Rehearsal with Maxim Vengerov - Palace Hall - 06.09.2009

......I love music. And because I love music I have friends that work in this field. And this particular friend helped me getting in the Palace Hall on Sunday morning to attend the rehearsal he had there. I had one reason to go there. The conductor was Maxim Vengerov. I have a great admiration for him. Both as violin player, before his injuring his arm and after, when he decided that he'll go on as conductor.
......It's not the first time I attend an orchestra rehearsal. The hall (more than 3000 seats) was empty as you'll see in the pictures. You have the feeling that they're playing just for you. You get a special concert before the big one (which by the way will take place Tuesday, September 8th 2009). Eveybody is relaxed (maybe too relaxed) and try to know the conductor, to find out what he wants. They'll perform 3 pieces:
1. Beethoven – Overture "Leonora III" op. 72a
2. Beethoven – Triple Concerto for piano, violin, cello and orchestra in C Major op. 56
3. Beethoven – Symphony no. 5 in c minor op. 67
......First of all they played the ouverture from beginning to end, to accommodate with it. After that the conductor started practising some fragments considered to be more difficult. Then they moved on, to the 5th Symphony. The Concert was to be rehearsed the day after, with the soloists (Alexandru Tomescu - violin, Horia Mihail - piano, Razvan Suma - cello). This takes time. One hour, two hours, three hours, with 25 minute break. Some nerves from the orchestra but Vengerov managed to keep them calm. It's amazing how he can deal with so many people that have a very strong ego. He can't argue or accuse, even if there is still a lot of work to do. He can just tell them what to do, how to do, practise again and again ... after that moving forward to another musical moment and start all over again. Ther is not a particular order of the fragments to be rehearsed. He decides what's next and informs the orchestra. "Go to part 3, bar 22" or "3 bars after C".
......These are some details that fascinate me. Because I didn't go there just to listen to the music. For this I'll go to the concert. I went there to see how he's thinking and what's he doing with the score. I was brought the score of both pieces. But the one that Vengerov insisted on was the Symphony. The score(the book) is small. At first sight you'd say "what? this contains 50 minutes of music?". Yes, sure. It's actually easy to read once you get used to it. The only problem is that the music moves very fast and you have to keep track in order not to stay behind. On each page there are notes for each instruments, starting with the flute on top of the page and ending with the doublebass. At the left side of the page the bars have numbers. It's easier to say "go to bar number "x". There are also letters, like A, B, C (and like in army "C" is Charlie, "D" is delta - for better understanding). So "3 bars after C" means 3 bars after the one that bears the letter C. See, it's easy. "One, two..." and they start. The conductor has firm gestures. He keeps the beat a little bit before the orchestra in order to announce what's next.
......The score is the same for everybody. What makes the difference are the small details written or not on the score. You have there "f", "ff", "p" and so one which are the nouances (forte, fortissimo, piano) but it's about when and how you use them for each instrumet. This is what makes a difference between conductors and orchestras. It's the vision. But before reading what's next, take a few moments to listen to the first part of the 5th Symphony.


......My friend Sandra was there with me. She wrote a few thoughts about this rehearsal. Below there's what she wrote. Please use Google Language for translation as it's in Romanian.

