Want to know what life is like as an ANAM musician? In Between the Lines is a blog post written by one of ANAM’s first year students.
The recital. The big event of the ANAM year for each and every student. Each student is required to present a 50min public recital which makes up part of the ongoing measure of progress. We have free reign over the programme – it is completely free choice. At university, one usually tries to pick a programme that best demonstrates capacity to cross a range of styles and technical demands. While that is nice and all, we are at liberty to pick a programme here that may have thematic links, may include ensemble pieces, and/or just be stuff that we’d like to play. Such freedom! (With great freedom comes great difficulty in decision-making.) The recital is presented to the public (so it means the usual enthusiastic crowd, and as many friends and family you can muster together) and there is a panel consisting of your teacher (or other instrument specialist) and another who sits on all the recitals for this year (this year it is the flute teacher). We don’t receive grades or numbers as such, but we do get comments, and a indication along a scale from Not Satisfactory – Exceptional. It is nice in many ways to not have any grades, as we are not studying for any degrees or qualifications, but instead are setting particular goals about artistic achievements and are refining our craft by doing and getting practice at doing.
So even though I had this amazing breadth of choice about what I wanted to play, I somehow ended up with a full 50min recital of solo repertoire. Don’t ask me how it happened – it just kinda did and look, I found myself with no ensembles in my recital! I suppose that meant that I could prepare at exactly my own pace. The programme was as such:
Bach: Four Duets BWV 802-805
Beethoven: Piano Sonata No. 17 in d minor Op. 31 No. 2 ‘Tempest’
Rachmaninoff: Variations on a Theme of Corelli
I only realised much later after I had decided on my programme that the key structure was quite extraordinary and the progression of pieces was really organic. The four duets progress as such: E minor, F Major, G Major, A minor. The Beethoven is in D minor, but opens with an A Major chord in 1st inversion. The piece ends quietly with a D minor arpeggio downwards. The Rachmaninoff opens with the La Folia theme in a plaintive way in D minor. It was extraordinary and totally unplanned!
I had done several runs of my programme for various very kind and willing friends. However much one prepares for things like this, I think I am still at that point where there are still some things that you can never anticipate, or plan for, or that you will react in very different ways than anticipated, or that you might never feel 100% ready. My mum had flown in that weekend just to see my recital (and okay, I suppose, hang out a bit with me, which we did) and several friends had told me that they would be coming to my recital. I supposed that I had better practice if all these people were coming to see me play!
One of the biggest things I had anticipated but didn’t realise the extent was just how exhausting it would be to play an hour’s worth of recital. I knew it was tiring – it is a big programme and it is all very intense music requiring much concentration, particularly if some of it was from memory! Adrenalin obviously kicks in, but one usually can’t practice the adrenalin, only ever anticipate the theoretical effects or remember the experience of what it feels like. Through the recital, there were times where it felt like I could conquer the world (okay, not really. Maybe just the music and the hall) – what energy! And that people were sitting anticipatedly in silence to hear ME play….crazy!! Straight afterwards, as I was pushed out onto the stage to take a couple more bows, and through the lovely big hugs from friends, I found it difficult to stand upright on my two feet, let alone smile, due to utter exhaustion. So much adrenalin pumping through!
Upon receiving my feedback, the comments were fair and very complimentary. I took the rest of that day off (rebellious!! The rest of the afternoon AND the night!!! AND I only went in for 10am the next day..!!!) and enjoyed hanging out with mum, a family friend, and some cousins.
So all sarcasm about taking a ‘holiday’ straight after my recital aside, there was actually still much to prepare for. I was playing in a friend’s recital two days after mine – Beethoven’s first violin sonata. This is a piece we had worked together on earlier in the year, and thankfully I had played it about a month before the recital (albeit with a different violinist). It was lovely to re-visit a piece we had worked on a while ago, when we were both still pretty fresh. It was so obvious that we had grown so much in five months. Also it is a piece that I only started studying this year, so it technically bears only ideas from this year, which I felt have changed greatly (in a positive way, to do with technique, ways of thinking about music) in the course of studying at the Academy.