A couple of weeks ago, I went to the Chicago Symphony Center to watch the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO) perform and to take a lesson from John Bruce Yeh, assistant principal clarinet.
Mr. Yeh started the lesson by having me play a little. he stopped me right after I got through the most technically difficult part of the piece. He said that I wasn't sealing the holes of the clarinet properly by first landing on them with the tip of my fingers and then flattening my knuckle to cover the entire hole. Mr. Yeh told me that I had to make sure that my fingers always stayed curved and right about the holes. I actually keep my fingers flat and farther away from where they should rest on the clarinet. If my fingers are not right above the holes and my knuckles aren't bent, then the clarinet will not seal right away when I place my fingers on the keys, making technical sections much harder. Good advice!
The other thing we worked on was phrasing. Mr. Yeh wanted me to play like a string player. This means that all of the different slurs or bow strokes need to be made clear with the tongue. It also means that I have to make each slur in the Martinu its own phrase. He also noticed that I was giving the long notes a crescendo, and he didn't like that. Mr. Yeh said I should crescendo on the moving notes and decrescendo on the long notes. I've not hear this advice before, so it was really good to hear.
After the lesson, I went to the concert. It was a night of Brahms with Muti conducting. First, Pinchas Zukerman played the Violin Concerto in D major and then we heard Brahms Symphony no. 2 in D major. The concert was really cool! The CSO played the Brahms 2nd Symphony. I loved the whole thing, but my favorite part was the last movement. It really ends on a bang. The CSO brass and woodwinds are so amazing! I loved the big brass finish at the end. And Mr. Williamson, the new principal clarinet, was fantastic.
The best part of the Brahms was the last movement, but the most interesting part of the night happened after the 2nd movement. The end of the 2nd movement is very quiet and dies down into nothing. The audience was silent -- no one was even coughing, when suddenly two loud thumps were heard in succession. Everyone looked around to see what could have made that noise. I could see a commotion in one of the boxes, but I wasn't sure what was happening. Muti handled it well and moved gracefully into the 3rd movement after making certain that everything was all right. I thought maybe someone had had fallen or gotten sick or something.
I found out a couple of days after the concert that what we heard and saw was actually a fight in one of the boxes! A 30 year old man and a 67 year old man were arguing over seats. Eventually the younger man lost his temper and started hitting the older man! The thumping was the sound of the older man falling down, I think. After the incident, the 30 year old ran away.
Other than the disturbance, it was a wonderful evening. I hope I will have more lessons with John Bruce Yeh in the future. He is a great teacher.