LSO Masterclass - Cor Anglais

Uploaded by symphony on 18.10.2010

Pendrill: Welcome to the YouTube Cor Anglais Master Class.
I'm Christine Pendrill,
and I'm the Principal cor anglais player
in the London Symphony Orchestra.
Today I'm going to give you some advice
on preparing two orchestral solos
for an audition.
One is probably the most famous in the repertoire,
the Largo from Dvorak's New World Symphony,
and the other one is Berlioz' Roman Carnival Overture.
Before I begin, I'd like just to describe
the instrument to you.
There is some confusion about what a cor anglais is.
It's called different things in different languages.
In America, it's the English horn,
and in England, it's the cor anglais.
It's neither English nor a horn.
And there are lots of theories about how it got its name...
but I'm not here to tell you about those.
It's a member of the oboe family,
and it uses a double reed
which makes a little noise like this...
just the same as the oboe but larger.
[Dvorak's Symphony Number 9]
This solo is deceptively simple.
The notes themselves aren't difficult,
but one of the first things you should consider
is where you're going to breathe.
Having decided on your speed,
give yourself a couple of beats counting
and use the upbeat to take your in-breath.
It's a good idea to count this solo in four.
You might be tempted to subdivide it into eight
to get the semiquavers absolutely precise.
But that way, you're going to lose the line,
and it can get very chopped up and jumpy.
The other thing you should consider
before starting to play is the dynamic.
It's marked piano in the part,
but if you look a few bars into it,
you get a pianissimo.
So you want to start at a solo piano
that you can play quieter then when it gets to the pianissimo.
You need a tremendous range of dynamic in this solo
because two bars also after the pianissimo,
you go up to a forte on a top C.
This can be quite a challenge on the cor anglais
because it generally gets rather weedier as it gets higher.
A good tip is to keep your embouchure very relaxed
and really support the breath.
Remember, you're using a very small amount of breath
at a very high pressure.
If you use the analogy of singing,
you need to keep the reed open
so that it can vibrate.
You wouldn't go up to an opera singer
who was about to sing a top note
and squeeze them round the throat.
It's exactly the same thing.
The solo in Berlioz' Roman Carnival Overture
is a very vocal tune,
and this is because it derives from material
from Belioz's opera Benvenuto Cellini
in which it is a tenor aria.
Cellini is swearing undying love for Teresa
at the beginning,
so it's quite full-blooded and passionate.
Some bars into it, it becomes more thoughtful
where he's asking her if, when he's far away from her,
the hope for his love is gonna die in his heart.
[Berlioz's Roman Carnival Overture]
This solo starts mezzo forte,
so don't be afraid to start it quite confidently.
It's not the beginning of the overture.
If you don't know the piece,
it starts with a very, very lively and vigorous opening
followed by a horn note
which dies away into a clarinet note...
and then you start.
It's a slightly unusual first bar
because although the piece is in 3/4,
there is a danger of making it sound
as if it's in 4/4
by playing as it's written two groups of two.
You want to try and avoid that.
Really be clear that it's in 3
so that you end up-- he's singing, Oh, Teresa,
which may help you.
Sorry about the singing.
Having negotiated the first two bars,
you then have to slow down from a D to an F-sharp,
which can be quite awkward.
The first thing I would say
is make sure that your reed is free enough
to do it quite comfortably.
If you're still having trouble,
then it's probably fingers,
and you need to make sure
that you get your left hand index finger down really early.
You can put it down while you're still playing the D,
which will help.
If in doubt, a useful way to practice it
is to exaggerate the fault and put it down really late
so that you definitely don't get an F-sharp
and then put it down really early, like this.
This is late...
[playing late note]
Or early...
[playing early note]
I'll leave you to work out which is the most successful.
Although the phrase of this solo is very long,
it's broken up into smaller sections
with quaver rests.
These are very useful for breathing.
Don't always feel that you need to breathe in on a rest.
They can also be very useful for breathing out.
A common fault that players find
is taking in too big a breath.
That way, you just end up like a balloon
with lots of useless air that you can't do anything with
except exhale, and that just wastes time.
As a general guide, for most solos
I don't take in a bigger breath
than I would for a normal sentence.
It's a question of using the air
at its most economical.
Once again, you use a very small amount of air
at a very high pressure.
