Check out this video of Berlin Philharmonic clarinet player Wenzel Fuchs coaching Brian Gnojekon orchestral excerpts from Beethoven's Symphony No. 6.
Wenzel Fuchs advises Brian to play solo passages at a much stronger dynamic in an orchestra than when playing solo in an audition.
Take a look at the sheet music of the three excerpts, then check out the excerpts in context through the links below. What do you guys thing of Mr. Fuchs' advice?
First movement: 2 measures before K–end
Second movement: 2 measures before D–E
Third movement: measures 122-133
Richard Li (a clarinetist himself) asked a great question after he watched this video, and I thought everyone might benefit from hearing it. Richard asked me:
"In an audition, should you observe the dynamics as written (soft during a solo) or as you would play in an orchestra (definitely at least a little louder)?"
Take a second look at the video @8:08, where he addresses your question exactly. In the third excerpt, you must play the downbeat of measure 133 forte in order to be heard in the context of the orchestra. However, in an audition it can be more important to adhere to what is on the page, and play it piano.
In general, an audition that involves excerpts is a time to stick to what is on the page. However, these things should be handled on a case by case basis. What do you guys think?
I thought (and have even been instructed on several occasions) to be aware of the orchestral context, even during an audition; it shows understanding of the piece and makes it clearer of how one would actually perform on the job. Of course, it's a matter of opinion, but do judges generally look for as-written playing, then? Thanks!
You're right Richard, you should show an understanding of the orchestral context in the audition. Even if you choose to stick to the page you should certainly be aware of how you might perform differently in the orchestra. There is really no blanket statement to be made here. Instead, it's a case-by-case call to make.
Richard, what's another context in which you've encountered this?
Brilliant! I love posting videos like this on the NYO Iraq Facebook site because online is the only resource that most clarinettists in Iraq have to learn from. Keep them coming!
As a clarinetist myself, I can certainly say that the end of this third movement solo is frequently discussed in terms of audition and orchestral context. When playing it in the orchestra I would say it is absolutely imperative to make a great crescendo to the end of the passage, disregarding the p printed on the low 'G' completely. This is because often a player will subconsciously anticipate the subito p and lose the forward direction to the end of the phrase. The orchestral tutti that occurs on the downbeat of 133 makes the dynamic of the clarinetist's low 'G' inconsequential.
However, when playing in an audition it is important to remember that many members of the audition panel will probably not be clarinetists and may not be so familiar with the context of this solo, so strictly adhering to the printed dynamics to the best of one's ability will be most beneficial.
I have experienced a similar situation in Tchaikovsky's 6th Symphony. At the end of a slow solo in the middle of the first movement Tchaikovsky indicates a diminuendo to the dynamic pppp, but it's the clarinetist's duty to leave room for the bassoonist to enter after him and finish the phrase. Ending the diminuendo at any less than mp will leave your bassoonist colleague in a very difficult situation!