Thursday, February 4, 2010

This is terrible, but . . .

. . . the master class I was supposed to play in this Sunday was canceled because it's supposed to snow buckets tomorrow.

That's not the terrible part; the terrible part is that I'm immensely relieved. I was supposed to play Brahms Op. 118 No. 1, and some part of me was looking forward to it, but another part was dreading it. If it was just playing, it wouldn't be so bad, but the whole social thing always makes me nervous, too. I mentioned in an earlier post that I met the teacher many years ago, and he is a very nice person, warm and friendly, so that's not what was worrying me. (Some of the "masters" I've played for have been the nastiest-behaving people I've ever encountered. There is one very famous cellist who was so jerky to me in a master class some 20 years ago that I now refuse to even listen to him or his recordings.) I just kept thinking how weird it would be, attempting to play the piano when he knew me and accompanied me as a cellist.

One of my escapades when I was attempting to learn to play the viola was attending a "Viola Fest" weekend at a university music school. The viola teacher at the school happened to be someone I knew from college who had married one of our composition professors. He had been pretty friendly to me and even asked me to perform his cello and piano sonata with him. He was at this viola thing, too, and he said something about how it was sad seeing me struggle with the viola in comparison with my ease and naturalness on the cello. I was wondering if this pianist would think the same thing (though he probably would not say it!).

Another anxiety-producing element is the piece -- I mean, Brahms, after all. Brahms comes as a shock after learning Chopin. Many of Chopin's piano pieces are difficult, yes, but they lie naturally under the fingers, and they don't fight with the piano. Brahms's piano pieces all seem like they are trying to be something else, something orchestral, or trying to create a sound possible only in the imagination. One reason I chose to play Brahms for this master class was because I thought I could get some help with the larger issue of how to create the sound I imagine -- or at least how to try. But the fact that I'm not taking lessons makes me feel a little -- um, would the word be "cheap"? -- trying to get this kind of help in front of an audience.

I wouldn't say the main reason I'm not taking lessons is because of the expense, though that enters into it. It's more that I don't know how to find the right teacher. I'm pretty sure I will need someone different from the run-of-the-mill neighborhood piano teacher who mainly guides little kids through John Thompson, or even the more advanced level teacher who knows how to steer little geniuses through competitions. I'm not a beginner, but I'm no pro, either. It's not that easy finding someone who will teach adults at all, whatever their level. We're a tougher audience than children, and we have pesky things like full-time jobs and spouses, and we tend to get busy and cancel lessons or show up not having practiced (though the kids do that, too, as I know from teaching). For whatever reason, I have found it hard to pick up the phone and arrange to talk to some teachers, but I should do it.

Anyway, the master class will be rescheduled, probably for some more temperate time of the season, so I will get a chance to go through all of this again. And perhaps I will be better prepared than I would have been this Sunday.

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