Composer Michael Zev Gordon has allowed readers to follow every step of the compositional journey leading to the BBC Symphony Orchestra's world premiere of his orchestral work, 'Bohortha'. Michael signs off his series of blogs now with a searingly honest and exceptionally revealing 'before' and 'after' view of the premiere...
Bohortha in rehearsal
It’s been a long time coming. I’m just out of rehearsal with the BBC Symphony Orchestra and conductor Jukka-Pekka Saraste. I finished Bohortha back at the end of March, because teaching duties called, and also because I knew that the preparation of parts would take much longer than predicted – and I didn’t, for once, want to be rushing.
And suddenly, it is the sand speeding up as it runs out of the hour-glass, or as it appears to – and finally, after all this time of composing and preparation, I am at the point of meeting those who will bring it out into the light of day; and finally at the point of finding out if what I hear really matches up to what I imagined.
Discussions with musicians are always pragmatic in part: do the page turns work, is there a sharp missing in the horn part, does the pause need to be a bit longer to allow the flautist to change to the alto flute? But I actually greatly enjoy this side of it: the things that must be done as a professional to make the making of music work!
And there are further basic practical things to consider: can you hear the bassoon solo at this point, does the celeste colour the strings in the right way, does the percussion cut through precisely as it should, or ought the dynamic be changed to make it more effective?
There are always things to hone further: turns of phrase that don’t make the impact you hope they will; pacing that seems too pacey or too slack; a climax point that seems to underwhelm. And as I reflect now – and will continue to – there are places in Bohortha that could be altered.
But what came through today with force – unexpected force I have to say – was the sheer sound of the orchestra: the marvellous thing of 100 or so musicians playing together. My work resonated, it ‘spoke’, the big picture was clear – well at least for me.
And it felt a privilege to have conductor and orchestra putting their energy, intellectual, emotional and physical into my piece. I slaved for many months at the piano, at the desk – alone. Finally, there they were: those that complete the music, those that breathe life into it.
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