Sunday, November 10, 2013

More rehearsals, thoughts

This weekend was the second round of rehearsals for the Schumann concerto. Yesterday's was in the morning. I slept too late, so only had time to get dressed and have breakfast before rushing over there, and I didn't have time to warm up at all. The conductor had invited a couple of friends to watch him and give critiques, one a conductor, the other a cellist, which he announced just before we started. So I was all shaky, and the whole thing felt horrible. Plus, the orchestra was still sounding pretty bad. My recording told the tale.

At my last piano lesson, my teacher showed me a way to practice a technically difficult passage wherein you set the metronome at some determinedly slow tempo and then play the shortest note value at that speed. The section we were working on, 10 measures of Beethoven sonata Op. 90, involves rapid 16th notes in an Alberti bass encompassing leaps of a 10th. He had me set the metronome at 60 = 16th note and play the left-hand part of the passage with one finger (first thumb, then fifth, then fourth). At this slow speed, it sounded like random notes. We then moved the metronome up to 80, then 100, then 120.

This helped so much with this passage (which had been turning my hand into a claw) that I decided to try it in the last movement of the Schumann on the sections with continuous 16th notes (though skipping the "one finger" part of it, obviously). Although the problems are different on the two instruments, the principle is somewhat the same: this gets you to feel the distance between each note and perform whatever motion you need to get there in a relaxed fashion. So I spent a few hours yesterday and today working those passages in the concerto.

I also, after wrestling with my pride a bit, emailed the conductor and asked if could take the last movement slower. Schumann marked it 114 = quarter note (which actually doesn't exist on any metronome), and we've been doing it probably faster than that, what with the rushing on everyone's part. In any case, it's not held together very well, and I felt very pressed and insecure.

I am listening right now to today's rehearsal -- basically just a run through because of time limitations -- and wow, the conductor really kept it at 108 = quarter note. It felt like we were crawling along, even though we were just a notch or so slower than what we've been playing. But it felt great to be able to play all the notes without panicking.

As for the rest of today's session, my other preparations involved bringing my own chair (the chairs at the place we rehearse are very low metal folding chairs; my own chair is at least a couple of inches higher, which makes a big difference in how secure my seating position feels, with my longish legs) and getting there 10 minutes early so I could warm up with a few scales. I also tried, while playing, to concentrate on the emotional scenario of the piece that I had come up with. So whenever my thoughts started drifting along the lines of "how'm I doing?" I steered them back to what was happening in the music.

In total, it all went much, much better. If I can play it somewhat in the area of how I played it today, I will feel relatively happy.

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