Testing oboes 2018

The time has come to being looking for a new instrument. There are many factors to consider but here is a brief summary of what I feel is relevant:
1. My Yamaha is still a good instrument. It’s not perfect.
2. One possibility is to look for something with a completely different character, to give as many options as possible.
3. But I’m unlikely to make serious use of more than one instrument. A better option would be to look for something similar, which fixes the faults I see with my current instrument.
4. It would be nice to find an instrument with a more lyrical, resonant upper register. I feel that my Yamaha sometimes lacks in this department. This is a crucial range in the audition circuit, and sometimes in symphony.
5. I’m not willing to compromise on response or richness of tone in the lower register.

So let the instrument tryouts begin!

Audition Challenge, week fourteen

I made it through the week of compulsory exercises. Because of technical difficulties it took several tries to get a recording at all. So by the time I got a complete recording I didn’t feel like talking much.

Next week I will use a simpler and better-tested recording setup, and maybe it will go better.

I hope that in fourteen weeks I can look back on this video and see how much I have improved.

The week thirteen assignment is all about first impressions on the Mozart concerto. This could not apply more to the opening of the Mozart C Major: the first ten to fifteen seconds are crucial.

The truth of the matter is everyone has weaknesses, even great players. And part of being a great auditioned (rather than just a great performer or great recitalist is being able to show your best in just a few seconds

And what do we have to do to make a good first impression:

Now we have fairly objective things we have to do… we have to play in tune – there’s a subjective element to that but basically in tune is in tune. We have to play  in time, in rhythm those two things are really what,I hate using eliminate. but if you have a hundred and fifty people playing an audition 90 percent of them are going kind of to fall to the bottom based on pitch and rhythm alone. I will put sound quality in there in fact that’s the most important one of all but it’s a little bit subjective.

In week zero the mozart concerto will be the first selection. If I want to make a great impression the first scale has to be flawless and the high C soaring and delightful.

I don’t like to think about playing it safe in general and you should perform they way you are led to perform but you should know where your limits are. Where your instrument’s limits are.

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. It’s amazing that he actually isn’t talking about the same piece or even the same instrument I’m playing. It’s so easy to push the first two bars of the C Major just a little too hard and wind up with something really raucous.

So, great sound quality means great sound quality on every note, even the fast ones.

The video assignment for week thirteen is the first movement of the Mozart concerto.

Nathan Cole’s NY Phil Audition Challenge

Back in 2015 Nathan Cole ran a play-along-at-home challenge for the then-upcoming NY Phil violin audition. It seemed like a good way to prepare for auditions at the time. But it was for violin only. So I followed from a distance, learning what I could.

I have a few relatively quiet weeks in my schedule right now but it is likely that there will be oboe auditions later this year for which I could be preparing right now. So, drawing on Casey Granofsky’s and Erin Rafferty’s versions of the challenge for flute and viola I will be transcribing the challenge for oboe. Each week I will be watching Cole’s instruction video and converting the instructions as best I can to the oboe repertoire and the particular problems presented by oboe auditions. At the end of the week I will be posting a video of my progress. I expect that many of the videos will be posted live using Youtube live, but if technical issues intervene I’ll just be making a recording. If you like, you can play-along-at-home. Make your own video. Or just work on the excerpts.

The list:

NY Phil violin repertoire Erin Rafferty’s viola repertoire Casey Granofsky’s flute repertoire My pick for oboe
Mozart Concerto 3, tr or 5 first movement exposition Stamitz Concerto in D Major first movement exposition Mozart G Major concerto 1st movement exposition and D Major Quartet 1st movement Mozart oboe concerto first movement exposition
Strauss Don Juan, first page Strauss Don Juan, first page Prokofiev Classical Symphony 4th movement Strauss Don Juan, first page plus slow solo
Schubert Symphony no. 2, first movement Mozart Symphony no. 35, 4th movement Bach B Minor Mass, Domine Deus Rossini La Scala Di Seta, overture
Brahms Symphony no. 4, 3rd movement Brahms Symphony no. 4, 3rd movement Beethoven Leonore overture no. 3 Beethoven Symphony no. 3, marcia funebre
Debussy La Mer, 2nd movement Ravel Suite from Daphnis et Chloe Debussy Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun
Ravel Daphnis et Chloe
Ravel Tombeau de Couperin movements 1, 2, and 3
Mahler Symphony no. 5, 4th movement Mahler Symphony no. 10, 1st movement Mahler Symphony no. 9, 1st movement solo
Strauss Death and Transfiguration
Shostakovich Symphony no. 5, 1st movement
Brahms violin concerto, 2nd movement solo
Schumann Symphony no. 2, Scherzo Mendelssohn Scherzo from “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” Mendelssohn Scherzo
Saint-Saens Voliere
Mendelssohn Symphony no. 3, Vivace non troppo

Erin and Casey took their excerpt list from specific auditions, while mine reflects standard oboe repertoire. But this could be a list that appears on an audition anywhere. In case I need extra material for a week, I will be drawing from this list of additional excerpts, which could also appear on any audition, but which didn’t seem a good match for any specific thing on the list:

  • Brahms Symphony no. 1
  • Stravinsky Pulcincella Suite
  • Schumann Symphony no. 2
  • Tchaikovsky Symphony no. 4

Week 14:

Well-worn indeed. Also the adorable little notebook I will be using for a practise log.

In the opening week Nathan asks for several items of basic technical preparation:

  • Taffanel and Gaubert daily exercises #1 and #2 will substitute for the Schraedieck exercises.
  • Kreutzer Etude #9 seems like a great exercise on oboe.
  • Barret Grand Study #3 will substitute for Dont #6
  • Instead of Spicatto exercises I will look again to the well-worn Barret book, this time to “Various Scales for the study of the articulation”

Nathan Cole begins week 14 preparing the Mendelssohn Scherzo. I’m going to start looking at the Scottish Symphony. Like the Scherzo, the Scottish symphony is often prepared too quickly. I’ve always felt that it has many of the same challenges as La Scala, but actually it is full of unique obstacles: awkward leaps combined with fast articulations. It’s a good match for Cole’s instructions about hand position. He says:

I like to put only as much pressure on the string as necessary and to lift with great speed and energy.

This could not apply to a wind instrument more.

 Play the tempo that’s going to let you move the fingers the way you’d like. And take it slow. That’s what this is about: taking a new look at your playing.

Additional instructions for the first week:

  • Keep a practise log
  • Ramp up the practise time gradually
  • Begin taking a relaxed look at the excerpts, gathering recordings and maybe reading a few things through under tempo.

And in the video for the first week, my assignment is:

  • Some or all of the Taffanel and Gaubert exercises #1 and #2
  • Some of the Barret Scale Studies, as far as I get.
  • Kreutzer #9
  • Barret Grand Study #3

Cane and tools order 2016

It’s here. Two kinds of cane and several new colors of reed thread. More notably:

  • A knife sharpening guide.
  • A dial indicator micrometer with an attachment for measuring finished reeds from the inside.
  • A swab extractor.

Also but not shown:

  • Cork pad sets for oboe.
  • A new kind of pad cement.

So this means that in addition to being set up to raise the bar for reed quality in 2017 I can also handle many kinds of repair work on oboes, especially pad work. And for the pad work I am properly equipped with both heat-melt pad glue and traditional French cement. The subject of glue choice for pad work is something that could be the basis for a much longer post than this one, but to make a long story short I consider it essential to be able to choose the glue to suit the situation.

So let’s get busy making reeds!