The hungry cats had me up early this morning, so I am sitting at my desk before the world is stirring, even before the bin men have smashed, thrown and cursed their way up the road, discussing last night’s football. I am on the way out of my cold, although my head is still thick and a little groggy, and have been dosing myself with all manner of weird and wonderful concoctions, submitting myself to things which will surely make me ill if they do not cure me.
I had some teaching yesterday and then took the Parliament Choir rehearsal from the organ, which was probably more than my sore throat needed, but it needed to be done. We continue work for the April concerts, although we did not touch any O’Neill yesterday as we needed to focus on some of the trickier areas of Mendelssohn’s Lobgesang. Nasty modern music, eh?!
As we get deeper into the work it is clear that for all his his relatively conservative musical language, Mendelssohn has a real knowledge of what works well for a choir, and a keen attention to detail. This can range from making sure that the sopranos have a nice open vowel to sing on their top notes to getting voices to change syllables (in different words) at the same point, thus keeping the music tight and tidy. It is deeply unfashionable, especially amongst modern composers, to cite Mendelssohn as an influence, for he does not really lead anywhere musically, but it is phenomenally well crafted stuff, and I will never quite get my head around the fact that, had be been a school child these days, he could have submitted the Octet for his GCSE Music so young was he when he wrote it.
I finished the orchestration, of Ar Hyd y Nos yesterday, and checked and changed a couple of small details of He Makes His Messengers Winds, and now have to get to work on arranging some Parry for a concert in March. I have no idea how long this task will take, so I shall sit down for my first stint on it today.
Also yesterday I continued with my technical exercises, finding the “no structure” question to be a bit of a struggle (until I imposed my own structure upon it), and worked on fleshing out a couple of pages of sketches from the end of last year. There is a slightly small-scale competition up for grabs in a couple of months and, if I can get it finished, this piece would fit the bill nicely. It could also then go out to other performers, so I think that it will be worth my efforts.
I’ll be playing for a Rossini rehearsal later on today, even though I still do not feel that going out is a great idea in my current state. Rossini as a composer I can take or leave to a large extent. His operas can be very amusing indeed, but I find pieces such as the Petite Messe Solennelle to be massively self-indulgent, and still can’t quite bring myself to like them. I remember being very miffed at school after having played for all the Petite Messe Solennelle rehearsals for a concert to find that they asked another pianist in for the performance. Said pianist ended up at least a bar out at the end of one of the faster movements. I might have missed a note or two, but at least they would have been missed in the right place.
Since then I’ve played the work a few times, sometimes on the piano, such as the time the sustaining pedal fell off in the middle of the very first movement, and sometimes on the harmonium (usually played on the organ). I’ve played two performances alongside Malcolm Martineau (he on the piano, me on the organ), a privilege and a pleasure, but even that cannot convince me that I like the piece, and I find it laughable that people used to get irate at the suggestion that Beethoven was the better composer of the two.
I feel quite busy at the moment, even though I am in that post-tax-bill financial lull when I am having to look after the pennies and the pounds. My diary is looking reasonably healthy for the next few months, and at least I won’t be spending five figures on my house this year, but I am still wary of how things will balance out over the next few months, and my computer mouse has hovered over some job advertisements of late, but I hope that it will not come to that. For now I’ll get on with the tasks at hand and see what drops into my inbox along the way.