Sunday, September 23, 2012

Another recital, another Bach recording

This afternoon I played on another AMSF recital, which was held at a church in Northwest DC. It was a gorgeous fall day, and the sun lit up the stained glass windows in the sanctuary in a comforting way. The piano was a very nice Kawai baby grand, easy to play and responsive.

My husband took this photo of me as I was trying out the piano before the recital:

He also served as audio engineer:

My evaluation of this: though I definitely rushed in a number of places, and I hit a few wrong notes here and there, overall I think I got the idea. It doesn't meet my criteria for being fully learned because I haven't memorized it, but I will add it to the list on the side anyway, and if life allows it maybe I will be able to revisit it in the future.

P.S. No shaky foot this time. Heel down! Move from the ankle! Got it!

Monday, September 17, 2012

And now a longer term goal

Is a year out considered long term or just medium? Let's call it "longer term."

In any case, I am penciled in to play the Schumann cello concerto with the TCO on the first concert of 2013-2014 next fall. This came about because I approached the music director at our first rehearsal this past weekend with the thought that if he was considering having me play a solo piece next season, it might be a good idea to decide on it now rather than waiting until next spring, giving me a year or more to prepare it rather than a few months. He liked this suggestion, conferred with the orchestra librarian, and came back the next day to give me the okay.

We've been batting around the idea of playing the Dvorak concerto. Now, it's a great piece and all, but it's written for a large orchestra, which the TCO is not. It's played a lot -- and I've played it a fair amount (in bits and pieces, for auditions) as well as on a recital with piano, so though I hesitate to say I'm tired of it, I'm kind of tired of it. It's also a long piece, about 45 minutes, longer than almost anything else we've played, so it would need to be programmed as if it were a symphony.

The Schumann concerto, on the other hand, is written for a smaller, lighter orchestra, and it's a compact 25 minutes or so. I've worked on it but never brought it to a performance level -- and I never really understood it. I think I will be able to approach it much better now than I could have done in the past. Learning it will add so much to my technique and playing ability as well.

So although it's sad to give up the opportunity to play the Dvorak with an orchestra, the Schumann is an all-around better choice, so Schumann it is.

Monday, September 10, 2012

A thought on practicing

Sometimes I feel like such a total geek for practicing the piano every day. It's not like it really matters in the sense that I have obligations to fulfill, a reputation to uphold, or fees to earn. It's not even exactly fun, though it's certainly absorbing.

At the same time, though, once you let one day slide, it's a slippery slope to not practicing at all, and therefore to losing any physical attainments you may have made. You won't lose everything -- you will still have had the experience, which is now part of your history -- but all of that muscle training will start to go.

The payback is not what some would imagine -- for example, compliments from other people (which tend to be far and few between in any case). Gratification comes when I put my hands on the keys and they feel familiar, and when what I imagine in my head translates into the sound that comes out of the piano. If I wasn't practicing every day, this would be elusive if not impossible. This is what I continue to pursue.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Short-term goal

It looks like I have a slot on an AMSF recital in a few weeks. I signed up for this even though I didn't have a specific piece in mind to play because I like to take advantage of every opportunity to play in front of people and because these recitals fill up quickly. Last week I decided that I would play the Bach B flat minor prelude and fugue from WTC I, even though they are not up to my minimal personal standards. I don't have them memorized at all, for one thing; for another, I don't have any kind of mental image of how I want them to sound. Vague ideas, yes, but specifics, no.

I have been working on this set for about 5 months, but of course I've been doing a lot of other things as well (e.g., performing Pezzo Capriccioso on cello with an orchestra!), so it hasn't gotten my full attention. I wouldn't have chosen it on my own precisely because it's a little too complicated for me to get my mind around -- all those thick dissonant chords, five voices in the fugue, the black-note key -- but my teacher suggested working on it, so I was game despite all that. It's been good to work on because it contains lots of challenges to my weaknesses.

I don't think I've met all of those challenges fully, but I can play through the set quite decently while reading from the music, so I'm going to see what I can do to polish or develop it as best I can to make a pleasurable presentation. I was reading an interview with Angela Hewitt recently in which she talked about her tour a few years ago performing the entire WTC (both books), and she admitted she used the score in the earlier part of the tour, although by the end of it she was playing the whole thing from memory. If using music is okay for her, it's certainly okay for me.

Here's a version on harpsichord with Kenneth Gilbert:

I like the tempos he takes here. Many times you will hear this played agonizingly slowly, which just seems wrong to me. Yes, this is a profound piece of music (my teacher says it reminds him of the opening of the St. Matthew Passion), but it shouldn't sound like the sludge at the beginning of the universe, either.

One of the viewer comments on the above video is . . . interesting  . . .

Isn´t it wonderful to be part of an unending incomprehensible cosmos where we are just small particles tossed around like tiny specks shining while we burn our lives with our little fears and loves. We burn in seconds that seem endless. Just little puffs of electrical fire we are, light up for a few seconds of eternity and dissapear. Small tufts of conscience we are, grasp a little, then subside in the tide and make way for the next to arrive....