Guessing the dynamics

27th September 2009 | Concerts, Florestan Trio, Musings | 0 comments

In November, my trio is giving the premiere of a new work which has been written for us – is being written for us, I should say – by Huw Watkins. Earlier in the summer I pestered Huw to let me have what he’d written so far, and though the parts aren’t fully finished yet, he kindly let me have the ‘work in progress’ score of the first two movements. I always like to prepare as far ahead as I can; practising a new piece a little and often, over a long period, is for me a better way of learning something than having a binge at the last minute. There’s nothing more unsettling than being on the platform and not being sure what comes next.

Anyway, I now have the first two movements of Huw’s new trio. At this stage there are no dynamic markings in the score – no loud or soft, no indications of crescendo or diminuendo, no ‘mood’ instructions. So as I get to know the music I have been trying to guess what dynamics the composer is going to add. As yet, I’ve heard only the piano part, but I have a clear idea of what the missing dynamic markings will be, or at least I feel I know what would be ‘natural’. This isn’t always an accurate guide to what composers actually want, because they often intend layers of meaning, contradictions, ironies and so on – which might prompt them to write counter-intuitive dynamics. But as I practise Huw’s new trio I find that instinctively I play certain passages boldly and loudly, others quietly, delicately etc.  It will be fascinating to see whether my guesses are right or wrong.

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