Time of year

April 7

General review was the order of things today, touching on spots throughout the symphony. Some of it sounds good. Some of it ain’t there yet.

OK, here’s the moment that always happens every year around this time. A rehearsal comes when there are more than just the little pockets of empty chairs, but some real axle-snapping potholes, and in some bad places. All the students are under such pressure this time of year, especially of course the seniors. Every big project, academic or non-academic, is now coming to fruition. And nobody seems to be sleeping. I respect and admire the venerable institution of the Senior Thesis, and some of the work that’s done is extraordinary, occasionally world-changing. But man, does it complicate little projects like this one! And the thought always crosses my mind that maybe this is not the time of year to do Mahler symphonies, Strauss tone-poems, Daphnis, Sacre, etc.

That thought is always followed, not too much later, by a couple of counter-thoughts, and they are 1) so when else would you do the biggest pieces of the year?, and 2) Princeton students always find a way to bring it off. At least in the thirty-seven years I’ve been watching. The ride can be nail-biting for the conductor, but….. that’s the gig. And the process has the reward of watching some wonderful achievements happen in front of you, even if it’s under trying conditions.

So, we just keep moving. A Zen saying: “Eight times  down, nine times up.”

April 9

Eric Wyrick, the superb Concertmaster of the New Jersey Symphony, stopped by today to work with the first fiddles, and I just stayed off to one side to watch. Drawing from a deep well of orchestral experience, he offered both practical suggestions of fingerings, bow touch and color, and also some basic overall wisdom: use the rests to prepare for what’s coming, think about disciplined rhythm all the time, and in your mind subdivide, subdivide. Great musicians are always mindful of and care about the little components.

The basses also got worked by our fine bass teacher, Jack Hill, who has tons of Mahler experience with Ben Zander, a Mahler conductor of some note.