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Heavy Lifting: Works of Notorious Notes

May 31, 2012 | By Janet Horvath

(from the experience of Janet Horvath, associate principal cello of the Minnesota Orchestra and author of Playing (Less) Hurt—An Injury Prevention Guide For Musicians.)

Ravel’s Bolero requires 5,144 strokes from the snare drum. This does not take into account the tremendous control necessary to be unwaveringly steady in rhythm and to build from the very soft opening to the huge climax at the end of the piece—all within just 14 minutes.

Mahler’s Symphony No. 5 has 940 measures of eighth notes in the cello part, and even more for the violins. That totals 6,400 left-hand movements in the fourth movement alone.

John Adams’s Harmonielehre requires 976 repeated eighth notes for flute, piccolo, clarinet, piano, and harp in the first 94 bars of Part 3.

Danse de la Terre in Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring starting at rehearsal No. 75 has 360 notes. Our orchestra has performed this in 36 seconds!

Sibelius Oceanides in 22 measures has 589 bow strokes. I approached our Maestro about this in rehearsal and said, “Osmo [Vänskä], from here to here we have to perform 589 bow strokes!” He appeared taken aback for a moment and then he bopped me on the head with his baton and replied, “Thank you for counting.”


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