\"\"
Piano Forum logo

Performing with an orchestra (first time) (Read 413 times)

Offline obtuserecluse

  • PS Silver Member
  • Jr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 33
Performing with an orchestra (first time)
« on: May 28, 2021, 07:54:48 AM »
Hello, pianostreeters! Recently, a friend of mine that's working on his bachelor licentatie conducting exam asked me to play Beethoven's Choral Fantasy Op.80. I haven't played with an orchestra before, so I'd like to know what are your advices for a situation like this, for performing with an orchestra in general and, why not, performing this piece specifically.

Piano Street's Digital Sheet Music Library

Beethoven: Choral Fantasy, opus 80
piano sheet music of Choral Fantasy


Offline timothy42b

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 3305
Re: Performing with an orchestra (first time)
«Reply #1 on: May 28, 2021, 12:36:01 PM »
I have played in orchestras that accompanied a soloist, sometimes a pianist.

They will attempt to follow you, but don't make it harder than necessary.  Other soloists are able to mesh with the group and adhere somewhat to the tempos and pulse everybody is following, putting their own interpretation on but within the overall context, but pianists traditionally struggle with ensemble playing.  Always struggle, in my experience, but then that experience is very limited.  You may be the exception.

But sometimes we instrumentalists feel like saying, "for the love of God, buy a metronome!!"  And practice with it occasionally, so you understand that external time is important too.  Remember some of us have to count 128 measures of rest and then come in precisely on time, and it is helpful if at least some of those measures had four beats we could recognize. 
Tim

Offline obtuserecluse

  • PS Silver Member
  • Jr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 33
Re: Performing with an orchestra (first time)
«Reply #2 on: May 28, 2021, 01:09:35 PM »
I heard pianists like Argerich, HJ Lim, Horowitz are/were difficult to follow because of the extreme tempos and their unpredictible (is that a world?) tempo changes, rubati, etc.
That's definitely not the case for me, fortunately. :))
Regarding the metronome, I have an older, wooden one, but haven't used it since 2015... :/ I'll go to that and see how it goes.
Thank you for your advice, especially being an orchestra instrumentalist. Couldn't have guessed I'll get advice from that perspective here.

Offline visitor

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 5180
Re: Performing with an orchestra (first time)
«Reply #3 on: May 28, 2021, 03:30:30 PM »
I'll try to do a bullet points most important I found that helped me with my first piano +conductor + ensemble

 Be ready sooner than the timeline you think you need or that is given to you by the conductor for rehearsal
  - ie 8 weeks before first rehearsal you should know your part and have studied /know the conductor score /reduction too down cold
You cannot rehearse too much with piano ii accompanist if you didn't plan on one ,hire one to learn the pii reduction
Plan to get a minimum of two public /practice performances in (ie true performance conditions w audience etc , it will be ideal if those are also around same time of day or evening as the final performance concert )
Record your self frequently
Numbers your score measures and have memory down so we'll you can jump to measure number on request

Be able to jump forward as necessary so if you get off you can immediately find where group will be and reconnect in real time w group in performance

Be able to understand basic harmony through out and be able to improv or adapt to play within in the event of a memory laps or other bauble by you or group

Have fun /enjoy it ,it's a great experience and worth the effort and you'll grow significantly as a musician having done it


Offline obtuserecluse

  • PS Silver Member
  • Jr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 33
Re: Performing with an orchestra (first time)
«Reply #4 on: May 28, 2021, 07:26:39 PM »
Heh, my improvisational skills are... sacrilegious.  ::) The problem's I'm so anxious that I can't form a coherent... something in real time.
But I plan on learning the piece from tomorrow and the first rehearsals should be, approximately, in March next year. So I'll give myself no opportunity to have lapses (in theory, because in performance, everything happens  :P).   

