Monday, September 5, 2011

This and that

I see it's been a month since my last blog post. Here is a rambling post reflecting my rambling frame of mind.

I've been practicing the piano -- mostly my current Bach prelude and fugue (WTC I/18 in G sharp minor), and almost have it memorized.

I've also been learning Debussy First and Second Arabesques. The First Arabesque, in E major (more or less -- though there is some whole-tone tonality thrown in) is popular with intermediate students, and I'm very familiar with it, but I've never heard anyone play the Second Arabesque (G major). I thought it would be a good exercise to learn them both. Debussy wrote both pieces in 1888, and they were his first works for piano, I believe.

I have dabbled a bit in two Scarlatti sonatas (the Toccata I have mentioned in earlier posts and the beautiful slow sonata in F minor that is played a lot). Schumann has gone by the wayside mainly from lack of time and energy -- my job has been demanding this summer, and I've been coming home drained and tired, and there are some technical things in Papillons that I'm afraid I could hurt myself with if I proceed without due consideration. I figure it's better to play whatever I play with deep concentration and as well as I can rather than forcing myself to do everything I had hoped but at a lesser level.

I've been experimenting with different fingerings for my old nemesis passages in the first movement of Beethoven Op. 2 No. 3. At the Taubman workshop I attended this past spring, in my 15 minutes with Edna Golandsky, she suggested playing the double thirds as well as the broken arpeggios beginning of the development with two hands. With the former, a little extra muddiness is introduced because you have to hold down the pedal to keep the left-hand notes sounding, but it's extremely freeing -- the beginning of the piece goes from potential disaster to "Hey, this is fun!" With the latter, it's slightly trickier because you have to jump around the keyboard, but most of the tendonitis-causing tension from trying to play the arpeggios with the right hand alone disappears.

It really bugged me that when I brought this piece to my teacher this past spring, after working a bit on those first measures, she kind of threw up her hands and said, "Some pieces just aren't meant to be played!" I knew, of course, that what that really  meant was that she didn't know how to teach it, having never played it, but this pronouncement zapped my confidence. I mean, here I'd worked on this on and off for almost a year, feeling like it just needed some tweaking to be pretty good, and this is what I got instead.

This, among a multitude of other reasons, is why after mulling it over during the summer I decided that even though I did learn some things from this teacher, I didn't want to continue with her in the fall. I have made contact with another teacher who was recommended to me by several people, and I will have my first lesson next weekend, so we'll see.

Cello playing has been limited. For one thing, I hurt my shoulder while we were on our vacation (I think it happened when I slipped coming down the steps of a double-decker tourist bus and kept myself from falling by grabbing the handrail -- which wrenched my shoulder). It wasn't so severe that I noticed it much until we were at home -- and it was exacerbated especially by the motion required to move the bow across the cello strings. I decided to rest it as much as I could, like in the old joke:
Patient: "Doctor, it hurts when I do this."
Doctor: "Then don't do that."
(Okay, it's not funny. But you get my point.)

This plan appears to have been working because most of the pain is gone, and I can play the cello with only a touch of soreness now. I got together with our neighborhood band and played for a couple of hours, and my shoulder feels pretty good. This is good, because we start rehearsals for the first orchestra concert of the season in a couple of weeks.

1 comment:

Bill said...

Welcome back. Yours is one of the blogs that I check in on and I have missed your writings.