Post-Recital Reflection

My faculty recital on Tuesday went very well, and overall I was pleased with the performance.   See this post for a rundown of the program.  And although I usually like to relax and forget about a solo performance for a few days afterward, I wanted to jot down a few thoughts while things were still fresh in my mind.  On the positive end, this was the earliest I’ve ever given a faculty recital (second week of school), but also probably the most prepared I’ve been.  When I put this program together I didn’t realize how demanding it was going to be for me in terms of physical and mental endurance,  but as I continued to work on things throughout the summer I realized I was going to have to figure out a way to train my mind and body to consistently render these pieces at a high level. To that end, I continued to refine technical and musical details up to the last minute, but about a month before the recital I started running the program twice a day on weekdays, and once a day on weekends.  This may sound a bit extreme, but by the week before the performance I was easily making it through the whole recital twice a day, with several hours rest in between, of course.

Now, as for areas of improvement, I have a couple of ideas which I took away from this recital.  One of them – which I knew already but was reinforced – is that solo performances are a great proving ground for various methods and approaches.  Things that seem to work in the practice room don’t always get the job done on stage, and in the coming weeks one of my big goals is to work on simplifying some aspects of my playing.  Once I’ve worked things out a bit in my own mind I’ll post some more details on that topic.

The second idea has to do with creative programming and ways of engaging an audience.  About a month or so before the performance I started thinking about the best way to explain Messiaen’s “Interstellar Call”  to an audience which would include several community members and music appreciation students.  After thinking about various lecture/demonstration type things, I settled on creating a powerpoint presentation to accompany the piece. I found all of the images on NASA’s Astronomy Picture of the Day Archive.  There are some pretty amazing pictures on this site, and since the recital was free and educational in nature I am assuming use of the images would be legal under “Fair Use.”  Once I picked the images to go along with the piece it took a little trial and error to get the right timing on the slide transitions.  I used an LCD projector connected to my laptop to display the images on the rear stage wall, with the stage and house lights turned completely off (and a stand light for me).  Even with the added “stimulation” of a slideshow, I was concerned that the audience might find 6-7 minutes of unaccompanied horn a bit much.  However, I was delighted at how quiet they were during the entire piece – no shuffling of feet/programs, no dropped keys, etc. – and I got quite a few compliments from music appreciation students after the recital on that piece in particular.  Although Messiaen may not have intended for this work to be performed in such a way, I think in this particular situation the multimedia component was effective.  We are bombarded with multimedia in today’s tech-savvy society, but with the right piece and the right audience it can work for some pieces.  I would love to hear if any readers have performed traditional (or non-traditional) solo works with multimedia, and whether you feel the combination was successful.

Another question which comes up often for lots of students after recitals is “what now?”  After spending so much time preparing a specific program, it sometimes takes a few days to regain one’s direction and figure out how to spend practice time.  Quite often I spend a few post-recital weeks reading new repertoire and working on etudes and orchestral excerpts, just to get my mind off the pieces I was working on so intensely before.  I will certainly do that this time around, but I will also be working on some things related to my playing mechanics, as well as starting work on a program I’d like to present in the spring.  In addition, the orchestras I play with regularly have got some great programs coming up – the Symphony No. 2 of Brahms, and the Symphony No. 4 of Tchaikovsky.  Both have great writing for all four horns, and I need to brush up on the first (Brahms) and third (Tchaikovsky) parts on these pieces.

To close, I’ve included a portion of the recording from the recital.  The piece is the Fantasie, Op. 2, by Franz Strauss, with Dr. Richard Seiler on piano.

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