Developing presence, a comparison of two concerts
I watch a video from two concerts I did with the Grenager Solo Suite, the premiere of this commissioned work in Vår Frue, May 2012, and then in Kammersalen, April 2014. I analyse the two different approaches. The first concert is surprisingly positive. I have good balance, and a good feeling of swing. The body looks relaxed and as if the music is easy, I’m enjoying myself. The point of contact is there, activated in the body, but it is maybe not varied enough. I can see that I sometimes think a bit too much sideways with my bow, but without keeping the point of contact. It becomes mostly one type of contact and sound even though of course I use dynamics. This is an important thing to focus on in further work.
The notes from working with Stanislaw just before the concert shows that this is also the aspect we were working on:
15 May 2012: Working with Stanislaw on Prelude by Lene Grenager
Even when you want a quick movement of the bow, do not lose the point of contact in the body. Imagine the weight and the energy before you play. Practice being aware of the energy in tension and release for every phrase.
The arpeggio chords at the start: keep the lines and show every note in the chords going up and down. Every tone has its own expression, do not play monotonously. Again, the body is in charge of the contact between bow and body. The hands are not steering, focus on embodying. You turn off from time to time, watch out! And think delicate otherwise it is too coarse. Give your hands the best situation for achieving what you want. The inner activity of the body is always changing, it’s not constant. If you are not active enough, the arms take over. Concentrate and listen for the quality of the contact of the bow with the string, the music with the body. When there are big leaps, just feel this contact, do not be afraid. Build the timing, let the energy build until it feels like the right moment for playing, for releasing tension. If you feel a stronger contact in your body it will be easier, and remember it has a delicate quality.
Wait for the feeling in the body, do not play before it. And let the energy of the music build up before the tone before you release at the right moment. Wait for the body to be present, and the tension build up. Tempo, phrasing and energy decide over the rhythm. This creates a better timing. The body and the hands must cooperate giving the hands the best possible situation. The hands are easily activated too much, then the body isn’t strong enough, the arms should be relaxed and soft. Let the body take responsibility.
Then it is interesting to see this performance against the one in 2014.
21 April 2014:
Solo concert in Kammersalen, Olavskvartalet, Trondheim. Works by Lene Grenager, Ellen Lindquist, Trygve Brøske og Lera Auerbach.
I think I was a bit hung-up in trying to prove the rhetoric possibilities of the music, this being my first concert as a research fellow. In the video I see clearly how my whole body is more tense, I do not have a good contact with the string – it is often more forced sound than open and free sound (the sound quality of the videos are not good, so it is unfair to judge by that, but still I see the tendencies). Tensing up and letting the arms take control of the playing also affects the intonation. In tremolo I end up «on top of the string», without a good contact with the core of the tone. In the 2012 concert I am better centered, in 2014 I start fighting with the instrument to get through and muscles take over steering the performance. I remember my arms were hurting and very tired at the end.
In 2014 I think I should have dared to trust Stanislaw’s focus more. One of my supervisors, Carl Haakon Waadeland, said he understood what I meant by rhetoric interpretation, or music as language, after having heard the concert, so at least I got that through after all. He did not agree that it was an unsuccessful concert, but I know I could have played so much better if I had focused more on the balance, centering and contact.
This concert, and analyzing the differences, made me realize how free I can be when trusting this «new-way» of focusing, and I see very clearly the limitations I give myself when not using it.
(In the video of the recording sessions of the same work in 2015, I have come a long way further, and there I am also varying the point of contact more)