Monday, August 11, 2014

The Ferling Project

Back in January, 2014,  I decided it was time to do something to contribute to the greater good of sax playing.  So, I began my Ferling project.  I have always loved the Ferling etudes since first beginning my studies of them about 20 years ago.  The slow etudes are especially dear to me.  Beautiful miniatures, they have helped me to refine my tone, dynamic control and phrasing more than almost any other pieces of music.  I have even performed a few of them, and the audience reaction was good.  I decided to record all of the odd numbered etudes from the Marcel Mule edition and post them on YouTube for the benefit, hopefully, of all.

At this point in time, there are quite a few editions of W. Ferling's original 48 etudes.  If IMSLP has served me well, there were no metronome markings in the original.  Many oboists, however, use the Andraud edition, which does have metronome markings.  The Marcel Mule edition has quite different metronome markings from the Andraud.  Most of the slow etudes are marked at quarter = 72, which according to Dr. Eugene Rousseau, was Mule's favorite tempo for practicing vibrato.  Mule also composed several additional etudes that cover all of the enharmonic keys up to C# and Cb.  These are mostly very well done and almost indistinguishable in style from Ferling's.  Dr. Rousseau has recently published his own edition of the slow etudes.
This is notable because he includes fingering suggestions for each etude.  He suggests a tempo of quarter = 80 for each etude, the speed he prefers to practice vibrato.  In both cases, Mule and Rousseau, the vibrato should be four undulations per beat.  As a saxophonist choosing your first version, I recommend the Mule edition because there is more music there, and the editorials are more appropriate for saxophone than the Andraud.  However, if possible I would also get the Rousseau edition just to have his fingering suggestions.  Keep in mind, though, that Rousseau only included the slow etudes.

 In my own journey with these etudes, I have approached them many different ways.  Initially, it was a matter of learning the pieces, the notes, rhythms, ornaments, and phrasing.  But as the years progressed I was able to go beyond most of the technical aspects.  I found, at one time, that the most useful way to play them was without any vibrato at all.  When I did this, I discovered how little I was actually doing with the phrasing.  Be careful not to let vibrato become a musical crutch.  It is a color with which we can shape our music, an ornament of the tone.  The videos presented below (on YouTube by searching "Colin Lippy") represent my current thoughts on these pieces.  While definitely inspired by Dr. Rousseau's instruction and the Mule edition, I no longer have much interest in one man's metronome markings.  Rather, I am interesting in capturing the spirit of the music as best I can and in my own interpretation.  They are no longer etudes for me but miniature works of art.  I recorded them in a complete take with no editing or effects.  The goal was to present them as realistically as possible, much as they are often played, in practice rooms or private lessons.   I hope you enjoy these videos and find them useful in your own journey.

UPDATE: Be sure to check out Part 2: The Fast Ones.

Ferling 1

Ferling 3

Ferling 5

Ferling 7

Ferling 9

Ferling 11

Ferling 13

Ferling 15

Ferling 17

Ferling 19

Ferling 21

Ferling 23

Ferling 25

Ferling 27

Ferling 29

Ferling 31

Ferling 33

Ferling 35

Ferling 37

Ferling 39

Ferling 41

Ferling 43

Ferling 45

Mule 47

Ferling 47/Mule 51

Mule 49

Mule 53

Mule 55

Mule 57

Mule 59

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