Repetitie cu Maxim Vengerov
......În tricoul negru mulat şi blugii strânşi cu o curea lată, Maxim Vengerov aduce mai degrabă a sportiv de performanţă decât a unul dintre cei mai mari violonişti ai lumii. Stă pe un scaun de contrabas aşezat pe podiumul din faţa scenei de la Sala Palatului şi explică Filarmonicii „George Enescu” cum ar trebuie să sune Simfonia a V-a de Beethoven din programul festivalului Enescu.
......Maxim Vengerov dirijează, aşa cum a făcut mai ales în ultimii doi ani, de când a suferit un accident la umărul drept. S-a mai aflat la pupitrul filarmonicii bucureştene pentru două concerte în mai 2008, după ce cu un an în urmă şi-a anulat concertul pe care trebuia să-l susţină ca violonist în programul festivalului Enescu. A fost invitat din nou la Enescu, de data aceasta pentru a dirija spectacolul ce inaugurează seria de concerte susţinute la Sala Palatului în cea de-a XIX-a ediţie a festivalului internaţional, marţi, la ora 19.30.
Indicaţii cântate
......Explicaţiile lui Vengerov nu vin în cuvinte, ci în sunete puse pe silabe: ta-ra-da-ra-da, pa-pa-pa-pam, tu-cu-tu-cu-tu, rostite aşa cum ar trebui să articuleze instrumentiştii sunetele. Comunică mai uşor aşa cu o orchestră cu o medie de vârstă peste 40 de ani, căreia i se adresează într-o engleză cu accent rusesc. Le spune să facă legato „as smooth as possible” la măsura 115, violonceilor le cere „real forte” în măsura 105, iar pentru a le demonstra cum să articuleze cu stânga iar cu dreapta să facă „real legato” le cântă, din nou.
......Din când în când îl întrerupe concert-maestrul Anda Petrovici, nemulţumită că nu e suficientă lumină pe scenă, că instrumentiştii „se aud ca şi când merg pe gropi” şi nu sunt împreună „de niciun fel”. Şi traduce indicaţiile dirijorului care „nu aude prima notă” la viole, „aude o bâlbâială”. Vengerov cântă violiştilor cum să articuleze notele din pasajul respectiv şi-i pune să repete de câteva ori. Instrumentiştii de pe rândurile din spate încep să caşte. După ce dirijorul se declară mulţumit de rezultat şi vrea să continue lucrarea, intervine concert-maestrul. „Deci, concluzionez: contează prima notă, restul nu contează dacă iese, prima dă armonia”. Uneori mai face şi confuzii între limbi, „nu sunteţi together”, alteori vorbeşte peste dirijor, de multe ori atacă notele cu o fracţiune de secundă înaintea orchestrei al cărei şef este.
O dată, de două ori, de patru ori
......Orchestra reacţionează greoi la indicaţii. Vengerov lucrează un pasaj cu violoncele şi le cere un singur lucru: să articuleze bine. La a patra încercare, instrumentiştii primesc un „lovely” din partea dirijorului. Acelaşi rezultat şi pentru un pasaj în care le cere contrabaşilor să nu mai întârzie intrarea, pentru că se decalează de violoncele. La a treia repetiţie le iese „super”.
......Înainte de a termina repetiţia de duminică seară, a doua din programul filarmonicii tocmai revenită dintr-un concediu de aproape două luni, Vengerov le-a cerut instrumentiştilor să revină toţi şi la cea de luni, pentru care erau programaţi iniţial doar suflătorii şi percuţioniştii.

Citiţi şi
......This is the Palace Hall. It's called like this because it's behind the former Royal Palace that now hosts the National Art Museum. It was built during Comunist times in order to host large gatherings. Now it's used as concert hall, both for pop and classical music. A lot of the concerts during George Enescu Festival take place here.
He might say here "Easy.... easy... listen to the're not alone here"

"Come on... feel the music..."

"Ok, let's move on to..."

The score
The last 5 staves on the page belong to the strings. Violin I and II, viola, cello and double bass.
The double basses resting during the break

And here we go again. This time with the first part of the Symphony. This 5th Symphony is very well known and the beginning has to be perfect otherwise it ruins the whole thing.

View from the "top" of the hall.

This is the first page of the 5th Symphony

Bye, bye! See you on Tuesday!

......And now, for the sake of comparison, liste/watch to the following videos. The first part of the 5th Symphony conducted by Karajan, Barenboim and Dudamel. Can you notice the difference? Listen again and you'll hear it. How they sing it makes the difference.

1. Herbert von Karajan - 1966

2. Daniel Barenboim - Berliner Philharmoniker

3. Gustavo Dudamel - Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra

......This is where this amazing experience ends. Hope I made you curios to see one of these rehearsals live. Or if you can't get to one, go to see those "lectures before the performance". You'll understand the piece better, trust me. My only wish now is to attend an opera rehearsal. I'll see about that too, in the close future.

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