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Audition Cadenza -- Improvisation?

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  • EuphoniumMenace
    Junior Member
    • Jun 2011
    • 17

    Audition Cadenza -- Improvisation?

    I am an adult euphist (good amateur, not a pro) planning to audition for a good local wind ensemble.

    If a solo is a 19th century theme and variation type of piece -- like Arban or Clarke -- is it kosher to improvise on the cadenza? For example: going to higher (i.e. up to Eb') or lower (i.e. pedal range) notes that are originally written? Or adding lip slurs or polyphonics?

    I would like to demonstrate my technical ability, but would an amateur like myself changing the cadenza be appropriate for an ensemble audition? Or would it seem crass or like trying to show off? Pros do it all the time in live and recorded performances --but I'm certainly no David Childs!

  • Garcky
    • Dec 2014
    • 105

    I think how that would be received would depend on the audition panel. Having done a number of auditions over my lifetime, both instrumental and vocal, my tendency is to focus on playing the music as written, as well as I possibly can. Usually, the panel is familiar with the audition piece or even a selected solo you might play, and might not be impressed with improvisations you might introduce. They will, however, be impressed by an ideal, expressive rendition of the audition piece, played musically and accurately. In most cases, you're not auditioning to be a soloist, but a member of an ensemble, and won't be expected to improvise at all, unless you perform a solo piece with the group.

    Ensemble auditions are all about ensemble playing, really, so I'd stick with demonstrating your ability to perform the music as written as well as possible. But that's just my opinion. Once you're in the ensemble, you'll always be auditioning, one way or another. Here's a story from a number of years ago, where I inadvertently auditioned:

    An Inadvertent Audition

    I was playing oboe in an orchestra for a performance of Handel's Messiah. The oboe is not called on to play during any of the solo arias, so that's always a boring time during rehearsals. I've been an amateur vocalist, too, for many years. At one rehearsal, the tenor soloist was not available, but the orchestra still needed to rehearse the "Every Valley" aria. I knew it, so I volunteered to stand in for the tenor during the rehearsal. It didn't really matter, so I let it all out and sang the heck out of it, including some baroque ornamentation. The choir director came up to me after we finished and asked if I would perform as the soloist the following year. His exact words, "Why the hell are you playing the oboe instead of singing?"

    So, that's what I did. The next year, I still played oboe in the orchestra, but took the podium for that aria, and pulled it off pretty well. Scary, though, since I rarely did vocal solos. Sometimes you're auditioning and don't know it.
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