I am in the Czech Republic recording two pieces with the Bohuslav Martinu Philharmonic for a CD of music by the modern composer Carson Cooman. The pieces are "Sinfonia Concertante" and "Folk Fantasies" - the latter of which is dedicated to me :)
It was quite an adventure getting to the Czech Republic. I drove from Houston to Dallas on Friday and caught my plane to Amsterdam on Saturday afternoon. I had a 4 hour layover in Amsterdam so I got to explore the airport a bit. Amsterdam is the Capitol of Holland which is the largest distributor of tulip bulbs in the world!! The giant tulip bulbs being sold in the airport were just incredible!! And there were tulip displays all over the airport that were simply gorgeous. My flight from Amsterdam to Vienna left at 11:40 and I met my dad in Vienna at 1:30. After a bite to eat we drove to his house in Bratislava where I had a chance to sleep and practice. One of the problems with these long international trips is there aren't many chances to practice! I keep my hand muscles in shape by carrying my Handmaster with me whenever I travel. Exercising my muscles frequently keeps them from getting too stiff and tight.
The next day we drove back to the Vienna airport to pick up Leah Crane, the soprano for this CD recording project. It took about 3 and a half hours to drive from Vienna to Zlin and we checked into the hotel around 5 pm. After some cakes, coffee and a wonderful dinner, I got to practice for a bit before turning in for the night.
On Tuesday, Leah worked for most of the recording sessions. She recorded with the orchestra from 9 am to 3 pm with about an hour and a half for lunch. There was still an hour and a half left so we recorded one of the movements from the Folk Fantasies since we had the percussionists there already. We chose to record the 3rd movement which is titled "Circle Dance" - the American movement :) It took a while to get the microphones set up and the balance between my violin and the orchestra just right, but by the end of the session we had the whole movement completed!
Today was my marathon recording day. We started at 9 am with the first movement of the Folk Fantasies, and after the break managed to finish the second movement as well. We even had some time left over so we recorded the third movement of the Sinfonia Concertante, and after the orchestra went to lunch I recorded the cadenza. After lunch we recorded the remaining 3 movements in about 2 hours and then we were done!! It's such an incredible feeling to be finished. It's one of those situations where you don't quite know how stressed out you were about something until it's over. I'm so relieved!
Recording with an orchestra is quite an interesting experience. Our sound engineer and producer sat in a studio room behind the hall with a tv and interacted with us through a speaker on the stage. We played though a movement (sometimes we didn't even play the whole thing) and then began recording once the producer felt like we had the balance right. Then we played until he noticed something was off and would stop the orchestra by talking through the speaker. Sometimes we played 30 bars, and sometimes we only got through 4. He noticed things in pitch, rhythm, when the orchestra wasn't together, if one section needed to be louder or softer, if there was a strange noise (like something dropping) onstage, and sometimes even that he could hear my bow change on a long soft sustained note! It was really neat to see how it was done and how everything would eventually be put together.
Now that I'm finished, I have two more days in Europe so I'm hoping to spend one of them in Vienna. It should be exciting! But for now - off to nap! :)