Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Weekend of cello-ing (and piano-ing)

To test out how the Pezzo Capriccioso is coming along, I arranged a couple of tryouts over the weekend. Saturday, I played it for an accomplished cellist acquaintance. It wasn't exactly a lesson, but it was the closest thing to one I've had on the cello in more than 20 years. He was very complimentary about the technical level and how prepared I am so far in advance of the concert, and he had some suggestions (e.g., use more bow rather than pressure to get a bigger sound). I was happy that I was able to play through it with minimal problems and without any train wrecks.

Then on Sunday, a pianist friend came over and played it through with me a few times; the finale was that three other friends came over and listened while I recorded it (to put the most pressure on). I felt good about it until I listened to the recording later on. Oh, it was clean and musical up to a point, but the big problem was the tempo, which kept getting slower and slower. This was partly because of the pianist, who followed me and didn't push it, but the particularly bad part was that I again took the "non cambiare il tempo" section much too slow. It just sounded ridiculous to me.

The reason this keeps happening, I think, is because I don't trust myself not to play it too fast, so I err on the side of too slow, which I guess is better. But just right would be best, no? So I spent an hour or so last night practicing with the metronome, both slow and fast; perhaps if I do a lot more of that it will help.

My piano lessons are continuing, always interesting. I have been practicing a couple of hours every day, but it is not always the most productive practicing. I will get to the end of the time I have available (i.e., I will look at the clock and it will be after midnight) and will feel like I haven't really done anything. And then I get into my lessons and am all stumble-fingered. But maybe things are happening incrementally.

We are doing scales (hands separate, a routine involving varying use of wrist and fingers), chord progressions, and right now a trill exercise. We are continuing with Chopin preludes, including ongoing discussion about Prelude No. 1 -- for a 1-minute piece, there's a lot to talk about -- and now Prelude No. 3, the one with the fast, rippling left hand. My teacher gave me a clever fingering for the awkward spot in the piece where it goes to the dominant, involving using the right hand to play some of the 16th notes (however, I was cruising YouTube last night and noticed Pollini just plays it all with his left hand, as I 'm sure most others do on that level; oh well). We began working on Kinderszenen a couple of weeks ago, something I had never touched before (except occasionally reading through "Of Strange Lands and People" when I came across it in graded collections).  And now another Bach: WTC I/22, the somber set in B flat minor with a five-voice fugue.

I fear I am falling behind in my progress recordings. I really want to do the C major and D minor sets from WTC II. I will try to do that in the coming week, just to keep the record straight. But maybe I will also try to keep those under my fingers by continuing to work on them and play them at least a few times a week. It's more a matter of available time than desire or lack thereof, but I will do the best I can.

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