Musical Hair does keyboard requests (only with Old Spice)
Musical Hair does keyboard requests (only with Old Spice)
Last Wednesday evening I played a recital with Soprano Cynthia Sanner. It was a privilege to play the repertoire she had chosen—some works were new to me and others I had played before. I enjoyed looking at familiar pieces with new eyes and viewpoints and delving into the unfamiliar. The major highlight for me was Schumann’s Frauenliebe und Leben. I’ve blogged about Clara and Robert before ( Clara & Robert Sitting in a Tree ) and these beautiful songs added a whole new layer to my understanding. The texts encompass the male view of women as expected for the time (especially the second which I have nicknamed, He Who Must Be Obeyed) but somehow Schumann manages to turn the tables on the text. I love the fact that Clara gets the last word in the piano solo which ends the cycle. What began as an accompaniment shines on its own in this coda, bringing us in a full circle.
I’m a sucker for Schumann’s codas anyway and this one initially struck me as an apology. I couldn’t quite figure out why. Later, as I practiced and we rehearsed, I thought less of the apology aspect and more about how the passage is hopeful in the first song and alone and vulnerable in the final rendition. Initially it looks forward and finally it looks back. As always, music deepens in rehearsals and performance and as I played the coda in performance last Wednesday I came back to the apology. Somehow right then Robert seemed to be saying, how sorry he was that that was all he had to give her, “but here is this beautiful music just for you and even though I’ll be gone one day, you will always have that.”
We also did a set of Schubert, including Death and the Maiden. Certainly, I’ve played this song many times over the years. One morning as I began the piece, the clearest message popped into my head. Just do nothing in the introduction—keep it flat and irrevocable but never malevolent just as the song describes. It worked beautifully and I was reminded of something I have often told students. Sometimes doing nothing is the best something there is. (Also, on a different subject, did you know that Gretchen makes quite a wonderful cycling cadence?)
I had to take another, more bitter, kind of medicine though. I had gotten discouraged 2 weeks or so before the performance because none of my usual tricks (or some new ones) were really resulting in a fluent performance of some of the Dvorak songs. I had checked the tempi on 4-5 performances and there was quite a range so I remained hopeful that I could make the pieces work. I should have realized right then that my arthritis was really limiting me, faced reality, and started reconfiguring sections. But, I didn’t. I didn’t want to not be able to do what I used to be able to do—what everyone else could do. So I kept soldiering on. (the definition of insanity)
Well, at the first rehearsal they were at the top tempi or faster and I definitely couldn’t make them work. So, after I had the proverbial cow, I set down to make adjustments with the goal of maintaining the essence of Dvorak’s original passages. Throughout the rehearsals (ok, even on the day of the performance) I had to continually refine those adjustments. If I had accepted reality 2 weeks before, it would have been a lot less stressful, if harder on my ego. I still don’t like it but I know it was necessary. More importantly the pieces worked.
I teach quite a few adult students with conditions that require them to make adjustments in octaves, leaps, etc. in order to be able to set the music free. I also mentor pianists who play with others in various song and chamber settings and help them to make decisions about adjusting scores within limited time frames. My end goal is always to help pianists to make needed adjustments that maintain the sound and character of the music without feeling guilty. So, why did I take it so hard when I was forced to down a dose of my own medicine?
In this SuiteLinks: Hear the Van Cliburn memorial concert, Oppens at 70, On the uses of piano benches, Cliburn memorial replay, Meet Blind Boone, and more!
Oppens at 70
The big deal about Horowitz
Taking time to play
Late musical testaments
On the uses of piano benches
Suite for healing
Embracing jazz piano
Van . . . → Read More: SuiteLinks: March 1
I’m always encouraging students to find something personal in their music—something from their own lives and experience. Often, they look at me like I have lobsters crawling out of my ears. But, I made this practice chart, they say. Should I use my third finger here? Why doesn’t (name your pianist here) follow the dynamics . . . → Read More: PA Shorts: On Forging A Personal Musical Connection
In this SuiteLinks: Blu Dog piano, Hostility in performers?, Piano playing chicken, Richter Scales, Redesigning the cadenza, and more!
Mythbusters on syncing metronomes
Are today’s performers more hostile?