Don't be tempted to over-blow.
You'll be surprised how little air you actually need.
In bar 27, you'll notice the scale up,
the semiquavers are not slurred.
Personally, I think they should be played quite legato
but just defined with the tongue.
So try and avoid any sense of staccato.
For example, I think that this is probably inappropriate.
[playing staccato]
Which is what it looks like.
If you imagine that you're going to slur the notes
but then just touch the reed with your tongue,
then you get a defined legato.
[playing legato]
Although the next bar isn't actually marked quieter,
it does come at the end of that diminuendo.
At this point, the singer in the opera
is singing in a more reflective mood.
So I think it's quite nice
just to play a little more quietly
and a little more thoughtfully.
In bar 32, don't be put off by the rhythm.
It looks a little bit fearsome on the page,
but in fact, it's quite straightforward.
You don't need to rush.
If you just imagine that they're semiquavers
and make the last one dotted,
they're really quite slow.
[playing bar 32 slowly]
Again, if you keep counting a slow three
and just make all of it fit in.
The solo has to be expressive and warm,
but it also has to be in time
because your accompaniment is pizzicato cellos
who are playing quavers or eighth notes
who are defining every beat for you.
You do not have space for maneuver.
Another note to look out for
is the upbeat to bar 34.
It's a semiquaver or 16th note.
It looks as if it's very short,
but in fact, if you think about it,
it's quite a long note.
If you're counting one and two
and three and--
then your semiquavers are going
one, two, three, four, one, two, three, da da.
So make it a very definite upbeat.
This is a marvelous bit.
Imagine you're an operatic tenor
and you're going sailing up to your top B.
On some instruments, the top B can be helped a lot
by putting down the C key or the C-sharp key
or a combination of right-hand fingers.
On a conservatoire instrument, you are at a disadvantage
because most fingers will turn your B into a C.
This is to be avoided at all costs.
But it's worth experimenting with your own instrument
to find something that may just make it
a bit of a stronger note.
It's the high spot of the phrase,
it's marked sforzando,
and so you want to give it its best shot.
Having negotiated your sforzando
and your wonderful top B,
it's tempting, then, to take a breath.
In fact, it's quite a sensible place to take a breath
for practical purposes.
But musically, I think it's much better
if you can avoid it.
It breaks the phrase up too much.
It's much more difficult if you don't breathe there
because your embouchure
is in the right place for the top note,
but it's not comfortable as you come down the scale
to the bottom of it.
But it's worth practicing, I promise you.
I'll demonstrate this passage with a breath
and then without,
and you can decide for yourselves.
[playing bar 34 with breath]
And now without the breath.
[playing bar 34 without breath]
One point that I feel is worth mentioning
is to look after the ends of the notes
as well as the beginning.
Most people concentrate on how to start the note
and are just relieved if it comes out.
Also think about how you're gonna finish it.
It would be a shame, for example,
with the first phrase to go...
[playing scale that cuts short]
It stops being music.
Let the note die away naturally.
[playing full scale]
And I'm sure you'll agree that's a bit nicer.
Also think about how you're going to use vibrato.
This is, as I've said before, a very vocal solo.
It needs warmth and nourishment in the sound,
and just a little bit of vibrato just helps that.
It also helps you with the notes at the ends of phrases.
In bar 30, you have to slur from E to a C.
I find it's quite helpful
to leave the two fingers down in the right hand for the E
while I play the C.
Again, it helps the note,
which can be very weak on the instrument.
And it just warms it up a little bit.
It also means that you stay connected to the cor anglais
and are less likely to drop it.
[playing bar 30]
Having got the upbeat to bar 34,
a proper semiquaver,
it can be very tempting to rush off the quaver
at the beginning of the next bar.
This is the beginning of your dramatic moment,
so please play it in time.
I find it's very helpful
to think of two semiquavers on the quaver.
It stops racing up the scale, thus...
[playing slow scale]
rather than...
[playing fast scale]
It may help you even to practice it
by defining the notes.
[playing defined scale]
It's longer on the F-sharp than you think it might be.
Thank you for watching this master class.
I hope you found some of the ideas interesting
and will take part in this fantastic project.
Remember, the music is all about you.
It's about enjoying it and developing your own skills.
Have a great time, and good luck.