Thursday, March 4, 2010

What I'm playing this week

On the piano:

The master class has been rescheduled for April 18, so I decided since I have more than two months to prepare between now and then I will play Op. 118 No. 2 instead of No. 1. This volume of Brahms (Peters Band II) was one of the things I would attempt to sight read when I was a teenager -- skipping the weird, hard stuff -- and 118/2 was one I would regularly thump my way through. So when I play it now, it brings back wafts of memory. I have fleeting images of myself as a depressed, clueless 16-year-old, losing myself in this music as I sat at the crummy little piano we had, no idea how I sounded, and it not even occurring to me to wonder. So now, as a much happier 52-year-old, I'm really trying to learn this, and I have a much different view of the whole thing. But it's a strange clash between past and present.

I had it in mind to record the Bach prelude and fugue I've been working on so I can feel I've accomplished something with it before I move on to another one, but I'm so dissatisfied with how I'm playing it, particularly the prelude. I can't seem to give it any shape or decide what emotion I want to convey. So I keep practicing it.

The experience with the Chopin Nocturne I recorded on Sunday and submitted for the online recital was sort of deflating. In one way I was proud of the fact that I had relearned it and made such a clean recording without practicing it all that much -- and considering everything that's been happening around here over the past two weeks -- but I know it wasn't the most heartfelt interpretation, either. However, I've had no feedback at all from anyone at Piano World. Now, to be fair, I haven't given the other participants feedback, either. But the whole thing is rather odd.

I wish I wasn't so eager for reactions from people, but there it is. Music is a form of communication, and you want to feel you are communicating with someone versus shouting into the wilderness.

On the cello:

I'm playing a little Bach plus the dances we're supposed to play on Saturday. I accepted this gig thinking it would be fun, but it's not feeling fun right now. My cello sounds bad, my fingers don't feel very limber, and now all of a sudden the organizer started sending messages about the sound system and using mics. I don't have any equipment like that, and using it is a whole different ballgame than simply playing acoustically. It's making me feel grumpy about the whole thing.

Speaking of feeling grumpy, on another message board I participate in, one of the members who is an excellent professional pianist announced the other day that she has decided to quit music. I was not all that surprised because she hasn't ever sounded terribly enthusiastic about playing the piano, not really. But much discussion ensued. It has caused me to think about all this again, about how music is such a great hobby but a not so great profession. The required skills can be so tedious and, yes, boring to master when you always have to play at such a high level, and it all takes so much time and energy. Even someone who is relatively successful at it has to start thinking that there's more to life than sitting in a practice room, especially someone as bright and as interested in the world as this person. Some people do seem to find their niche and a decent balance that allows them to continue to find the art in music, but others find it a hard slog. Maybe it simply boils down to the fact that stuff you do for fun is not so fun if it's your job.


Anonymous said...

I listened to your e-cital submission and as a mere Adult Beginner I was blown away by how wonderful it was and how good you are!

I do participate, however, in all of the quarterly recitals and Monthly Piano Bars and know what you mean about liking feedback (my PW id is b528nf7). I usually try to comment on everyone's Recital and Piano Bar pieces as I know how good it feels to get a positive response to something that we put a lot of effort into.

Harriet said...

Wow, thanks Anonymous (or should I say b528nf7?)!

For the last quarterly recital I participated in, last fall, I made it a point to comment on almost every submission, but it was hard to do it and took a long time. So I know why people don't comment. And for this latest recital, several people played major, difficult works that naturally drew more attention than 55/1.

I know I should be satisfied that I met my own minimum standards -- after all, I am probably my most severe critic.