Monday, May 16, 2011

Grand Polka de bataille: Four-orchestra version, PART THREE

During the day yesterday the four Ricciotti orchestras rehearsed their grand ensembles (the four historical Ricciottis plus the current one, intermingled) in the morning and played concerts all over Amsterdam in the afternoon. I decided to walk from the Hoogte Kadijk to the Westergasfabrik for the dinner and rehearsal of my piece in the evening. I expected it to take me 40 minutes, but it took almost an hour. No matter. It was a walk through some nice sights and I always need the exercise. I arrived at 6:15. Dinner was to be at 6:30, followed by rehearsal.

The concert began at 8:30. The four orchestras arrived in four different busses. Of course everyone had to eat. There were only two pieces to rehearse: mine and a quadraphonic version of De Gepikte Vogel of the late Jurriaan Andriessen (older brother of Louis). Since the Andriessen is perhaps the most-performed piece in the Riccotti repertory, and the majority of the players know it by memory, that part of the rehearsal was over in a flash.

Two of the orchestras were on the floor level, in the corners, to my left and my right. The other two were in the corners of a three-sided balcony directly above. Two layer cakes of orchestras, more or less side by side. The directionality of the composition would be vivid, I was certain. Since the first orchestra (Ricciotti players from the beginning, in the 1970s) had not played the piece, I rehearsed them very briefly. It’s just as well, because there were twice as many players in Orchestra One as there had been the day before, including Jan Erik van Regteren Altena, first violinist of the Mondriaan Quartet (his brother Edouard, the Mondriaan cellist, was playing in Orchestra Two) and many other excellent Dutch musicians. All of the percussion joined Orchestra One (as Gijs Kramers and I had agreed before); during the setup I ran through the non-percussion stuff. It was clear from the start that they could handle everything, and in five minutes that part of the work was done. I did a few spots with all of the orchestras, just to make sure the groups were comfortable and understood the basic idea of the piece, most notably that there are no rests. One measure of rest showed up shortly before the grand finale (when all four polka tunes are heard simultaneously).

We just had time to run the piece. The members of Orchestra Three began to count aloud, which was quite entertaining. The phantom measure of rest showed up again. When the time came for the actually performance, the phantom rest was still there. I think there is a mistake in the piece, although I don’t really know how that is possible. (Composers should always proofread their work…)

The Grand Polka de bataille is a wonderful musical joke, if I do say so myself. The audience loved hearing it, the players loved playing it. The conductor loved conducting it too, although after a while whoever conducts this piece has to forget about cueing and simply wave his/her arms.

There are some more things to be said about this piece, and this concert, but not today. My ride to Schiphol Airport is leaving in thirty minutes!

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