Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Third lesson: Discouragin'

I dropped the last "g" to show that I'm not quite 100% serious. But I did feel discouraged.

I spent the week hacking away at the Beethoven, trying to hack more gracefully, but still hacking. Got to the lesson, played a little bit of it, and then the teacher, trying very hard not to be negative, suggested that we put it aside and work on something easier.

Now, the main reasons I believe she did this are as follows:

1. I have a couple of performances planned in the near future. One is an AMSF recital and the other is a master class (more about that as the time approaches). Not that these are set in stone, by any means, but I did express the desire to perform. The music school also has some recitals that would be possible. She said she was worried that I would get out there and pound out a couple of clams on those first four awful measures and it would -- well, discourage me. (I'm paraphrasing, but you get the idea.)
2. I also explained to her that I did NOT want to get stuck in a rut of trying to play something too hard that would take too long to learn, or that I couldn't learn at all. This has been the story of my life as a pianist -- particularly when I've had teachers in the past. I've already spent a good 6 months on this sonata, and the rut potential is all too strong.
3. She has never played this piece or taught it. Not that she couldn't give me advice on it, but it wouldn't be from personal experience.

So although I've definitely learned a lot from working on this sonata, I'm not opposed to learning some more manageable pieces. The teacher had some specific recommendations ready: She thinks it would be good to work on something more soulful, and pulled out two Chopin pieces: the B major Nocturne  (Op. 32 No. 1) and the C sharp minor waltz (the one in Les Sylphides, Op. 64 No. 2). Since we had talked about doing some shorter pieces at the last lesson, I had brought along my James Friskin book of Scarlatti sonatas, and she pounced gratefully on the first sonata in the book. We also talked about perhaps another bigger sonata, and I mentioned that I had worked on the "Tempest" for a while. She liked that one, too! It's nowhere as technically difficult as the Op. 2 No. 3. And I do think it will probably come back fairly quickly, at least as far as I took it when I worked on it a couple of years ago. (I had memorized the first movement and some of the third.) All must be very familiar territory for her as a teacher of kids and adult amateurs.

I'm trying to look at this positively. I know there are lots of gaps in my piano education and that it's far better to fill them using material that is graciously written for the piano rather than stuff that fights it. It's worth spending these few months at least giving this approach a try. And anyway, I never intended to saddle myself with difficult pieces that I could never even begin to master -- I want to be able to PLAY. My weaknesses were on full display for the rest of the lesson, when, Op. 2 No. 3 banished, we worked on my current Bach prelude and fugue (WTC II/15 in G major). Now, talk about discouraging! For something I feel is coming along well when I practice it at home, it sure was a mess. I felt like what I am: a middle-aged amateur who only practices an hour a day. Quite a reality check.

So this definitely reinforced taking things in another direction.

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