I know. It’s been awhile. But sitting in the sun, with the next week free from work, I finally have the desire and time to finish up the second part of my “Week of Insanity” blogpost.
As most of you know, at the beginning of March, I moved from Hannover to Heidelberg so that I could commence my new job here in the orchestra. It’s been a very intense, stressful, exciting and rewarding 2 and a bit months but I am glad that things are finally calming down a tad!
On the 31st of January 2017, I had my 31st orchestral audition in Germany. As always, the day started off rather unexpectedly, when I woke up at 6am and saw that overnight German time, that some in my immediate family, had decided to be a tad dramatic and some pretty big problems had arisen. Me, being the family moderator, instantly tried to help resolve the tensions, only realising that it wasn’t going to help and instead, would cause me to lose a lot of mental energy and focus for MY own stressful situation. My audition.
After arriving fashionably early to the stunning Theater in the middle of the Altstadt (old city) in Heidelberg, I managed to calm my nerves a tad by doing a 10 min guided mediation and by getting started on my basics routine. I still couldn’t manage to get any food down though… guess that would have to wait. You would think that after 30 previous auditions in the last 2 years, that I would be well equipped on dealing with nerves, but really, they get you all the time!
At promptly 10am, we all communed in the largest warm-up room to pick out numbers from a hat, that would determine our playing order. To be honest, I couldn’t tell you what number I was… 9 from 18 maybe…? For the first round, we would be required to play the first movement from R. Strauss’ first Horn Concerto. The first round would be held behind a screen, so the orchestra wouldn’t know who was playing when.
I had a lovely guy from the states (studies in Switzerland) sharing my warm-up room, and felt instantly eased by his friendliness and outgoing personality. I’m the type of person that likes to surround myself with positive people in auditions. I feel it helps keep me calm and distracted before I have to head in there and perform.
After about an hour and a bit, I was called up to head in for my first round. After tuning to the piano, I began the movement only to realize that the sun would be shining in my eyes throughout and I couldn’t see the music! Good thing that after preparing Strauss for over 10 years of my musical life, I actually don’t really need the music 😛 instead of freaking out though, I closed my eyes and basked in the sunlight whilst playing a pretty nice Strauss.
After every 6 candidates, the orchestra informed us who, from the 6, would play the next round. From 18 of us, 6 of us went on to play the first movement of Mozart’s 4th Horn Concerto for the second round, this time without a screen.
I was the 4th to play this time. After a few minutes of focus and breathing exercises, I walked into the Probespiel (audition) room and played a very easy Mozart. It felt fluid, warm, light and relaxed. I actually enjoyed playing it, which can be quite unusual when one is in such a stressful situation!
We found out shortly after that me and another lovely German (who I had previously met at quite a few auditions) would be playing in the third round.
Here’s when I felt the – increased heart rate – sweaty palms – unsettling feeling in the tummy. But there was no time for that.
He played first. And very well. I could hear it from my warm-up room. I spent the time breathing, focusing and calming myself down.
Then it was my turn. I began with the excerpt from Mozart’s Opera, Cosi fan tutte. I wasn’t 100% focused at the beginning and had to start it off again… but once it got going, it flowed nicely. Next was the famous horn solo from Strauss’ Till Eulenspiegel. This one got going without a hitch, all the way to the second excerpt from the piece, which ended strongly on a ‘top C’. The third excerpt, is for me, one of my favourites to play. Beethoven’s Symphony No.7 is just a whole lot of high-horn fun. The ending, I did have to kick off again, as I forgot to breath after the first phrase, and I knew I wouldn’t make it, but second time went smoothly. Last but not least, the famous horn solo from Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5. This is a beautiful excerpt to play, but also strenuous and can be incredibly hard to pull-off well. Most of us tend to try and do too much musically, and the rest of us don’t do quite enough. This time I tried not to think too much, but instead feel the music, support the lines with good air and focus on making the most beautiful sound I could.
That was it. Third round done and now all we had to do was wait it out. Sometimes I have had to wait 30-45 minutes for the orchestra to decide on what to do/who they would like. Luckily, we only waited 5-10 minutes before they came out and congratulated the both of us for playing great auditions, and me, for winning the position as their new Solo Hornist.
It’s amazing, that when you have put yourself through the stress of so many auditions, how relieved, excited, overwhelmed but also empty you can feel when you do finally win one. The emptiness is of course coming from achieving a goal that you have worked so hard towards, and every other feeling is to be very expected in this situation.
After some standard administration organizing, I was well on my way to celebrate, by finally eating (a very tasty lunch) and drinking a couple of very leckeres (tasty) beers. I cancelled my audition that was planned for the 2.2, and instead, headed back to Hannover with a stop-over in Frankfurt to visit my Aussie horn buddies, Andy and Steph.
I made it back in Hannover just in time to watch my class-mates perform in one of our Hornclass Concerts! We had some celebratory drinks (celebrating the audition and the awesome concert many of them played in!). Things were far from over though… I just had 2 weeks until my final recital… time to practice practice practice!