicians have endless resources for learning the basics of their instruments and the theory of music, few books have explored the other subtleties and complexities that musicians face in their quest to play with ease and skill. The demands of solitary practice, hectic rehearsal schedules, challenging repertoire, performance pressures, awkward postures, and other physical strains have left a trail of injured, hearing-impaired, and frustrated musicians who have had few resources to guide them.

Playing Less Hurt addresses this need with specific tools to avoid and alleviate injury. Impressively researched, the book is invaluable not only to musicians, but also to the coaches and medical professionals who work with them. Everyone from dentists to orthopedists, audiologists to neurologists, massage therapists and trainers will benefit from Janet Horvath’s coherent account of the physiology and psyche of a practicing musician. Writing with knowledge, sympathetic insight, humor, and aplomb, Horvath has created an essential resource for all musicians who want to play better and feel better.

Arvo Pärt – The Bach of Our Century

Janet Horvath_019#2 4x5Guest Blogger: Janet Horvath is the author of Playing Less Hurt (Hal Leonard Books). Below is an excerpt from her blog on Interlude. Please visit her blog to read the whole article.

It is said that Estonian composer Arvo Pärt is the Bach of our century. An unassuming man with furrowed brow, a big bushy salt and pepper beard, and serious contemplative demeanor, this contemporary composer, does not tend to make people want to run the other way. Even non-classical music fans know and love his music. Transcendent, spiritual, otherworldly and soothing are words that jump to mind when describing Part’s accessible music.

The Concert and Opera League tabulates the composers who were featured the most during a year. Beethoven and Mozart of course are ensconced at the top. Not surprisingly, due to Debussy’s birthday this year, he is in the top 10.

Arvo Pärt for the second year in a row, is the most performed living composer at number 54.

Keep reading this article on Interlude!

Making music at any level is a powerful gift. While musicians have endless resources for learning the basics of their instruments and the theory of music, few books have explored the other subtleties and complexities that musicians face in their quest to play with ease and skill. The demands of solitary practice, hectic rehearsal schedules, challenging repertoire, performance pressures, awkward postures, and other physical strains have left a trail of injured, hearing-impaired, and frustrated musicians who have had few resources to guide them. Playing Less Hurt addresses this need with specific tools to avoid and alleviate injury.

In Touch with The Planets

Guest Blogger: Janet Horvath, the author of Playing Less Hurt, poses a few questions to classical fans at her blog on Interlude.

Holst called the piece “a series of mood pictures.” The piece The Planets — a seven movement orchestral suite, is an example of brilliant and imaginative orchestral writing. The term orchestration includes the choice of instruments, the exploitation of each instrument’s possibilities of range, color, and dynamics and the combinations of instruments that might be unique. This contributes to the richness and uniqueness of the sounds you hear. Holst uses some unusual and more rarely used instruments in this piece — the alto flute, bass oboe, organ, celeste, two harps, and several timpani.

I. Mars – The Bringer of War

Notice at the beginning of the piece there is a clicking or percussive sound and it is not coming from the percussion section. That is a string technique called “col legno.” The string players hit the string with the stick of the bow for this sound. Now try to guess the meter. Hint: it’s irregular.)

1. _______________________________ Later this unrelenting rhythm is played by the trumpet and strings with their bows.

Which instruments are featured in the theme: the threatening bringers of war? Which section?

2. _____________________ and name the instruments

five of them___________________________________

Advanced question: which instruments play this rhythm over and over

(Hint: It’s a brass and a percussion instrument)

3. _______________________ and _____________/___________ then another percussion instrument __________________________

(the second instrument is two words. This is very unusual scoring.)

The rhythm is menacing and mounts in tension. Soon there is an all out fanfare symbolizing war. Listen for the Euphonium solo about a third of the way through seemingly representing the “other side” which is crushed. The decisive unison chords at the end of the movement leave no doubt!

II Venus – The Bringer of Peace

This movement is markedly contrasting. First it is adagio or very slow. Note the very high horn playing virtually alone. It feels lonely. There is another instrument with extensive solos. (Hint: it’s a woodwind instrument)

4. __________________________

Listen for the solos, (i.e. one player), in the violin and the cello section. The concertmaster and the principal cello are responsible to play these solos — a requirement of the position of a principal player. Composers frequently utilize the choice of one instrument. Notice also that the writing is very high in pitch and sparsely scored. Perhaps this makes the listener feel more peaceful or pensive. It certainly has an air of calmness. The string writing is lovely. Listen about 14 minutes in for a bell like sound. What instrument is this? (Hint it’s keyboard instrument)

5. ____________________________

III Mercury – The Winged Messenger

This short movement is marked “vivace” or light and in a fast 6/8 meter. Notice the conductor. What does he/she conduct it in? (i.e. the beat patter?)

