Tuesday, March 18, 2014

What I've been up to

I haven't posted much recently. I've been practicing the piano quite a bit because I have the pressure of weekly lessons, and I have the time, so why not? Although I feel I'm worrying too much about memorizing to the detriment of other things, like musicality and pianism.

What I find most difficult is maintaining concentration. I will be sitting there playing and realize my mind is a million miles away. The biggest problem with this is that when I finally get to perform something and both want and need to concentrate exclusively on what I'm doing, I can't because I haven't practiced that way. Duh. I think the key to dealing with this is to just stop when I notice this and refocus, as well as think about what I will concentrate on BEFORE I start playing -- stuff like bringing out the melodic line, security of fingering, knowing what is coming next, dynamics, articulating, pedaling, and on and on.

For some reason, this is less of a problem when I'm playing the cello. I think it's because my body is more involved. When you play the cello, you have to move your arms, and there is by the nature of the instrument physical follow-through on every note, whereas on the piano, it's possible to just sit there and zone out because you only need to do something physically at the beginning of each note.

My current roster of piano music is Beethoven Op. 90 (the complete sonata, two movements, which I am scheduled to perform at a house concert in a few weeks), Bach Partita No. 2 in C minor, Brahms Rhapsodies Op. 79 Nos. 1 and 2, and a prelude by Ruth Crawford [Seeger]. I also have not forgotten my WTC quest; I'm still fussing around with the C minor set from Book 1.

On the cello I'm trying to discipline myself to do a scale every time I practice using this book:

Each scale is set in a different rhythmic pattern with its own bowing and then is followed by arpeggios and various other technical exercises in the same key. Some of them are quite difficult (scales in sixths in four octaves, octave arpeggios in thumb position in four octaves, etc.). When I first acquired this book, I thought I needed to master each key before I went to the next, which proved an exercise in frustration. I like just working through one key on one day and then moving on.

I am also practicing Popper etudes. These are the 40 studies that have long been considered the centerpiece of cello technique. I am not sure that is really true, but they do offer many challenges and are also musically interesting. Since I have started teaching, I've become more interested in figuring out how to master technical issues as well as how to explain them, and it was bothering me that I never fully learned (up to a decent performance level) any of these etudes. So I've been working on No. 1, which is considered among the easier ones but certainly is not easy.

Then there's the Bach suite.

And here I sit typing when I could be practicing . . .