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It’s that time of the year.  The orchestra’s season is over (and so are the paychecks).  I teach at the Max Aronoff Viola Institute, a string camp that takes place at the end of June each year in Kenmore, a suburb of Seattle/Bellevue.  I always seem to choose repertoire that demands a lot of practice to either learn in the first place, or just get back up to speed from the last performance.  It’s so difficult to commit to that work at this time of the year.  The weather is nice, there are lots of outdoor activities that beckon.  Energy and motivation are at a low ebb at the end of the season, and piling on a lot of new work doesn’t add to the fun.

This year I’m doing one new piece and two retreads.  The new piece is a doozy – Paganini’s La Campanella, arranged for viola and piano by William Primrose.  Here’s a video of it being performed by former Philadelphia Orchestra and Berlin Philharmonic violist Carrie Dennis (now principal viola of the LA Philharmonic):

It’s good to push my technique as I get older, otherwise ossification begins to set in…

The two retreads are no less demanding in their own way, but at least I’ve performed them in public before.

The first is a solo piece by Kryzstof Penderecki, his Cadenza for Solo Viola, which is essentially a distillation of his awesome Viola Concerto into its essential elements.  I love playing this piece – it’s very dramatic and emotional.

The final work is the Trio for Clarinet (or viola), Cello and Piano by Johannes Brahms.  It’s one of his greatest chamber works, written right before the two clarinet (or viola) sonatas at the end of his life.  It’s also a giant pain to play, since it wasn’t written with the viola in mind.  Therefore it climbs into the upper registers much more often than his usual viola parts.  It’s such glorious music, though, that it really isn’t worth complaining about without seeming petty.

Here’s a video of the sublime second movement, with viola in place of clarinet:

And if you’re interested in the fine violist in this video (Travis Maril), you can read more about him here.

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