Second day of rehearsals, more cellists had arrived and so had our project mentor David Cohen. We spent an hour working on the Bacchianas Brasilieras and the many intricacies of the piece were beginning to show. David took up Thibault's place on the second cello part and led the ensemble. He encouraged me to have more eye contact with him, particularly in the allargando sections, and so that I could take more time where needed (either for technical reasons or to make sense of the text) he encouraged the cellists to watch me breathe.
Although we were set on having no conductor, it was agreed that David would lead the opening of the piece and the changes between sections. To help the ensemble, we discussed the responsibility that those on the fourth part had to maintain the 'heartbeat' of the music. We also talked about how although the tempo marking is adagio, the semiquaver pizzicato figuration tells us that the piece wants to keep moving - we can see adagio as a colour or mood rather than an exact marking of speed.
David talked to the cellists on the second and third parts about how best to keep ensemble in the semiquavers - they needed to gel and 'feel' the pulse, rather than attempting to lead. Collaboration is often about sensation and intuition rather than actively trying to achieve something.
The main challenges for me were to create a sense of expansion and drama approaching the grandioso section in a way that would work for me vocally, as well as to lead the tenuto markings in the middle section without risking disrupting the flow of the music. I also know that I need to put my own practice on the bocca chiusa section to achieve the same vocal freedom as with my singing in the rest of the piece.
Tomorrow I'm hoping to work one on one with Aida, the cellist on the first part, so that we can establish a shared sense of how the melody should be when we double each other. I am also hoping to have time to work through the Portuguese with Joao who is a native speaker.
After the rehearsal had finished, composer Anandi Casanova arrived to conduct and rehearse the piece that she had written in collaboration with Eliot Delafosse. It was fascinating to observe the process of the musicians and to hear David Cohen's dialogue with Anandi about the importance of being specific with gesture when conducting. It isn't simply enough to keep the beat, but the conductor needs to breathe and move in the way that she wants the musicians to play even before the first downbeat.