Key to Flow in music
Yuja Wang at Steinway
Blue Dog Piano
Redesigning the cadenza
The Lang Lang Bugatti
Celebrating the 32
Name that piano . . . → Read More: SuiteLinks: February 24
“Amanda,” I said, “You have to spot your landings before you get there!” She looked at me for a minute and then said, “Ohhh….” We talked about the fact that when playing from memory you must know what the cadence looks like on the keyboard (geographically) as well as how it feels and sounds. You . . . → Read More: PA Shorts: A Pianist, A Halfpipe, & A Snowboard
In this SuiteLinks: From chemo to Carnegie Hall, Ghost Composer scandal, Meet Helen Sung, Flipping Haydn, Pianist to head NEA, Are you practicing too hard?, Zacharias’ ideas, Charles Ives Studio, and more!
Meet Helen Sung
The mind of a prodigy
The ideas of Zacharias
Scandal of the Ghost Composer
Grassroots piano (be . . . → Read More: SuiteLinks: February 15
Say hello to pianist and artist Paul Morin. He’s a classical pianist, artist, composer, and educator. His performances blend classical masterworks with his own compositions and artworks. He has composed music for concerts, theater, cinema, and musicals and is also an active clinician, giving masterclasses in both the US and South America. We chatted via . . . → Read More: Artist Portrait: Paul Morin
In this SuiteLinks: One armed pianists past and present, Great pianists’ mishaps, Lang Lang & Metallica, McDermott talks, and more!
Beethoven’s Immortal Beloveds
Billie Holiday interpreted for solo piano
Winter Olympics for piano students
Great pianists’ mishaps
Piano as social status symbol
More on Kiev’s extremist pianist
The story of Paul Wittgenstein
. . . → Read More: SuiteLinks: February 9
It’s the bleak midwinter and we all need something to keep us going right? So, here are a few funnies to lift your spirits. Enjoy! ( and be sure to leave your own personal funnies in the comments)
A colleague and I were serving as evaluators in a small town. We drove down together the . . . → Read More: A Bit Of Humor
In this SuiteLinks: Brubeck, Hamelin, & Brubeck talk, Teach young scientists music & the arts!, Abbey Simon at 92, An extremist pianist, and more!
Interview with Marc-André Hamelin
Dave Brubeck in 1954
Cliburn Junior Competition to debut
Young Scientists must be taught music and the arts
Abbey Simon at 92
An extremist pianist
Grimaud . . . → Read More: SuiteLinks: February 1
Simone Dinnerstein: Bach Inventions & Sinfonias
“An instrumental training is as much a training in how to listen as in how to play. In the text that accompanies the Inventions, Bach calls them ‘an honest guide.’ His Inventions and Sinfonias are marvels in demonstrating just how potent counterpoint is as an aid to expression, and . . . → Read More: Great Finds: Dinnerstein’s Inventions & A Carbon Fiber Phoenix
In this SuiteLinks: Gould sings to elephants, New classical improv prize, Yamaha’s vibrating piano, The very strange Katzenclavier, Bill T. Jones on making a personal musical connection, Voyager data becomes piano duet, and more!
Glenn Gould singing to elephants
Brahms & Beyond
Bill T. Jones on making a personal musical connection
Reports of classical demise . . . → Read More: SuiteLinks: January 26
The universe is conspiring to make me think hard about practicing. Coincidenza? I think not. I’m up to my eyeballs in Lieder and Art Song in preparation for a recital next month. Most of you know that I have arthritis and therefore can’t spend long hours at the keyboard. I need to make the most . . . → Read More: Interference: No Penalty 2
In this SuiteLinks: Biss changed by his own course, Making silent films come alive, Brubaker talks, Teacher defrauds students with fake exams, Re-creating Rhapsody in Blue, Million $$ rehearsal, Six String Competition has piano/keyboard category, and more!
Biss’ online course changes his perspective of performance
silentsweeney makes films come alive
Interview with Alan Fraser
New . . . → Read More: SuiteLinks: January 19
Last week I found myself focusing on practice strategies again and again—specifically how to change up passages and scales/arpeggios etc. when practicing with repetitions. I have quite a few new students this semester along with some continuing students who have progressed to the point where they need more than simple repetition to keep moving forward. . . . → Read More: PA Shorts: Interference! No Penalty.
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