Student Recital

My recorder teacher, John
had his annual student recital on Saturday.

This year, we played in a charming little auditorium in the
Morse School, one of the Cambridge public schools.


John teaches a wide range of students, from a doctor who’s
close to a complete beginner, to conservatory students who are
ready to give full-length concerts.

The usual arrangement for a student recital is to put the
less-experienced performers on first, on the grounds that they’re
more nervous, and also so as not to have a beginner playing right
after a virtuoso performance. That got modified a bit this time,
for two reasons:

  • All the students who were being accompanied by John’s wife,
    harpsichordist Miyuki Tsurutani, had to be programmed at the
    end, because she had prior commitments that meant she didn’t
    arrive until almost an hour into the program.
  • There were two composers, Loeillet and Marcello, who were
    represented by two sonatas, and John programmed them so that the
    sonatas would be adjacent to each other.

My performance

The result of that was actually quite favorable placement for
my piece. I was playing a Loeillet sonata with my sister, Judith Conrad, on harpsichord, and the other
person playing Loeillet has only been taking recorder lessons
for a year or so. (He’s been playing piano for years, so he
isn’t actually an inexperienced performer or musician, but he
hasn’t been playing recorder for long enough to be able to make
the amount of difference between an Allegro and an Adagio that a
better player can. Sonatas are really more interesting when the
fast movements are faster than the slow movements.) So I was the first of the more
experienced players to play, after the audience had heard almost
as much intermediate recorder playing as they wanted to.

I played well. I’ve been doing a lot of performing this year,
and it’s been good for getting consistent breath support. I
also finally figured out this spring how hands my size can hold
an alto recorder without having the wrists in a tortured, bent
position, so that makes it possible to have my fingers almost as
relaxed on a 415 alto as they are playing dance music on a
soprano. And I spent the spring doing articulation exercises
while I walked the dog, so I’m finally in a position to play the
fast movements faster than they used to be. And the space was
really very friendly to the alto recorder/harpsichord sound.

My sister, who is a professional keyboard player with a real
flair for continuo, also played well. Unfortunately, we had
only run the whole piece once, and it was before I figured out
how I wanted to play it. Of course someone who’s a professional
accompanist can adjust to an interpretation she’s never heard
pretty fast, but it probably wasn’t fast enough to really carry
off some of the false endings and free tempos I had planned.

So I told people I wished my sister and I had had more time to
rehearse before performing. John said he didn’t think it
mattered; that you could tell it was two intelligent musicians
doing really cool stuff, even if not quite the same cool stuff.
He did say how impressed he was with my poise.

The rest of the evening

The disadvantage of using this space is that the modest fee
John paid to rent it only covered three hours, including
harpsichord setup and takedown time. The penultimate group was three New
England Conservatory students, including Ching-Wei Lin, John’s
most advanced student, playing the Dieupart Cinquieme
Suite in F
. They had to cut it short, and play only the
first three movements. If you were considering this as a concert
that would have been the wrong place to make the cut. Of course,
considering it as a performing opportunity for people who don’t
always have as much chance to play for an audience as they should
for the amount of work they do, it was exactly the right thing to
cut, since they have all kinds of opportunities to perform.

But most of the players and their families could go over to
John and Miyuki’s house for a very good party, including jazz and
rock improvisations by the assembled.

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