jan_andrea: (hmm)
Okay, even if you don't like classical music (philistine...) you absolutely MUST go find a copy of the Mendelssohn Octet.

Because, OMFG. It's just amazing. AMAZING.

I downloaded a copy of the score (and parts -- score! -- free!) and have been reading along as I listen, and holy farking crap, it is pure fucking genius. I mean, no question, Mendelssohn was just incredibly gifted, esp. with chamber music -- I love his orchestral works, sure, but he really shines in chamber music.

And the kicker in the Octet is that he was 16 -- six-teen! SIXTEEN!!!! -- when he wrote it. Never in a million years could most grown adults pull off something like this, but he was a KID. I remember listening to it when I was 16 and being impressed; now that I'm nearly twice that old (and almost as old as Mendelssohn when he died -- he was only 36), I'm absolutely blown away. It's a piece I've "known" for half my life, but I hadn't seen the score before, and wow -- it really makes a difference in my appreciation :)

I thought maybe our little chamber orchestral ensemble might be able to play it, but no way. It's wicked. And while it's scored for 4 violins, 2 violas and 2 cellos, no one has an easy part. Granted, the first violin part is the hardest, but even the 4th violin player has to be really good. We might be able to hack the Andante, maybe, but never in a million years could we do the rest. Just amazing.

It is one of the great tragedies of the world that he died so very young (him, Mozart, and Schubert -- I bet Mozart would have broken out of the Classical mode and done some really great work if he'd lived longer), and I wish there were a way to bring them back and see what they could have done if they'd lived longer. Well, them and Jimi Hendrix, as he was pretty much the Mozart of the 60s.

I really want to get a quartet together over the summer -- a good quartet, with four strong players (inasmuch as I can dream and call myself a strong player :). I already have a second violin (though she's not quite as strong as I'd like; maybe the pressure will force her to get better?) and possibly a violist, but we need a cellist. Not sure where to look for one outside of UNH. Anyone in the area on my FL who knows a cello player, let me know!

And choral people, what would you recommend of Mendelssohn's choral works? I really don't know much of anything about them.

Watched "Junebug" last night. It was better than I'd expected, but the ending really, really bothered me. Spoilers )

Kids are good. Sophie got over her cold and is fine, Stephen is still enjoying school, though perhaps not as much now that the novelty has completely worn off. I hope he likes it next year, but if not, I'm thinking it mightn't be bad to move to homeschooling. Not sure though. I don't want him to hate school and therefore hate learning; I'd rather be teaching him myself, subjects he enjoys, and make sure he loves learning even if he doesn't like schooling. We'll see. Sophie really wants to go to school -- often when we drop Stephen off, she goes and sits in the line behind him :) Wicked cute. His original teacher is now on maternity leave, as she and her husband recently adopted a baby girl (I made them a sling :) and so he's got a new teacher -- she seems quite nice and very eager, like the previous one, which is good. We're off to the library shortly; it's been ages since we've been, since Stephen started school, but we'll certainly do the summer reading program this year, which means at least weekly visits. Can't wait until the weather is nicer -- I love winter and spring, but mud season, yuck. And we've had stupid temperatures lately -- 30s and 40s, instead of the 50s I want. Could use a lot more sun, too. It ought to be spring!

Wonder what the summer will bring in terms of orders. I had 25 this week (!!!!) which is way more than I usually have in a week, and which is kind of crazy. I don't advertize or anything; it's all word of mouth, mostly on www.thebabywearer.com but also on other boards because of the sewing patterns. I like sewing, but would also like more time to play with Sophie and Stephen, practice violin/viola, etc. Maybe I'll let my stock run down a little and see what happens.

Rambling now, should be going.
jan_andrea: (happy sgl)
So, after having had my viola for a few months and being totally enamored of its wonderful, deep, passionate sound, I had come to realize that while my violin is pretty (with a fancy inlay on the back), its sound leaves a lot to be desired. It's actually a sort of chimera -- the back is from one instrument, and it was grafted onto a different front, with yet another instrument providing the neck/scroll. Every part of it has something non-standard about it, from the placement of the F-holes on the front, to the position of the neck relative to the front (the neck is short and too high, so my bridge is extra high and the strings are too far from the fingerboard, which makes it harder to play), to the scroll box with its odd geometry (the pegs aren't positioned correctly, so the pegs rub the strings that go over them and they break sooner than they should), and while my parents paid $450 for it (at a flea market, from a fiddle-selling guy, about 15 years ago, I think), it was appraised for closer to $350. Anyway, it has a lot of personality, but I have simply outgrown it. I mentioned to Bob (the orchestra conductor) that I was looking to buy a new violin, and he nearly laughed at my under-$1000 price range -- apparently it's difficult to find a decent instrument in that range, though the string methods course had just gotten some good instruments from China for under $1000, and he thought the professor who teaches that might be able to set me up with one eventually. I went down to Acoustic Outfitters last night anyway, to see what they have. It's where my viola is from, after all.

I spent about 2 hours looking at and playing pretty much everything they have -- about 30 violins in all, ranging from $59 to $3800. Most of them had the same kind of sound my violin has -- sort of fuzzy and unfocused, a little muted even when there's no mute on it. I tried pretty much everything over $500, thinking that an instrument under that probably wasn't worth the bother, and had it narrowed down to two -- an older violin (late 18th c) that was $1800 but had the qualities I was looking for, and a slightly newer one (19th c) that was fairly similar, a bit less impessive but half the price at $900. Then the shop owner came over and started handing me some of the ones I hadn't tried, including one that was marked $475. It's a new instrument, built in 2000 (in fact, just a month after Stephen was born), by Charles Smith, apparently of Merrimac, MA. And even though it was $475, it compared very favorably with the $1800 one -- there was some difference between the two, but was it a $1300 difference? The more I played the new one, the more I liked it, and about 30 minutes after closing time (oops), I left the store with it -- not paid, but on loan so I could show it to Bob and see what he thought of it. I played it some more when I got home, then some more this morning, and something clicked -- for $475, how could I *not* buy this one? So I took Stephen with me back to the store and paid for it, along with some fine tuners for the G, D, and A strings (I don't know why all violins don't have them -- they're so much easier than fussing with the pegs) and a cheap case for my old instrument.

(I asked about why the new violin was $475 instead of much, much more (which it should have been, judging by its sound), and apparently it had just been sitting around the workshop for too long. There's some glue flakes on the sides where the top and bottom are joined to the sides, but that is a minor cosmetic thing, and not something I'm worried about. I'm still curious to see what Bob has to say about it, but I don't intend to tell him what it cost until he tells me what he thinks :)

Et voila, now I have a new violin. The difference in sound and playability is really striking. Everything I play sounds a million times better. The fingerboard is a standard length (instead of being too short) so I can now play higher notes with more confidence. It rings a lot more than the old one, sustaining my sound much more pleasingly, and the fingerboard is made of actual hardwoods, so I shouldn't have the problem the old one had developed (the place under the A string where the D is played has developed a pit underneath it, which makes the D come out really sour). I've spent rather a lot of time today playing it, and I am really in love with it! So although I am still sort of wondering how those Chinese violins sound, I'm pretty sure that unless they are 2-3x better than this one, I've made the right choice.

On the way home, Stephen and I stopped at the grocery store to get some potatoes to go with tonight's pork roast, and I got a bottle of orange seltzer for the ride home. Stephen asked for some, and made a face.

"I think this is holy water," says he.

"Oh?" says I, curious.

"It burns, it burns!" he says, with a big grin on his face.

My little atheist-in-training -- ha ha ha!
jan_andrea: (Default)
All music stuff, so I'll cut to save your friends' page )

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