Detailed marks for your scores. Do it :)
Thanks so much for your focus and responsiveness at Tuesday's rehearsal. I feel we made significant progress in attending to the finer details in the first three movements, and I love the way you're buying into the strong dynamic shifts, either gradual or sudden, that are one of the hallmarks of this work. They are entirely responsible for conveying the emotional content of each movement.
You'll find some reminders below which should improve things even more, if you'll please take the time to mark your scores. I haven't time to keep stopping to remind the group any more.
As a general comment, I'm continually amazed at seeing the number of singers suddenly marking their scores when reminded of German diction details that I've already explained and repeated numerous times! I know from my own experience when first singing in German that I simply had to write in the needed substitutions. For example, I'm hearing "soll" when the word is "zoll". Rule: words beginning with s must always sound clearly as z. You have the sheet which covers these understandably frustrating substitutions, as well as my columns which provide pronunciation guides for every movement. I am now asking, with as much emphasis as I can muster, that you go through your scores and provide every substituted consonant, no matter how many times it's repeated! Actually, besides keeping you from slipping into habitual use of those consonants, constant marking will strongly reinforce your understanding of German diction! Such a deal.
The first phrase, and every time those words occur, there needs to be stronger emphasis on the first syllable and much less on the other two. We're giving too much weight to the word "sind" (zihnt, of course), making it unappealing. Slightly elide the second syllable of Seelig to sind, but that word must have full value, with the t right on beat 2. In fact, every phrase that ends with a quarter note must have full value. When that last sound is voiced (pitched), as in tragen, the release must have a shadow vowel. Much of this movement is quiet, intensely hushed, so don't let the wind out of your sails: take in lots of air and sing from a wide throat and tall mouth. It's much harder to sing well at a softer volume, so great care must be given to richness of tone. And it should go without saying that vibrato is never OK under the level of mf. If you haven't already done so (!), underline all capitalized words so you remember to give the word's strong syllable greater emphasis. At the end of the movement, don't die away as much: the duets need to be heard, both the S/A and the T/B. Release the final pitched n with a shadow vowel.
Much more fullness of tone is needed in both the soft and the strong statements of the first part. I'd say to aim for a dark, foreboding sound. We've been too reverent and unsupported when singing p and too harshly forceful when singing f. Neither approach gives the needed atmosphere. In the next section, at C, don't make the mistake of switching to a sickly sweet tone just because we're now in a major tonality with lighter articulation! Instead, go for a feeling of assurance, with the same fullness but without the dark foreboding. Make the waltz feeling much more obvious, with the first beat strong but elastic and the other two beats receding away. At H, WALL O' SOUND! As big a tone as you can bring, without going beyond the bounds of personal beauty (self-knowledge needed here). It's unfortunate that the change into 4/4 happens at the page turn. Write yourself a note to turn the page early so you'll be awake for this strong change. Altos, memorize m. 205 so that you can turn early, as well. Sing the fugue subject as the long sentence that it is, with long vowels to provide a sweeping line that pulls forward. Note that the orchestra will be in block staccato chords; counter that with the broad melody. At K, sopranos, keep that same broad sweeping line as you dip down to that C: we lose the notes in 235. All of you, be sure to give full time value to the quarter note in all of those "wird weg"; we've been giving the second note an unwanted staccato. Altos: M is a Zena Warrior Princess phrase, so prepare with tons of breath energy and strong consonants! Not a time to be insipid. Choir, in the final, dying away portion, be sure to crescendo on the long first syllable of ewige (symbolism: the long note underscores the meaning, which is eternity) and emphasize consonants even more, particularly the F in Freude. The phrase refers to eternal joy! Who doesn't want to contemplate that?
Bravo Brett, right! We're so proud to hear this glorious voice! Choir, give length but separation to the text. The words themselves provide the rhythmic energy. Show more desperation from m. 56 (and in German, i is NOT ee, so it's ihst, not east, in m.61. In the next big section, Altos and Tenors need to bring out the shaping in m.135-138. You can all be louder at F, with very strong diction. We're even more desperate here, quite demanding, with the final harsh outcry at m.153 and following, followed by colorless desolation at 159. Basses, please amp up the volume at your mystical entrance at m. 164. Everyone, massive crescendo at m.166 (marked molto, which means much!), proceeding to m. 171 where you reach for even more. Tons of text, please, with the amazingly strong and confident fugue which follows. You have to work extra hard to make the Kv of Qual; don't hold back one bit. Strong rhythmic power from G onward, and basses, power out to the hall with the pedal point in m.184-185. You'll be doubled by all of the low instruments, but you've got the text! And altos, you suddenly grow bigger hearts and throats in m. 203.
Please mark all of this in your scores, did I mention that?
Next week, Movements IV, V, VI, and VII. Stay healthy, and I'll see you then.