Playing Away The Desensitisation

The cello section of my chamber orchestra has rather shrunk. Or perhaps the proper term to use would be “refined”, which suggests a reduction with a positive result. There’s four or five of us now, as opposed to the ten we had at the beginning of January. Our sound is now more focused, and certainly more dynamically accurate.

I’ve written polite rants before on how I feel regarding the devaluation of certain over-played pieces of classical music, so I won’t repeat myself now. To my dismay, I found several of these “pops” on our Canada Day playlist: Mozart’s Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, Grieg’s Peer Gynt Suite no. 1 featuring “Morning” and “The Hall of the Mountain King”, and Bizet’s Carmen Suite no. 1. When I hear these on the radio, I cringe, and they leave me cold. Desensitisation will do that.

Playing them, however, is a different matter, I have discovered. When I played Strauss’ Also Spracht Zarathrustra two years ago, I was blown away by the power and the building chords as they wove back and forth between the sections. As we’ve worked on Peer Gynt, I’ve discovered the uniquely Nordic harmonies and beautiful phrasing. Besides, it’s just plain fun to be sawing furiously a haute volume by the final crashing chord of “Hall of the Mountain King”; everyone’s grinning at the end. When you’re actively engaged in the production of music, you hear it in a completely different way: from the inside out, as opposed to hearing a smooth unified product. The complexities and the various musical lines all become clearer, and I appreciate them more. Playing “pops” is redeeming them for me, somehow.

The only drawback is that we play Grieg over and over, faster and faster, and when I sat down this morning to practice, I couldn’t because my fingers were too tender. Looks like I’ll have to work on my calluses.

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