I’ve written about music as essentially collaborative rather than competitive before (and I know I should put a link here but, er, nah, no one ever follows them anyway … ), but a rather specific instance is in front of me now.
I don’t think of myself chiefly as a soloist (especially not in the sense of unaccompanied string player – I feel decidedly overexposed playing by myself in front of an audience and much prefer interaction, tending to see pianists as partners rather than accompanists when playing duo pieces with them) but rather as a group member. However, if there’s a wide-scope opportunity repeatedly coming under my nose for which I can reasonably apply as myself as well as working on a band application, then it would be foolish to ignore the opening – in this case a management company apparently looking to massively increase the numbers of musicians and ensembles on their books.
Of course, it goes with being chiefly a group player that what I’m preparing for performance at any given time is likely to be group parts, be it chamber, gigging band or orchestral. If at any given point I am working on some ‘solo’ (with or without piano) violin or viola music it is probably mainly by way of keeping technique up (and hopefully going further upwards – double stops currently under the microscope!) between and around ensemble performances.
My impression is that most starting-out professionals, at least, maintain a core repertoire of potential audition or recital pieces, partly at least from habit while in conservatoire studies and perhaps because most high-level musical training in this country seems to be directed more towards solo performance than ensemble work. If asked to choose their own pieces for audition, therefore, they will simply pick from the current set and polish them a little with an accompanist (probably one they already know). I (a) don’t have any regular accompanists because I’ve been doing barely any duo work, certainly nothing regular, since I stopped living with my parents and (b) have to look at things I’ve learnt but not got to performance standard or merely know of and haven’t played at all and try to guess what level is right to pitch at for audition purposes if I think or know I’m going to have to do one. (Incidentally I hate them, so fear the prospect of one from its remotest appearance on the horizon.) There’s a less codifiable version of the competitive diving puzzle here: do something too easy and the examiners won’t be able to tell if you’re really any good; do something too difficult and you won’t play it well enough.
Nonetheless, my application to be professionally managed has cleared the first hurdle (apparently) to the point where I get invoiced for the first part of the application fee; it only has to advance one more stage and I will need to do an audition, details currently unknown. So I’m going to be pulling pieces I didn’t much expect to revisit out of the pile and trying to second-guess questions I may never know the answer to for sure: how long a programme? or how many movements? how much contrast? one instrument or both? focus on Classical or Modernist (both in the technical sense)?
The things you let yourself in for by carpande Diem (no one correct my Latin) dutifully …