Thursday, March 17, 2016

Five Weeks

Today marks the end of an incredibly busy chapter. Five weeks ago I boarded a plane to Amsterdam to begin the first of a series of projects which would test me both technically and psychologically. Sitting in Gatwick airport on my way back to Basel, I have yet to feel a sense of relief despite coming to the realization that I've survived this stressful period.

Fortunately, there were upsides to certain projects. My first project in February, for example, was with my good friends and former EUBO mates. Coming together once again in the Netherlands to record a demo CD as NewBO, it was quite something to share a rare opportunity to work at the highest level in that kind of company. Though we had technical difficulties on the first day of recording, greatly reducing our overall recording time, we still managed to get everything I wanted done. If it wasn't for the dedication of our members the result would have been much more modest and I'm "essuper" proud of the guys for their hard work.

After returning to Basel I began preparing for an audition in Warsaw while working on the edits for the NewBO demo. Doing an editing plan for a recording is not as simple a task as you might think. From a 60-minute cd there could be any number of edits spliced in to correct various notes or phrases. Most of CDs you will find out there are really a fine patchwork which do not represent a live performance in any meaningful way. Though generally NewBO's best single takes were good enough, I had to go through all of the material bar by bar to confirm we would have the best result. With help from Jamiang, Yotam, Antonio, and Marianna, the final product (which we hope will come soon) should be quite impressive.

The Warsaw trip was not meant to be. Though I was invited to the audition, the whole thing was too last-minute and it was impossible that I was going to be prepared in time. I had been looking at the material but my commitment to a new chamber group diverted my attention the week before I was expected to leave for Poland. The ensemble, Gran Teatro del Mundo, is made up of four core players: Julio (harpsichord), Miriam (oboe), Marie (recorder), and Bruno (cello and gamba). In late January the group decided they wanted to do a number of summer festivals and asked violinist Coline and I to come on board for them. At the moment GTM is preparing an ambitious program of French music from the late 17th century. We'll see how it goes.

As a surprise, in late February I was asked to stand in for a bassoonist for a brand new semi-opera by Nicolaus Matthes, a Basel-based composer. The production was clearly an expensive one - two orchestras (one 17th century, the other 18th century), singers, actors, cameras, a ton of microphones, as well as seven days of rehearsal for four shows. The music was very difficult and it took me a week to prepare, despite the ample rehearsal period. Though I'm not sure if the recordings of the show will eventually be released, I think the work is worth a revival. Although the composition would necessitate a serious fundraising effort (the solo parts are extremely difficult and the score also calls for a number of rarer instruments: a fully enharmonic harpsichord, fortepiano, gamba, natural horn, and renaissance flute at A=415hz), the composition is of too high a quality for it to simply disappear into the abyss.

While my afternoons and evenings were entirely dedicated to Das Goldene Vließ, Matthes's opus, from the beginning of March until this past Sunday, my mornings were spent in a practice room at the Schola vigorously preparing audition material for the Academy of Ancient Music in London. The ensemble had an open call for all instruments to bolster their lists and I jumped at the chance to get an invitation. Unfortunately, the audition process required both classical and baroque bassoons to be played and included some very tough orchestral excerpts from works like Mozart's Figaro, Bach's 4th orchestral suite and Magnificat. Almost never is the case that I work with my bassoon all day long, yet the last two weeks have seen me fighting almost every waking moment to get as much playing time in as possible. Obviously I wanted to give a good first impression but to get to the level required of a professional modern bassoonist on two separate bassoons based designs at least two centuries old is no easy feat. I still feel there is much room for improvement, but it looks as if my hard work was appreciated by the team at the AAM.

Yesterday I flew to London at 7am for an audition just before noon. Getting up at 4:30 took its toll on me, however. While my travel plans were very practical, the early rise after such an intense period coupled with my nerves made for a very difficult flight. My own troubles aside, I was glad to find that there were no hiccups on my way to the venue. Playing the first round ended up to be relatively painless and there seemed to be enthusiasm from the committee. I was invited to do the final round - an orchestral-style rehearsal with some principal players - where I received some very positive feedback. Hopefully I'll hear back from them soon.

Of course it's nice to end such an intense period on a high, but looking back it seems that there is a lot to be positive about. Soon NewBO will have a strong series of recordings for self-promotion, Ensemble GTM is looking forward to some work in the summer, Das Goldene Vließ went off without a hitch, and I did good work in London. Onwards and Upwards.

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