24 05 2008

We worked on the first few bars of Edward Elgar’s Nimrod from the Enigma Variations this morning with the quartet (which has morphed from “string quartet” to “string ensemble”). I admit to being a bit apprehensive at first:  E-flat major is not a key we’re known for playing in , and our intonation tends to be a bit shaky in unfamiliar keys (it’s shaky in familiar keys too…just a little less so) – and we’ve always had problems with slow-bowing and dynamics.

But it worked remarkably well – so well, in fact, that everyone agreed it was lovely music. Naturally, we opted to ignore bowings and dynamics (for now) and just concentrate on getting the notes right, but the result was undeniably Nimrod.

Funny music, Nimrod is; it’s the kind of tune that makes no sense at all unless you’re in the First Violins (or you play the flute) – the musicians in the inner voices just sort of play the notes they see at the right moment while they count under their breaths – but it suddenly becomes crystal clear when they all come together and there’s this collective light-bulb moment when everyone’s eyes just light up and their faces take on an expression of “Now I get it!”

True, we’ve only played the first seven bars and there are some real challenges awaiting us not far ahead, but I definitely look forward to how our performance of this piece is going to evolve during the course of the year. I better keep the Kleenex handy.




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