6. ___________________________

Near the beginning of the movement you will hear again the bell -like keyboard instrument. In the middle of the movement the tempo gets faster, The conductor will most likely conduct one beat per bar but the orchestra plays 6 notes per bar. It has a light feel as the musicians play “staccato” notes of very short duration with space before and after them. You will hear the piccolo play with the bell-like keyboard instrument playing in the same range toward the end.

IV Jupiter – The Bringer of Jolity

This movement begins in a fast “allegro” 2/4 meter. Soon it will change to a slow 3/4 with the horns playing the melody loudly. Notice that the orchestra makes an ”accelerando” (to get faster.) It is conducted in one beat to a bar. Later a lovely stately melody occurs in all the strings. It sounds so British! It’s in unison i.e. all the strings are playing the melody together at the same pitch. All the bows are moving as if in a ballet. The musical signs to do this are coordinated, planned and marked in the parts ahead of time by the concertmaster and principal players, often in consultation with the conductor who may have a special phrasing or articulation in mind. Even if the various string sections do not play a particular melody simultaneously, the bowing must be consistent throughout to maintain the right phrasing and mood. An orchestral librarian will mark the bowings into all of the parts. Listen also as Holst adds more percussion including the tambourine and xylophone.

V Saturn – The Bringer of Old Age

Saturn begins with three flutes. The alto flute plays the lowest notes. The first 26 bars consist of chords in a syncopated rhythm (irregular rhythm) in the flute and harps. A beautiful low double bass melody accompanies the flutes — quite unusual scoring. Very near the beginning after the cellos play their long note you’ll hear the bass oboe. (29 min) This instrument is very unusual. It sounds a little like an English horn. Also notice that the cellos and basses are plucking their strings. This is called pizzicato. Notice the beautiful and stately melody played by three players of the brass section. Which instrument is this? (Hint: they sound different than they usually do)

7.___________________________________

You’ll hear the alto flute at 31 min, and long suspended bells at about 32 minutes. This movement has a march-like feel but more labored as if older people are marching.

Near the end, when the solo basses return, you will hear them accompanied by a very interesting sound. They are harp harmonics. All strings can produce harmonics. This is the effect produced by lightly touching the string. The result is the sounding of the fundamental pitch with no overtones and hence it sounds a little like a whistle sound. The movement ends without resolution via long notes suspended in the violins. Holst attains a certain calm, or perhaps acceptance?

VI Uranus – The Magician

This movement utilizes the interesting meter 6/4. It is conducted in two (six quarter notes per bar, two beats of three quarter notes each similar to the 6/8 rhythm.) The bassoons introduce the rhythm. It begins with a huge trumpet/trombone part with a staccato, creeping bassoon/xylophone/tuba melody, which creates the sense of a crafty sorcerer. Listen also for the two timpani players who play five drums each. There’s a huge chordal climax, which fools us into thinking the movement, and even the piece is ending. But no! Suddenly Holst take us by surprise. We hear long held string notes and harp interjections as Holst ends the movement quite abruptly.

VII – Neptune – The Mystic

Here’s another chance to hear the alto flute accompanied by or very fast repeated notes in the harp called tremolo. The movement begins with the principal flute, the alto flute and the harp. This movement sounds Debussy-like and impressionistic with vague washes of sound and the mysterious alternation of two unrelated chords E minor and G# minor. Here’s the same irregular meter as the first movement but in this case it is slow,

8. ___________________________

Once again Holst has the higher pitches dominate. At about 45 minutes we get a chance to hear the whole clarinet section—the two oboes, bass oboe, and English horn. Soon thereafter, suddenly a women’s chorus enters seemingly from nowhere. Where has the composer chosen to place them?

9. _______________________________

Note that they sing wordlessly. What mood do you think Holst is trying to convey by doing this?

10. _________________

This movement is eerie and distant — very delicately scored and performed “pianissimo” (extremely quietly.) It leaves the listener unsettled — not the bombastic ending one might have expected after the flashy and brilliant opening we heard at the beginning of the piece.

Although this piece is a very popular orchestral work and frequently performed, Holst didn’t especially care for it. There’s no accounting for taste! Ravel disliked his Bolero too!

Visit Janet Horvath’s blog at Interlude for the answers to the quiz!

Playing Less Hurt

Making music at any level is a powerful gift. While musicians have endless resources for learning the basics of their instruments and the theory of music, few books have explored the other subtleties and complexities that musicians face in their quest to play with ease and skill. The demands of solitary practice, hectic rehearsal schedules, challenging repertoire, performance pressures, awkward postures, and other physical strains have left a trail of injured, hearing-impaired, and frustrated musicians who have had few resources to guide them.

Playing Less Hurt addresses this need with specific tools to avoid and alleviate injury. Impressively researched, the book is invaluable not only to musicians, but also to the coaches and medical professionals who work with them. Everyone from dentists to orthopedists, audiologists to neurologists, massage therapists and trainers will benefit from Janet Horvath’s coherent account of the physiology and psyche of a practicing musician. Writing with knowledge, sympathetic insight, humor, and aplomb, Horvath has created an essential resource for all musicians who want to play better and feel better.