Monday, 22 February 2010


The International Music Score Library Project is a most wonderful resource. It aims to be a comprehensive online library for out-of-copyright music.

Until recently, it had concentrated on getting as many public domain scores online as possible. But now it has also started putting orchestral parts online as well.

This has proved particularly useful for me this week. At Hillingdon Philharmonic, we were short of a horn for our concert this coming weekend. So I asked around friends, and fortunately a very fine horn player whom I've known for many years was available, and so I've asked her to play 3rd.

But she'll only be able to attend the final rehearsal on the day. So she asked if we can get the music to her so she can practice it ahead of time?

For two of the pieces we are playing in the concert, that's now extremely easy. I just gave her the links on IMSLP to Brahms' Academic Festival Overture and to Brahms 2nd Symphony. all she need do is download and print the appropriate part. For the symphony, somebody has even written out the horn parts in F! (Originally, the 1st & 2nd parts are in D, B natural basso and G, while the 3rd and 4th parts are in E and C).

That's two thirds of the problem solved. Then all we needed to do was get a copy of the part for Walton's The Wise Virgins scanned and emailed to her. All done within 24 hours of her agreeing to play!

I'm playing 1st for the symphony this weekend, and so I decided to take a look at the score to check out what else was going on around my solos that I ought to make myself aware of. IMSLP again - the score is available. And I found a couple of things that were useful. For instance, the famous solo for horn in H in the slow movement isn't actually quite solo - I'm doubled by the first bassoon. I never knew that. So I'll have to listen out for the bassoon and make sure we are in tune together.

In the first movement, in rehearsal I had been finding myself miscounting my entry 3 bars before K. So I took a look at the score. In my part, I have the timpani part cued for 5 bars before the horn entry. But a quick look at the score quickly revealed where I had been going wrong. The cue is correct, it is just a bit misleading. For the first 4 of those bars, the violins and cellos are still quite busy, and I wasn't hearing a quiet roll on the timps. It is just the final bar before the entry that is a timpani solo. So I'll get that right next time.

In the third movement, the opening allegretto grazioso passage has a barline pause about halfway through. The 1st horn is the only instrument articulating the last quaver before the pause. The oboes and clarinets are playing crotchets on the beat, while the horn is off the beat. So it's not a mistake that you're left on your own there. You just have to have the nerve to play it.

These are the sorts of things that easy access to score the can really help with. It only takes a few minutes to look this up - provided that the score is available. And it saves rehearsal time.

And more generally, it is quite an education to have a listen to a piece with the score in front of you - it opens your eyes to all sorts of clever effects that the composer has done which you don't notice merely from the sound - either from in the audience or from where I sit over on one side of the orchestra. If you want to be a musical musician, then taking a look at the score whenever you get the chance is very important. It allows you to compare the notes with the music - and see how other players have phrased and articulated passages.

No comments:

Post a Comment