Mendelssohn and Milhaud... a busy summer!
I hope your summer's been great! I've been super busy preparing music for summer festivals! It's been incredibly fun, learning new repertoire, volunteering at El Sistema Oklahoma, and anticipating my upcoming trip to ARIA International Music Academy. It will be an intense ten days in Massachusetts, where I'll have the opportunity to work with a number of excellent violin professors on improving my performance. Until next week, I'm still preparing a chunk of repertoire, including two fabulous additions to my repertoire: Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto in E Minor, and Darius Milhaud's Sonatine Pastorale.
I first listened to this concerto when I was ten or eleven, sitting wide-eyed in front of the computer as Sarah Chang let it rip through the broken octaves at the conclusion of the first page. It was, as I now realize, the first major concerto I ever came to know. So over six years of listening to this iconic and widely played piece, I became quite familiar with the sound of all the major sections and themes. Upon beginning to learn the concerto a few months ago, my impression was that the challenges presented by this piece were not of the raw technical species (not too many double stops, flashy bowings, or left-hand fireworks). I immediately realized, however, that I would need to spend time learning to play each phrase as though I was its first performer, not its millionth. My sheet music now contains my own directions ("softly moaning", "building anger", "fury!" "unleash!") that help me remember that every note of this beautiful, soulful work has a meaning that needs to be breathed to life, no matter how many times it's been played before.
The delightful Sonatine Pastorale is a short work for solo violin, written in 1960 by Darius Milhaud, a French composer who spent much of his time composing and teaching in the United States. Comprising three small movements, I find the work to display a capricious air of improvisation and spontaneity that feels so joyful to play. I got it under my hand while volunteering at El Sistema Oklahoma, a non-profit program offering free daily musical instruction to kids after school. During the program's summer camp, I used any chance I had to practice while the kids weren't having violin class. This Sonatine Pastorale was one of the pieces I practiced. One particular challenge posed by this piece is its plethora of wide intervals. Each movement is written with a free style, including intervals that jump an octave or more in quick succession. I spent quite a while learning the difficult shifts in order to play the notes accurately! I can't wait to upload a video so you can enjoy the beautiful Sonatine Pastorale as I do!