Offline lelle

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 1103
Re: Performing with an orchestra (first time)
«Reply #5 on: May 28, 2021, 10:06:08 PM »
I think the tips already given are good. Since the conductor is your friend, see if you can get some time to just with him to go through how working together with a conductor as a soloist actually works a while before the actual rehearsals. That saves you from having to communicate about how to communicate with each other at the actual rehearsals and can help you feel more at ease with the situation.

Offline timothy42b

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 3305
Re: Performing with an orchestra (first time)
«Reply #6 on: May 29, 2021, 03:18:38 PM »
Numbers your score measures and have memory down so we'll you can jump to measure number on request

I should have mentioned that.  In rehearsal settings you will not play from top to bottom, you will hear "start at measure 109" frequently.  It's nice when these are even eight bar phrases but don't count on it.  So make sure your part is marked, correctly, including any cuts or changes to repeats. 

Second, I mentioned I often end up counting long stretches of rests before an entrance.  Well, so do you.  So you also have to have a few waypoints - okay, I lost track, but the oboe comes in at measure 84, now I know where I am.  Ideally you know the piece well enough to know when to come in even if you lost the count somewhere. 
Tim

Offline obtuserecluse

  • PS Silver Member
  • Jr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 33
Re: Performing with an orchestra (first time)
«Reply #7 on: May 29, 2021, 05:02:15 PM »
Lots of things to take into consideration, but still exciting. There are not that many occasions to play with an orchestra in this baby of a country (unless you are a 7 years-old prodigy or a concert pianist- then you have all orchestras aggresively courting you). :P
Thank you for all this invaluable advice.

Offline Bob

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 16121
Re: Performing with an orchestra (first time)
«Reply #8 on: May 29, 2021, 05:36:39 PM »
Just random comments.  I don't know the piece.  It looks like piano concerto though.  If it was a concerto, you're the soloist, so you get to make interpretive decisions, along with the conductor.

Ditto on being prepped ahead of time.  The rehearsals are for everyone to make things click together.  You might not be concentrating on what you normally think about during the rehearsal.  I suppose brace yourself for having 50+ people sitting around while you play during a rehearsal.  It's "just" a rehearsal but it's more like deciding and lining things up as an ensemble for a performance, so a performance-rehearsal.  It's also very possible anything that's a long solo for you is just left out for time.  You can play that section, so everyone else doesn't need to sit and wait for you to play through it, burning through the ensemble rehearsal time.  They can focus on the things that require the full ensemble.  Potentially other people, like the more solo vocalists, might not even be there until the last rehearsal or the day of. 

Playing in an ensemble with a different instrument can help.  Conducting can help.  Being able to pick up a beat from someone and hand a beat off to someone helps.

If you're watching the conductor, go be sight, not by sound.  Everything's done by sight since the sound can take a fraction of a second to travel.  Don't wait for the sound.  Although if you're right to the conductor it doesn't matter.  You might hear other people being slightly off which is really distracting.  When in doubt, follow the conductor.  Although if you're the soloist, everyone would follow you.

Ditto on playing with a steady beat.  Even if it's not the style, still practice it with the beat emphasized, so you can do that if needed.  Tap your foot, nod your head.  Make sure someone else can visually determine exactly where the beats are from you while you play.  Essentially conducting at the piano.  If you need others to come in with you at the same time, give an upbeat/breath with your head to cue them.  Be ready to just play like a metronome if you have to.

Study the other parts so it's less distracting.  If you have stretches with rests, practice mentally singing/hearing another part to guide you through the rest so you know where to come in. 

The conductor will be aware pianists work alone and probably don't have every measure number memorized.  They might have you start or have the group start and then you join in.  It's a pain but communication has to be clear for exactly where everyone is supposed to start.  ex. "Five measures before X."

You can make your own "click track" style recordings.  Record yourself on piano.  Then listen to that and record another part (so you learn another part that way a bit).  Then play the piano part again with the recording of the other part going.  You'll see how it is to line things up.  You could also record a conductor "click track" and just tap out the beats, sort of like a conductor.  You don't need anyone else for practice like that.  It's not the same as working with people though.  You're always forced to adjust to the recording.

