It’s the first rehearsal. I’m meeting with a violinist, a violist, and a cellist to rehearse Gabriel Fauré’s C minor Piano Quartet. Eventually, we finish our coffees, unpack our instruments, and the string players finally finish tuning their strings (can you tell I’m a pianist who waits patiently to begin?). With a big cue, we start playing.
So what’s next?
The rough draft
There’s a certain amount of excitement at the first rehearsal of any project, and we start by playing through the whole piece to air out the jitters. Maybe you misread someone’s body language. Maybe the group almost falls apart during that tricky rhythm passage. Things usually work themselves out, and we make it to the end of the piece.
We often have a limited amount of time (4 to 10 hours) to put a concert program together. Some verbal communication is necessary, but stuff that happens purely through the language of music is where the real magic lies.
Stuff we talk about
- Bowing: Which direction to move our bows, up or down?
- Phrasing: Structure of a melody
- Transitions: Parts where music shifts from one section to another;
quick changes in tempo or volume
- Other decisions, like when we are going to take a coffee break
Stuff we don’t talk about
Through years of training, we’ve learned to show and read musical intentions through our playing. The better you are at this, the fewer words you need to communicate your ideas clearly.
Often, we run into something like this.
Leana: Can we play that section together one more time?
Already knowing what the problem is, each person makes adjustments in their playing. However, everyone over-corrects the issue and the quartet comes to a halt.
Everyone bursts into laughter.
One more attempt!
Everyone makes the right amount of adjustment, and the problem is fixed.
Sometimes we do a quick tuning check, but often a raised eyebrow is all it takes to fix the issue. We also iron out complicated rhythmic sections slowly to get things properly lined up.
In an ideal working environment, the rehearsal process is stimulating and fun, and brings us more joy than just about anything!
Are you curious to find out the result of all of this? Come to a concert!