Professional thoughts

This wasn’t an easy thing to do, let loose my my instrumental parts to willing professionals all keen and eager to get their hands on an original composition.

I’ve been hiding from the inbox and text messages this past week whilst awaiting feedback. “It’s all wrong”, “you have no idea”, “what were you thinking?”…that kind of thing. But low and behold, so far, all seems extremely positive. I’ve still got some of the other parts to be evaluated!

Herewith the thoughts on what has come back to me so far:

…the chromatic scale at F is impossible at that tempo. I would suggest adding a second harp and perhaps alternate bars like Stravinsky in his Firebird (1911).

The staccato passage is playable but the notes will not be short. Unless a staccato is marked etouffe (muffled) it refers only to the attack of the note and not the note value. Unfortunately in this passage it isn’t possible to muffle each note, but that register on the harp is not so resonant as to disturb the staccato.

At bar 320 I suggest to write the passage down the octave with an 8va line. It is much easier to read that way. At bar 502 the A natural in the bass cannot ring for the full bar (like the previous bars) because it is followed by an A-flat requiring a pedal change. I suggest you circle the A-flat and somehow indicate that it be played as a G#. Or if it isn’t important harmonically that the A-flat be spelled A-flat, you can spell it as a G# instead.

Just before (Section) U, you have marked the chords as arpeggiated. Is the implication therefore that any unmarked chords are plaque (unarpeggiated)? If you aren’t bothered one way or the other then it’s fine, but there is a tradition in the French schools of harp (like mine) that all chords are slightly broken (brise). Other schools teach only plaque chords, so it might be worth marking chord passages as one of the other to avoid any confusion.

One last thing is to maybe put the dynamic markings between the staves. If they are underneath they are very easy to miss.”
Richard, harpist

“…in bar 317 and bar 564, are you wanting that all played on a single bow stroke? If so, I’d divide it up into shorter bow strokes to make it playable, otherwise there is a big danger of running out of bow.”
Ron, double bassist

“It looks great! If this is written for a professional ensemble it might be worth writing (Sections) E-F in tenor clef as it would be easier to read…the div section after K is a little confusing. What are you asking the lower part to do? Just play the semiquaver or join on the tied crotchet?”
Carolyn, bassoonist

“All (parts) look good but you need to sort out the spacing on the parts as some of the titles and other text cover the music”
James, brass player

“This all looks fine.  The only written thing I would point out is in the first movement, between Sections E and F, i.e. the 25th bar of Section E, it would be much more usual to use the tenor clef, or even the treble clef here.  Cellists don’t necessarily like counting so many ledger lines to pick out their high notes! Otherwise the whole thing was absolutely fine.”
Helen, Cellist

“I’ve looked through and most of it looks perfectly playable though would most likely need a fair amount of practice.  Only point of concern is Section E in the B-flat clarinet part; the fingering at that octave would be quite difficult to play in semi quavers like that, so I would advise either dropping the octave or simplifying the rhythm.  Only other point are the accidentals could do with re-writing but that’s nothing to with technicality. Hope this helps.”
Jack, clarinettist 

I even had a short section of the opening harp part recorded and posted on the Facebook  page “15 second harp” by Olivia. Recorded from the royal box at Wimbledon no less!


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