It's over! The Pittsburgh Symphony has now read my orchestra piece, which was a success! The highlights of the performance included some weird power dynamic between the immature bass section and the conductor and the composer in residence, in which the basses (of which there were only 4 out of 9 players present) were asked to raise their dynamic level one tiny notch, and then instead of just very quiet, they played as loud as they could. The harpist was also waving her arms frantically trying to get my attention because her page was taped in backwards. Other than that!... the performance went well, and I'm really glad that the sounds in my brain translated to the music. I was most worried about the climax of the piece, that it wouldn't be long enough, but it was just right! The harp/piano/celesta trio also sounded really lovely and music-box-like, and the soprano sax was just the right haunting touch. Much to my surprise, the brass sections also sounded amazing (no offense to you good brass players); I wasn't sure if their parts would overpower the orchestra, but they didn't!
Though the entire reading session and its luncheon/Q&A were pretty shoddily put together, it was nonetheless a great experience, and I learned a lot about the preparation needed for a big piece. The other three students' works also had really good moments, and I liked most all of them, except for maybe some redundancy in one longer piece. John Corigliano, the composer in residence this year, mentioned that once a composer writes a piece, and hands it over to an orchestra, his job is basically done, aside from very small changes. It seems so obvious, but perhaps it's a good reminder to prepare as much as possible for anything that I could foresee being questioned, and have it clearly marked on the page. The contrabassoonist also made a good point that my piece being sort of slow and ethereal, that performers may have to put extra effort into shaping the sounds of slow notes and textural music, rather than zipping by quick passages, so that it actually makes a simpler piece more difficult to perform.
There will be one "real" concert performance of the piece, by the CMU Philharmonic on the 25th. Rehearsals for that concert begin tomorrow. But after the Pittsburgh Symphony stress, having to talk to the whole symphony on the podium (don't sound like an idiot! don't waste time! don't sweat through your shirt!), speaking to an orchestra of people my own age will seem less daunting.
(To the right, in no particular order: poorly planned photo opportunity with section leaders, student composers, I'm the one guy wearing a tie, conductor Larry Loh, and composer in residence, contrabassoonist).