New sound clips: Faculty woodwinds recital, Aug. 27, 2013

September 19, 2013

It’s time again for the annual post-mortem on my on-campus faculty recital. This year’s program was all Telemann, which was fun. Since some of my most formative years as a musician happened back when I was primarily a saxophonist, I still feel a little out of my depth with Baroque style, and preparations for this recital turned into a great opportunity to study, listen to recordings, and work on my ornamentation skills. (I found Victor Rangel-Ribeiro’s Baroque Music: A Practical Guide for the Performer to be invaluable, and it even has a chapter specifically on Telemann.)

I’m fairly pleased with how the A-minor oboe sonata turned out. My intonation has improved in leaps and bounds since I got some excellent reed advice at the John Mack Oboe Camp a summer ago (what a difference a change in tie length can make!). I did struggle a little bit on stage with the Mississippi Delta August humidity making its way into my octave vents, which you can hear in places in the following clip.

I have also been working on my double-tonguing on the oboe, and while it’s not perfect yet, I think it turned out quite well here. The fact that I wanted to use it on this piece probably belies some issues with my Baroque interpretation: it might have been more authentic either to slow down or to slur more, but I liked the effect and felt good about at least partially mastering the technique.

And, of course, it is great fun to play with harpsichord and cello. As we sadly do not have a full string faculty here at Delta State, I had to convince a cellist to come in from out of town. It’s scary to meet and rehearse with someone for the first time on the day of the recital, but the recommendations I had gotten for her turned out to be solid, and she played like a total pro.

I was determined to finally perform some recorder repertoire on this recital. My initial thought was to do the Telemann recorder suite, but since I already had the basso continuo lined up, I did some more research and discovered the delightful sonata in F major. The humidity had a fairly significant effect on this instrument, too, especially with me perhaps over-practicing on it in the weeks prior to the recital, so my tone and stability aren’t what I would have liked them to be. Too many cracked notes and response issues in the extreme upper and lower registers. Still, bucket list item checked off.

One definite doubling blunder: I went from oboe to recorder on stage, and wasn’t fully in recorder mode when I started the first movement. The recorder’s breath requirements are much lower than the oboe’s, and so I started off the movement with a rather ugly cracked note (not included in this clip…). But I am quite happy with how the slow movement turned out; here it is in its entirety:

I performed the F minor bassoon sonata once before as a graduate student, using my professor’s very detailed and precise ornamentation instructions. I approached the piece again assuming that I would stick to that interpretation perhaps with a few edits, but a few edits quickly turned into nearly a complete overhaul. I kept just a few of my former teacher’s ornaments and a borrowed a few from John Miller (as published in the TrevCo edition), and struck out on my own for the rest. I also decided to use some different fingerings than the ones I had previously used, to improve tone and resonance on certain notes. It was a struggle to break free from some old habits, but mostly successful in the end.

For the second half of the recital, I went with less-traditional approaches to Telemann. I borrowed the E-minor solo flute fantasy (“without bass”) to play on the soprano saxophone. As a personal challenge, I played it from the flute score while transposing at sight. My accuracy wasn’t 100%, but should pass with most people who haven’t studied the piece.

Like many saxophonists, I find intonation on the soprano to be a bit difficult. I had heard from several fine saxophonists over the last few months that they were using clarinet reeds on their sopranos to improve stability and intonation, and so I gave it a try. I was surprised that there didn’t seem to be any negative side effects. I think the clarinet reeds work as well as soprano reeds, though I’m not sure I’m ready to swear that they are actually better.

Here is the third movement:

Since the soprano saxophone piece was providing enough transposition stress, I decided to tackle the oboe d’amore concerto on clarinet in A, so I could read straight from the d’amore part.

It’s a quirky and interesting piece. I might like to revisit it at some point and see if it can be rearranged into something that better takes advantage of the clarinet’s larger tessitura. I experimented briefly with taking some passages up or down an octave, but it was going to require rewrites of the piano reduction so I ended up playing it as-is.

I have an ongoing dissatisfaction with how my clarinet playing sounds in recordings—things that seem okay to me while I’m playing sound strange when I hear them back. I’m not sure what to make of this, as at this point I am generally pretty aware of how I sound on other instruments, and am unsurprised by recordings. A major goal for the next year is to really close the gap between the clarinet tone, response, and intonation that I hear on the recording and what I hear in my mind.

Playing something on the EWI was another thing I really wanted to do on this recital. The canonic sonatas seemed like a no-brainer, as I have already done a tutorial on how to play them on the EWI, playing both parts live using an echo effect. Since playing several movements is a little more involved, I ended up using a digital delay pedal, which worked great (keep your eyes peeled for a follow-up tutorial). Unsurprisingly, it seemed to be the biggest crowd-pleaser of the night.

I had a few tempo issues, which admittedly is tricky when you’re trying to play duets with yourself. The first movement was too fast and the third was sluggish. The middle movement’s tempo was about right, but the two voices started to pull apart a little in mid-movement. Still, I’m happy enough with the result that I’m presenting it in its entirety:

Overall a success, I think. Thanks for listening!


  1. Robert Bedont

    Nice playing my friend!

    Recent blog post: Stay Calm and Reinvent Yourself (July 20, 2013)


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