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Audition Challenge Week 13 (or 2...)

This week's challenge had me working on some Mozart, Mendelssohn, and Saint-Saens. With the exercises I was already working on these pieces fell right into place as an extension of the work I was doing. I do so love it when a plan comes together.

The Mozart Flute Quartet in D Major was a new piece for me when I started working on it a few months ago. Doing chamber music with strings puts things in a different perspective, so I decided to think like a string player. In the past I've been worried or unsure about starting pieces, particularly Mozart, as that light, beautiful, effortless Classical sound always seems to elude me. I usually end up "whiffing" it or slamming into the sound with a too-strong articulation and way too much air. This week I thought like a violinist. Instead of over-analyzing every aspect of the articulation for one note, I told myself "down bow, from the frog" and all of a sudden I had a full, beautiful, loving A that was in tune and singing from the very beginning. This may or may not be how a string player would do things, but it worked for me so I'm keeping it.

Continuing from last week's work with the Dont etude, I also concentrated on the trills, making sure they were all even, clean, and in time. That etude is amazing and I don't know why there isn't one for flute. Or there is and I've just never heard of it. Either way, even if I get nothing else out of this challenge, that's enough for me.

The Mendelssohn Scherzo from A Midsummer Night's Dream, while I know it very well, never seems to sit right. I can get through it without catastrophe (even while experiencing a panic attack!), that fairy-like lightness and ease always seems to elude me. In the past when I've worked on this excerpt all slurred, it's been from a purely technical perspective. Not only does it require more air and better control, but it's the easiest way to check that your fingers are lining up properly. Nothing like hearing those little blips and extra notes in between the ones you're supposed to be playing!

Volière from Saint-Saëns' Carnival of the Animals is up there on my list of terror excerpts. Not only is it the meant to embody the sound and movement of birds twittering around in an aviary, but it's pretty much nothing but double-tonguing. Definitely not my strong suit. But focusing on my fingers seems to have worked in the past, so working on this all slurred should help me this time. I've also discovered some of my old fingerings definitely do not work anymore, so I'm working on this one with the "real" fingerings instead of slightly out of tune trill fingerings.

This guy gets it.

There were definitely some improvements this week when it came to tone and intonation. It's only been two weeks now but I'm starting to hear some serious results and I hope I can maintain these improvements when I start to focus on other components of my playing - namely articulation, speed, and keeping everything together when I perform. I'm glad every week requires a video as it gives me a an opportunity (read: forces me) to perform and get used to doing things in one shot. I know why I prefer not to work that way, because it makes me feel like I haven't made any progress, but I'm changing how I think about things. Instead of raising the bar when I'm practicing in a controlled, stress-free environment, I should be trying to raise the bar when I'm playing at my "worst," in performance mode. If my worst playing is more consistent and reliable, I should be good to go when it's real audition time.

Next week the plan is to do a C major scale in thirds (I obviously will do them as broken thirds), a complete take of both the Mendelssohn Scherzo and Volière, the openings of the 4th movement of Prokofiev's Classical Symphony, Strauss' Death and Transfiguration, the Mahler 9th solo, and the Shostakovich 5th solos.

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