Wednesday, August 3, 2011


This appears to be a favorite encore piece for Marta Argerich. Could I ever possibly play this that fast? I guess a girl can dream:

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Still practicing

Even though my run of piano lessons had a somewhat discouraging effect on me, I have continued plugging away. My return to practicing after our vacation was not as difficult as I thought it would be. So here's what I've been doing:

  • Bach, WTC I/18 in G sharp minor: I chose this partly because I wanted more work on something with lots of black keys. I know "they" say that C major is the most difficult key, but come on -- reading all those accidentals in a key with lots of sharps or flats is not easy, nor is learning what to do so that your fingers don't slip off the narrower black keys. I started this in the middle of May, and only now is the prelude memorized. The fugue is not, but it's at least starting to feel like music instead of a finger tangle. The prelude is a gentle, melancholy one, in 6/8, really more like a fugue than a prelude. The fugue is somewhat marchlike, in 4/4, but odd in that the subject starts on the second beat of the measure, and it is hard to find the downbeat anywhere in the piece.
  • Chopin B major Nocturne and C sharp minor waltz: These are the pieces I worked on a bit in my lessons, after my teacher chose them for me. These pieces are full of what should be singing melodic lines. I had the nagging feeling the entire time I was working with this teacher that she looked at me as your average uptight, perfectionist adult student who needed lots of help with freeing myself up to be expressive. Now granted, there's some of that in me, but you'd only have to ask any of my former teachers if I were a perfectionist to get a big laugh. I'm almost convinced that the most freeing thing for me would be improving my technique so I could come closer to what I imagine without having to struggle so much with everything. Whenever I mentioned this, though, my teacher would say I had plenty of technique -- as if "technique" were only the ability to play lots of notes! I think of technique as anything one does physically, and there are lots of things I am only managing to do by instinct, without really understanding them, and many others I am not able to do at all. Anyway, I never felt like the things we worked on in these pieces helped me play them more expressively. I just felt tension and awkwardness. I want to record them so I can really hear what I'm doing, but I haven't had the time or energy. Maybe this coming week.

  • Schumann, Papillons: I had started this before our vacation, but I haven't looked at it since we got back last week. There's some technical stuff here I'm really not sure about, like all the octaves, and the pedaling, but it's fun to practice.

Over the weekend, I worked a bit on some new pieces:

  • Debussy, First Arabesque. Okay, the reason for this, aside from its being pretty: It's relatively easy, and easy to memorize; very familiar; good vehicle for practicing tone and voicing; and a nice piece to have at the ready. I have never learned any Debussy, so this seemed like a good place to start. (Though, full disclosure, of course I used to sight-read through this years ago, so it's far from being new to me.)

  • Scarlatti, Toccata in D minor: When we were in Barcelona, we went to hear a guitar duo concert (it was aimed at all the tourists who throng Las Ramblas and the Old City at the center of town, but it was actually charming and tasteful, and the duo was very good), and this is one of the pieces they played. They also played a slow Scarlatti sonata that is also a favorite with a lot of pianists, which I would also like to learn, but I need to look it up and dig out the music. I had printed the Toccata out a while ago out of curiosity so I had it at hand. This may be a total wild goose chase in that the repeated notes may be beyond me, but I thought it would be fun to give it a try.

As for the cello: It looks like there will be no big concerto in my future, at least not in the coming year. The conductor said that another amateur orchestra has programmed the Dvorak so he doesn't want to play it as well (though frankly, I doubt if our audiences overlap). He suggested the Faure Elegy instead. Okay, I know it can be beautiful, in the right hands, but it simply doesn't interest me. I suppose I can pretend I'm 15 years old again, but I'm afraid no one will be fooled. In the meantime, this has given me a further excuse to avoid the cello. It's odd, because I do have a hankering to play, but there's something keeping me from diving back in.