Sunday, 15 September 2013

Coordinated Breathing

Mahler's 4th symphony was in the programme for a concert I did during the summer. At the end of the first half of one of the evening rehearsals, as we were stopping for a coffee break, I asked the second horn to stay back for a moment before we got our coffee so we could work out some coordinating breathing points for a horn 1 & 2 duet passage in the 3rd movement (14 bars after 11 if you want to look it up).

The conductor happened to walk past as we were marking up the parts. I think he was rather surprised that we would co-ordinate breathing in this way. He's a string player, he's entirely used to the idea of co-ordinating bowing in string sections. But I don't think it had ever properly occurred to him that the wind would at times need to co-ordinate breathing.

Much the same principles apply of course. It is just that the breathing isn't so visible as bows moving up and down in unison.

This autumn, the same orchestra is playing Dvorak's New World Symphony. We'll may also need to co-ordinate the breathing at the opening of the slow movement, not just between the horns, but with the heavy brass as well.

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