It looks like you will be following the conductor for some places.  Make sure you can see them.  Go by sight for when you play.  It can also help if you don't have to look at the keys at all in some places so you can watch the conductor (but watch without looking like a machine doing a performance watching the conductor).

It looks like the conductor might not even be able to see all the vocalists.  I'm not sure if the conductor would be watching them a bit or they would turn and watch the conductor a bit.   

When in doubt, keep the beat steady and adjust.  Watch the conductor (unless the conductor is watching you if it's more of a soloist seciton).   Everyone else would be doing the same.  Then you "just" line the beats up together. 
Favorite new teacher quote -- "You found the only possible wrong answer."

Offline timothy42b

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 3305
Re: Performing with an orchestra (first time)
«Reply #9 on: May 29, 2021, 07:28:42 PM »
If you're watching the conductor, go be sight, not by sound.  Everything's done by sight since the sound can take a fraction of a second to travel.
 
It looks like you will be following the conductor for some places.  Make sure you can see them.  Go by sight for when you play.  It can also help if you don't have to look at the keys at all in some places so you can watch the conductor (but watch without looking like a machine doing a performance watching the conductor).

 

When in doubt, keep the beat steady and adjust.  Watch the conductor (unless the conductor is watching you if it's more of a soloist seciton).   Everyone else would be doing the same.  Then you "just" line the beats up together.

There's a nuance here that may or may not affect you.  Ictus is not beat.

If you look at a conducting text they will show you a pattern.  For 4/4 beat one is straight down,beat two is up and left, beat three higher and right, beat four swoopint up, and repeat. 

That's exactly how it works when I conduct.  Beat one is precisely at the lowest point of my stroke, no higher, no lower.  But my background is wind ensemble and i run a handbell choir. 

However orchestral and choral conductors tend to not do it that way.  They do the same downstroke I do but the precise instant of beat one is later than the ictus, it's on the way up.  I've had it explained why, and I understand it is deliberate, but I have to be careful not to be early with a different group.  Occasionally I run into an LUFU conductor, and then I just listen to the group. 
Tim

Offline obtuserecluse

  • PS Silver Member
  • Jr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 33
Re: Performing with an orchestra (first time)
«Reply #10 on: May 31, 2021, 01:40:46 PM »
Thank you truly, Bob! I will keep in mind as many of those points as I possibly can.
Anyways, here are some points I ommited and may or may be not of importance.
1. The conductor's also a pianist and has the piano part at his fingertips. He could indicate the passage by playing if I really don't recall the measure number.
2. We will see each other in private in advance to practice tempos, phrasing, etc. It's his final exam and he needs to shine, so I'll follow his vision.
3. He isn't really experienced as a conductor (our conservatory mostly focuses on 'conducting' taped music) so it may be a double-struggle.
I'll post updates and short descriptions of challanges from rehearsals.  :)


Offline timothy42b

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 3305
Re: Performing with an orchestra (first time)
«Reply #11 on: June 01, 2021, 12:50:24 PM »

1. The conductor's also a pianist and has the piano part at his fingertips. He could indicate the passage by playing if I really don't recall the measure number.

That may work, but you should still have your part marked.

Typically what happens in rehearsal is a conductor wants to fix a small problem, a few bars and often limited to one section - maybe the viola, or the horns.  So he'll start at measure 84, e.g., and have them play it multiple times while they get it right.  It might a wrong rhythm, bad intonation, or just interpretation. 

When that section is playing, the rest of us are NOT on break.  We're watching the same spot in our music, figuring out how our parts fit in.  And then after the horns have drilled that phrase for 20 minutes, he'll say "okay now with everybody" and we're all expected to be instantly ready. 

If that happens the soloist is also supposed to be watching and learning, so you should have your part marked and expect to be following along. 
Tim