gaining momentum

I just passed my 72nd day of my physical therapy regimen, and my stamina on the instrument is increasing. I’m playing the first half of this week’s Mahler concert, and hope to be back full time the following week. It finally feels like I can safely look forward to what the rest of the season will bring, and what projects I might pursue on my own as well.

I’m in the process of looking at repertoire for a recital in the spring – I’m not sure when it will happen, it may end up being in June instead, but it’s good to have a goal to push one’s self to work toward. I’m looking at some old friends: Hindemith, Brahms, and Clarke. Some younger friends, too: Penderecki, Rochberg, Ott, Chang, Higdon, and Tower. And some more recent acquaintances that I need to learn and make friends with: Muhly, Ran, Nichols, Bunch, Watras, Garrop, and Gibson, among many, many others. It may be that this is the foundation for a yearly recital journey – who knows?

If you’re a composer who has written a piece for solo viola or for viola and piano, or viola, voice, and piano, please drop me a line (via the ‘contact me’ menu tab above) and alert me to your website and/or examples of your work, I’d love to see and hear it!

I’m back! (sort of)

Yesterday was the first day I got back on the bike (off of the indoor trainer), and it was a glorious day! This is looking west from the Springwater Corridor along the Willamette River.

If all goes as planned, this is my final weekend of convalescence. I’m up to 90 minutes of playing a day now, and well on my way to more than that. My progress over the past week, especially, has verged on the exponential, which is heartening!

Next week, I’ll be playing the first half of the Classical 4 program, which will mean for me that I play two pieces by Lili Boulanger. The Mendelssohn First Piano Concerto (with the fabulous Stephen Hough) is reduced down to six players, and since I’ll be sitting DFL for this concert (orch-dork speak for “Dead F-ing Last”), I’m done for the night. It will be an easy way to come back to work, evaluate the stress level on my body, and then see how I will structure the rest of my return to full-time status.

The next ‘big’ program is Classical 5, which mostly consists of the massive Symphony No. 6 by Gustav Mahler. I’ll need to be careful approaching that week, and be realistic about my energy reserves and the amount of stress I can put on my recovering shoulder muscles. The orchestra is being great about allowing me to come back on my own terms, and would rather I come back slowly than try to come back too fast and miss much more time – which is my sentiment exactly.

It has been such a strange journey these past few months. Normally I get to the end of the summer break and am raring to go into the new season. In this case, I lost nearly three months, and my need for structured time has become only more acute. To say that I’m beyond ready (mentally) to come back is the understatement of the year!

Needless to say, I’ll blog my experience of coming back to work, and hopefully it might help those who suffer similar experiences to have something to compare their experiences to.

mahler symphony, or a C major scale?

My practice materials lately.

Yesterday marked the first day that I was able to play anything on my viola for a period of time measurable in minutes rather than seconds. It was both a relief and a stark reminder of how far I have to go. There will be questions of how my instrument is set up to deal with, both in terms of the chin rest and the shoulder pad. I may have to go higher with the chin rest, and lower with the shoulder pad, to relieve pressure on the clavicle, but I may adjust – the left clavicle is a bit higher than it used to be, and that will take some adjusting to. Overall, it is good progress, which I will be steadily building on. I remarked to my wife after I was done that it felt like playing an entire Mahler symphony, not a simple three-octave scale! I am truly missing being at work with all of my colleagues, and also want to get out on my bike again before the weather really turns to the rainy season. These are two powerful motivators, as is my diminishing sick leave balance!