Saturday, December 31

HAPPY 2012! (A year in the blog)


A little over a year has gone by since this blog began: and a really exciting year it was! So many things have happened and so much has apparently changed.

  • I started, barely able to play the oboe without embarrassing myself.
         => Now, I have 11 recordings on You-Tube that show, I hope, some good progress.
  • I started this blog, without really thinking anyone would visit, it was supposed to be a self-motivating journal.

         => Now, 23 thousand visits from 78 countries!

         => and I have been added to several international double-reed Facebook groups.
  • I had actually left Facebook because my initial circle of friends published mostly rubbish.

         => Now, the groups I participate with have opened doors to friendships with real professionals all over the world; creating the most captivating conversations.
  • I had started with only 2 or 3 oboists as reference points for style and sound.
        => Now, the You-Tubes of dozens of old and new soloists and orchestral oboists - shared by hundreds of people on Facebook - have really opened my horizons.
        => Now, I had the pleasure of many fascinating discussions with almost every oboe maker (my heroes).

A wonderful blessing in 2011
I am only an amateur and my age and situation won't really allow me to do much in music. But all the exchange with fantastic people all over the world through Facebook, the blog and the BBoard make me feel as excited about music like if I were a student again. A huge thanks is in order to these places have been a huge source of people visiting my own blog.

  • Patti Emerson Mitchell and her blog Oboe Insight
  • Bret Pimentel and his blog on playing all woodwinds
  • Mark Charette and his Oboe BBoard
  • Frédéric Moisand, Ivan Di Bello, Ambrogio Gentili, Sergio Mannu, Nicola Leone and Reynato M. Resurreccion Jr. for their fantastic Facebook groups.
  • Michele Mancaniello for re-introducing me to Nino Rota.

Hopes for the coming 2012:
I don't know if I'm competent and capable enough to play on stage yet, but it is certain that this cannot happen without first meeting people to play with. So I hope I can meet up with local musicians of my calibre and aspirations.

As much as my musical progress is exhilarating, it cannot continue without a body that will cooperate and a home that will encourage a diversity of life activity ... sitting in front of the T.V. and Facebook all night, every evening doesn't help.

Finally, I mentioned a few times my gratitude to my professional employment; I think I did well this year, as an engineer, and I need to continue to be useful and productive, exploring new opportunities so it can continue to support and encourage all the other aspects of my life... for example going places to try different oboe makers.

My New-Year Wishes to All:

Time and the resolve to use it wisely and fully.
Optimism, faith and the resolve to be part of the solution, not the problem in all things.

May the year 2012 see you all safe, healthy, happy and strong all the way to the year 2013!

Tuesday, December 27

Kaczynski and Nino Rota Duet for 2 oboes (3/3)… but 2nd recording made…

Nino Rota : Vecchio Carillon: old music box
I wanted this recording out for Christmas, but at 30 minutes a day, it was just not possible. In fact, I did the 3rd duet before the 2nd because the rhythm in both cases is just plain murder, and the 2nd is the hardest! The oboe 1 and oboe 2 parts are easy enough, each by itself…. but putting them both together might just be the most difficult things I have ever played! I guess this is where it becomes really obvious that, if I was ever professional grade, I certainly am not anymore!

blue_1whiteBandMultitrack Recording to correct rhythm trouble

For the past month, my 30 minutes a day consisted of long-tones to beef-up breathing and embouchure, then going straight to the recording device! Practicing these tunes with a metronome is just plain useless because it’s really hard to tell if I’m with the beat or not until I put the 2nd part on top of the 1st. With multitrack recording, I record the 1st part and play it (hear it) in my ear-buds while recording the 2nd part. My recording device has a metronome that I can hear in the ear buds while recording (the tac-tac-tac does not get recorded), but it still takes the 2 parts together to tell what part is going wrong and how. In fact, it took many, many, many sessions of listening to both parts through the speakers to really settle things down.

No friend, no cues…

I don’t know, but it is possible that recording myself playing with myself made things harder. I remember from my days of chamber music that my fellow players and I would look at each other a lot. We would feel each other’s breathing while giving and taking cues either explicitly or through body language. This allowed us to deviate from the beat quite a lot, but still manage to play in proper synchronization together. I don’t know if playing the Nino Rota duets with another living  person of similar calibre would really make it easier or not… I hope I get to try sometime soon.

Czeslaw Kaczynski and Nino Rota : undervalued treasures!

As is likely the case for most Canadians and Americans – maybe even Europeans – my knowledge of Nino Rota was mostly limited to the movie music of the Godfather, Romeo and Juliet and so on. It was my piano teacher from the Conservatoire de Montréal, Czeslaw Kaczynski, who set me straight. Just before he left for a retirement in Rome, he blessed me with a private performance in his own home of Rota music for piano. That’s where I discovered that Nino Rota makes true “pure” music that needs no movies at all to touch the depths of artistry: there is now a You-Tube channel dedicated to the non-movie music of Rota.

