Listening In

We’re just about at the halfway point of the 13/14 KWS season. There’s a lot of awesome stuff piled into the second half – I’m particularly looking forward to tackling Petrushka, Brahms’ Piano Concerto No. 1 and the Stravinsky Octet for the first time. We’ll be looking ahead to the future quite a bit in the coming weeks, officially announcing the 14/15 season in February and holding auditions to select our next assistant conductor in a couple of months. Our administration, meanwhile, continues to push the boundaries of quantum physics by existing in several different times at once, working hard to keep all of the above on track while hammering out details for the 15/16 season and beyond.

Lately I’ve been focussed on preparing for an audition with the Toronto Symphony, which took place on Wednesday. Auditions are peculiar creatures that govern a large part of your life for weeks or months at a stretch and then suddenly end with an hour’s worth of playing (and only that much if you’re a finalist for the job). You know the odds are steep going in, but failing to win still stings. It sounds trite and ridiculous to cheerfully intone that failing to win auditions is still a great learning experience, but seriously, it is. Preparing an audition is a lengthy process that challenges your discipline, organizational ability and imagination. In the hours after an audition ends, there’s a moment of clarity where you know exactly what worked and what didn’t, and you have a great sense of how to approach things differently next time. It’s neat.

Since the audition fell during rehearsals for a Signature series concert in KW, I was off that program and took advantage of the opportunity to hear the orchestra as an audience member on Friday. I’m fascinated by acoustics, a subject I could probably ramble on about for several posts, and this fascination has practical implications for me because the sound we hear playing on stage is quite far removed from what the audience hears in the hall. It’s hard to get an accurate picture of how you sound in the hall when someone else is playing in your place, of course, but you notice how certain registers (across all instruments) tend to blend into the texture while others project quite easily. Hopefully I can apply what I’ve learned to some kind of useful end in the coming weeks.

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