Monday, September 21, 2009

What I'm playing this week

On the piano:
Bach Prelude and Fugue in C-sharp major from the Well-Tempered Clavier, Book I
Learning Bach preludes and fugues is an ongoing project of mine. I've been memorizing everything I learn, so I can spend six months or more on each of these sets. The key has made this one difficult -- I really have to think hard about what the notes are (lots of double sharps). I've been working on it since March, and finally feel like it is memorized. Sad to say, once I stop practicing one and move on to another one, I forget the previous one. But Bach didn't intend them to be memorized anyway. (No one performed from memory before Clara Schumann.)

Gershwin Prelude No. 1
This is one of those pieces that always seemed impossible when I would try to read through it way back when. I decided that it wasn't impossible -- and in fact, I'm getting it. Gershwin put in a metronome marking of quarter note = 100; I have it up to around 72.

Chopin Nocturne Op. 27 No. 1 in C-sharp minor
I am learning this because I volunteered to record it for an online recital over at Piano World. A group that spends much time discussing Chopin and his music has been organizing these around various themes (there was a prelude recital, an etude recital, several mazurka recitals, and now a nocturne recital). Everyone lays claim to a particular piece and agrees to learn it and make a recording of it by a certain date. A volunteer collects all the recordings and posts them. This recital (as you will see if you click on the link) is supposed to go live on October 17. I really procrastinated on this one and didn't start learning my nocturne until August, but it's getting there.

Chopin preludes: another ongoing project is to learn, eventually, all 24 of these. I have the first seven, more or less. Number 8 is a bear (link is to a pretty nice video that also includes No. 3). So I'm picking away at it, and also every few days play through 1-7.

I've found that both the Bach and the Chopin projects have helped my technique tremendously. You will notice that I don't include scales or exercises in my list here. I decided that (a) I spent enough years practicing scales and (b) I have so little time to practice that I'd rather spend it on real music. I am an amateur, after all.

On the cello:
I confess here on the Internet: I only practice the cello when I have to. This week, I'm scheduled to play at an English country dance, so I will probably play some scales and look through the play list (if the caller sends me one). When I play at these dances, I improvise my part by looking at the chart (melody/chords), so I can't exactly practice; I just need to keep my fingers nimble enough so I can keep up.

We also have the first rehearsal of our chamber orchestra next weekend, so I need to spend some time on the parts. I am principal cellist, so need to lead the section and may have to do a sectional.

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