Maestro Kaczynski is a Polish pianist who became director of the Conservatoire de Trois-Rivières and then took a semi-retirement, teaching piano 2nd instrument at Conservatoire de Montréal: I had the tremendous privilege to be his student. Strangely, he was not very well appreciated as a musician or as a teacher… this, I really cannot understand because I heard him play recitals of Chopin and Szymanowski with such soulful musicality and passion that NO OTHER RECORDING from any of the world masters has ever approached… many attendants of those recitals, regular patrons of the arts, agreed on that! One of these was among the first recitals played on the famous Bosendorfer piano of the Chapelle historique du bon Pasteur (Montréal).

I was blessed with many excellent music teachers, but Maestro Kaczynski was certainly the one who most strongly awakened the aesthetic artistry when playing music. I can go on for many blog posts telling of his genius as a teacher as well as a musician. I only hope his retirement in Rome paid proper tribute.

Saturday, December 3

Nino Rota Duet for 2 oboes (1/3)

Party smile 20 000 visits to the blog! Hot smile

Last week marked well over twenty thousand visits to this blog, from 78 countries – in less than a year!
I am really thrilled at this, and I still find it extraordinary to see Google searches that point specifically to my posts!
Thank you so much to all visitors!


Nino Rota: much more than movie music!

Tre pezzi per due oboi (1/3) : Vecchia Romanza
A few months ago, Michele sent me sheets for a rare duet for 2 oboes by Nino Rota. I say “rare” because I had never heard of Rota writing chamber music, but perhaps Italians play this all the time? At any rate, I take it as an honour to perform these and play both oboe parts using the multi-track recording system on my recording device.

This is a set of 3 duets written specifically for 2 oboes, and I actually wanted to wait to record all three at the same time, but I have to celebrate 20000 visits! The duets are not difficult BUT the first oboe requires good control of the altissimo register (3rd octave key) and the 2nd and 3rd movements are really tricky in term of rhythmic ensemble. I need more time to get it right. This is not the first time I am pleasantly surprised with Rota, but I’ll mention that with the next recording. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy!

Facebook International Oboe Groups – Michele Mancaniello

red2greenThe groups on Facebook that join oboists and bassoonists from all over the world are simply fantastic. Apart from sharing videos, news, performance information, and many, many questions, the international exposure really expands our horizons.

A few participants have distinguished themselves as particularly generous with their expertise,  and resources. One such notable participant is Michele Mancaniello, a professor of music in Montemilone, Italy. Whenever anyone in the world is looking for music sheets of known or obscure pieces, Michele is quick to reply in the wonderful group Oboe in the World. Michele studied music and composition with Nino Rota before completing his formal training as a composer and oboist in Italy. Michele has amassed a considerable library of solo pieces and study repertoire for oboe and is fully eager to share (as permitted by law) with anyone who asks, anywhere in the world. He very humble and friendly: he is Italian, but I would like to see more people like him in Canada too!

 Romantic dog…

This one is called “Vecchia Romanza”, an “old romance”. As I practice it, the music seems to tell me what it wants…. and I don’t hear much romance there… UNLESS I don’t interpret it as “old tune of romance” but rather “old people feeling romantic”. As I get older too, everything in the tune makes sense: it’s not just about hormones, but they are there – it’s not just about passionate feelings, but they are there – and it’s just as much about the memory of romance as it is about feelings today.

This recording was not intended to be the one for You-Tube: it was a warm-up rehearsal and has notes out of tune and errors in rhythm. But if you listen closely, on the last note you will hear a faint howl: that’s my Chihuahua/Maltese dog Popcorn (on the left in picture below), lying on his side and singing with me! Dog face When that happened and I heard it on the recording, I HAD to keep it! Laughing out loudNyah-Nyah

tricorns_winterReturnWinter reeds…

In a previous post (click here Pointing up), I had given 2 pictures of many reeds and said I would comment on them. The picture above is the one I used for this recording.

Winter is only beginning to show up here: the worst will come in 2 months. But the effects on reeds is already starting to show: it was worse last week, but they are closing and the crow is much too smooth for my own liking. The reed I use here is shaped on an RDG –1 shaper (using my own gouge at ±0.60mm) and bound on a Stevens #3 thin-wall staple (46.5mm). The staple is very similar to Chiarugi 2+ and I find it really opens-up the expressiveness of the shape. I find (my experience – may be different for others) the RDG shapes can play with a really mellow tone, but the upper register gets much clearer: that is, the sound in the registers change a lot regardless of how the reed is scraped.

The ragged tip you see in the picture actually comes from using an old grenadilla plaque (bellied) which is worn-out: when scraping, the cane is not evenly supported and nicks happen that way. It plays really well nonetheless, only slightly resistant, but I don’t want to make it easier and loose the sound colour.