Sunday, April 24, 2011


I can count on the fingers of one hand the times I have successfully performed anything on the piano from memory in front of other people. My nervousness about the AMSF recital lay in the fact that I didn't know how I would react to the situation. I knew that the stakes were very low, that it would not matter in any material fashion if I messed up. My fear was of having a bad experience, of finding out that the hours I had spent in preparation had been insufficient, or even wasted, and that I really don't know what I'm doing.

As I was fretting over this on Friday -- panicking over not being "ready" and so on -- I decided that I was going to use this as a learning experience. The worst that could happen would be a total neurological flatus episode, where I would break down, stop, and have to attempt to read the music while someone sat and turned pages for me, or else crumble to the floor in tears and have to be carried out. Such scenarios were not likely. More likely would be a few little memory slips, a few missed notes, a few poorly executed pedal maneuvers, or maybe just a boringly paced 10 minutes of music.

As it turned out, the latter was more or less what took place yesterday afternoon (although I don't believe my 10 minutes of music was particularly boring). The recital was held at one of the member's homes (a beautiful town house from the turn of the 20th century in a quiet corner of DC). The piano was a very resonant rebuilt Steinway from the same era as the house.  Six of us played, and a few friends came to listen, so that made an audience of 10 or so, plus the other occupants of the house (one human and two dogs), who listened from upstairs.

The atmosphere was informal, more like a piano party than a recital, and they put me first on the program, so I didn't have the opportunity to sit there worrying about it while listening to everyone else. My husband said I looked calm and relaxed. I didn't feel completely at ease -- at a few points, I could feel my pulse pounding -- but my extremities did not shake, my hands did not turn cold, I didn't rush (I don't think). I kept breathing and pressed on. In a short time, it was over! Success!

My husband's comment: my playing was good, and it was musical, though you could tell I was an amateur. (Sigh. When I asked him what he meant by that, he said, "I didn't mean it in a bad way!") Anyway, I'm happy about how it all went. Maybe next time, I won't feel quite as insecure beforehand.

Here's what my husband describes as a "bush recording," made with his iPhone. He missed the beginning, but you get the idea:


Carol said...

Harriet, congratulations! I listened to the recording-your Beethoven sounds really assured, and I'm impressed, especially as I recall your gloomy prognostications! Your posts really resonate with me-I feel as if I could have written this myself :) I'll be playing Poulenc's Melancolie at a studio class with my teacher tonight (yup, finally caved and went back to a fromer teacher). Then, I'll do a rerun at my own piano group (a bit like AMSF, about 25 of us at my home) this Sunday, and next week, play it on the occasion for which I learned it, a scholarship / memorial concert at my school. That's an audacious move because everyone else playing an instrument or performing will be either an advanced music student or a music faculty member, leaving me, the academic librarian, to out myself as an amateur musician. Oh well, I feel inspired by your success--and sounding like an amateur isn't necessarily a bad thing--amateurs can become most accomplished performers (a computer geek in my group just won 3rd place in the annual Paris Concours for Amateurs :) Anyway, sounds like you made a positive step forward!

Harriet said...

Carol, thanks! And good luck with your performances. Playing it three times in a week will give you a really good chance to nail it.

FWIW, my teacher said at my lesson tonight that getting at least 70% of the piece to happen in a performance, especially in a first performance, the way you want it to happen is a good percentage.

Anonymous said...

Not just Done, but Well Done. "Bush" iPhone recording not withstanding, I love the tone and power of the piano you played.