Hi friends. This post is primarily for my friends that are string educators or orchestra directors. I am currently in my 5th week at Interlochen center for the arts this summer. I conduct the Intermediate Concert Orchestra which is comprised of about 40 string players, ages 12-16, with a wide range of playing levels from 1st or 2nd year to some fairly advanced players. The top kids in my orchestra play in positions and many are working on concerti like Accolay and Bruch, or comparable for cello and viola. So, it is a bit of a programming challenge.
I like to occasionally discuss the repertoire that I have programmed and give some related thoughts in case you are interested.
For this concert, we have three selections: Egmont Overture (Beethoven/ arr. McCashin), Andante, from Mendelssohn’s Reformation Symphony (Mendelssohn/ arr. Malyneux), and Brook Green Suite, Mvts. I and III (Holst). With the exception of the Holst, I am thinking that many of you may not be familiar with these, so I will give a little info. I like them both a great deal.
The McCashin arrangement of Egmont is a real challenge. Both violin parts and the viola part have significant divisi sections. It includes the sostenuto ma non troppo introduction (in 6), the initial allegro (in one) with the hemiola introduction, and F major allegro con brio finale (in 4). This is a super exciting arrangement and really challenges an orchestra of this level. They key in this one is the independence of parts and really teaching and incorporating the proper style for a Beethoven work. We have worked tirelessly on bow use and bow placement. There has been a great deal of time spent on “inner rhythm” coaching students to hear the eight or sixteenth note undercurrent throughout the piece. The opening is in F minor, which certainly poses its challenges for a young orchestra. I must say that it has really come together in the last few rehearsals. I feel like this group has been up to the rhythmic and technique challenge and will give a performance that is true to Beethoven style and intention. The wind parts are all incorporated into the divisi string parts. I recommend this arrangement if you have some time to live with it for an extended period of time. Student musicians really have to internalize the ideas and get well past the “reading” phase of learning these parts. I would call this a hard grade 4 or light grade 5. The challenges are not so much in range, but in style and rhythm. It is a pretty mature piece of music. I always love Robert McCashin’s arrangements because they are very true to the original and maintain the integrity of intent of the composer. It is an FJH publication.
The other unique arrangement that we are doing is Andante, from Mendelssohn’s Reformation Symphony (Mendelssohn/ arr. Malyneux). This one is not available commercially, but I would be happy to give you the contact information of the arranger. I heard this done at an all-county event in Durham, NC a couple of months ago and just had to do it. I contacted the arranger and he sent me the parts. I have done some significant string edits to the parts (mostly bowings) and will send them to the arranger for possible incorporation into the parts. This one is VERY true to the original. The original is a beautiful violin I soli movement with only small wind interludes between “verses” of the song. Malyneux has simply incorporated the wind interludes into the string parts and this is absolutely beautiful. It is a great piece for teaching ensemble playing and the important push and pull of mastering a beautiful andante. The first violins are certainly featured in this one, and are challenged with long beautiful phrased and many opportunities for expression. The other sections have moments where they are featured while providing an overall undulating sixteenth note rhythmic bed for the firsts. Just message me if you would like contact information for the arranger.
Finally, we are doing the outer movements of the Brook Green Suite. I am not going to give much commentary on this one, because I will bet that everyone who is interested in this sort of stuff has either performed or conducted this one, or both. I am always hesitant to perform this sort of thing because every other conductor in the audience has “conducted the perfect interpretation and performance” of the work. Everyone knows it, so the schmuck on stage doesn’t know what he is talking about! That said, the first movement provides ample opportunities for counting rests, smooth ensemble entrances, and beautiful lyrical playing. The third movement is a great test of compound meter and an exciting finale for any concert.
We perform tonight at 6:30 and I can’t wait. I have about 2 and half hours of final rehearsal this afternoon and I will use every minute of it! Wish me luck!! We are going to have a blast tonight.