Sheet Music acquisitions (July 2024)

I was in Paris yesterday so had the chance to go to two sheet music shops. This is dangerous. But I got a couple of things I was looking for. So, I have the Dvorak Humoresques beside me, the Henle edition. I’ve wanted to pick these up after coming across a really nice Barenboim recording and I have this delusion I’ll have time to learn them.

I also picked up Liszt’s second piano concerto – that was something I had failed to find a few months ago, and it was never urgent, per se…I have some more Liszt to report but the last thing I got in that show was Rhapsody in Blue, which I want to do some bits of. Gershwin music is a bit odd, probably because most of it isn’t out of copyright yet so I have an Alfred edition which was apparently restored to his original manuscript. This is that fetish for “Urtext” which I think is fine for music that is two hundred years old, more recently though…it depends….a bit.

From Ariosa, a new to me shop, we have Liszt Consolations, the Budapest edition, Africa by Camille Saint Saens, and his 4th piano concerto. For Africa, it’s the Durand edition (because it was the only one there), and for the 4th concerto, it was the Henle edition, because it was 10 euro less expensive than the Durand edition. The other two books I bought was the Chopin collection of Mazurkas and Liszt transcriptions of Beethoven Symphonies 6-9. The latter is a Dover edition which seems to be easier to get than the Budapest edition.

Strictly speaking I am already learning Liszt Consolation 2 so there is some work there. From the rest, I don’t intend to work too hard any any of them in the short term except possibly the second movement of the Beethoven Symphony no 7.

20240628 Practice Diary

I wasn’t near a piano for around half of this week, so here we are. Not a lot of practice done. But to be fair, I’m at the beginning of my new cycle so it’s not totally tragic.

This week, I started Rameau’s Les Cyclopes. Of the Grade 8 pieces I have chosen, it is my favourite, and the one I really want to learn. It’s got some challenges but I think once I’ve mastered the ones on the first page, the others should fall easily enough. I’m going to give it a couple of weeks on its own, and then, from around mid July onwards, I will add one of the more recent compositions.

Probably the Rachmaninoff, as it’s in D flat, and I have been working on the very nice scales to go with it. I would like if some sort of shape was on the two of them by Christmas and by around September I will start either the Liszt or the Debussy.

In addition to the travelling, it’s been swelteringly hot in Brussels. It hasn’t been totally pleasant to play in. I’m still waiting for the Grade 6 certificate to come through, to mark this year’s second major achievement (it’s less than a year since I put Grade 5 theory away).

In other news I got denied posting access to the ABRSM Exams group on FaceBook. This might have been the biggest achievement of the week. Apparently I didn’t agree to the rules. I don’t remember even getting a request to do so, so *shrugs*. It isn’t life essential at the moment.

Practice Diary 20240622

I’m on a 29 day streak!!!!!! Tomorrow I get another badge in Tonic provided I play in the morning. This is handy because I don’t have a piano for Monday and Tuesday and most of Wednesday.

So, having finished Grade 6, and pondering on what I would do, in the end I did some work on a piece of music by Fazil Say and then switched to Rameau’s Les Cyclopes. The latter is on my Grade 8 schedule and although I hadn’t planned to start that until I came back from Ireland next week, the truth is I could not stay away from that – I have really been looking forward to that piece and I wanted to get started.

So I’ve broken it into pieces and I am working on two pieces of it to start with (maybe 30 minutes in). I struggled with the Fazil Say piece in contrast, made less progress.

When I decided to drop the JS Bach piece in February, I chose the CPE Bach piece because I needed something that would feed into the Rameau. This seems to be very sensible as a lot of what I need to be able to do with the Rameau came out of the Solfeggio too. The primary skill I am missing are efficient baroque trills. I have a trills course via ToneBase and YouTube is probably swimming in them.

Outside that, I’ve been maintaining the Grade 6 pieces – all four of them are handy party pieces.

On the technique front, with the lovely Mr Rachmaninoff on my to be learned list in the next year, the D flat scales are in.

Around practice organisation, I’ve managed to maintain the streak of daily practice by guaranteeing 5 minutes every morning before I go to work. For the last month or so, that was CPE Bach time but now, I think it’ s scales time. I’ve already noted that I have some fun with the D Flat stuff and then I also need to look at some of the D minors. I’m inclined to separate that away from the Grade 8 planning aside from supporting the keys of the 4 pieces I am learning. The breakdown for the next few weeks will be Random stuff, Rameau, and some technique work.

What I will do on my holidays…

I bought some sheets by Fazil Say lately. I’m taking a couple of weeks’ break from my ABRSM schedule as I have some travelling to do during that time as well.

So I have decided for now to start learning this

Brahms in Izmir by Fazil Say

It is really pretty and although it’s not getting hours of my time, it is very lovely to play even in learning mode.

Grade 6 exam update

One of the nice things about living in the future is how much better some aspects of it are compared to pass. I submitted my performance exam on Saturday and the results arrived back at 4am this morning. I know for the future that sleeping is better than waiting.

Anyway. The result was a DISTINCTION.

Most of the exams I did as a kid were the practical exams by the RIAM, and the last one I did was 35 years ago. So I had no real idea how rigid the ABRSM would be. They were reasonable I think; the feedback was sensible, it highlighted the issues I knew about (but eventually cut my losses about. The lowest score was 26 marks for Carl Philipp Emmanuel Bach’s one hit wonder. The highest was full marks for Elissa Milne’s introductory jazz piece.

I see a lot of discussion on how the performance grades are easier or dumbing down. I don’t really agree. You have the extra piece. And you have the utter trauma of the recording. It must sound seductive, this idea that you can try as many times as you like to get it right. But it means getting four pieces right every single time. I’ve played in public, and I did the practical exams up to grade 5 when I was a teenager. The experience of creating a valid, acceptable, compliant with the rules film was really tough. I live in an apartment with triple glazed windows. Nevertheless I had films wrecked courtesy of:

  • a helicopter
  • a bunch of extremely irate Belgium drivers stuck in a traffic jam
  • a processing of 10 police cars with their sirens blasting
  • a significant number of motor cyclists who appeared not to have any sort of silencers attached to their wheelmobile.
  • a stag party singing Sweet Caroline at the tops of their voices.

It’s really frustrating when you have got through the 4 pieces reasonably cleanly and the film is destroyed owing to circumstances outside your control.

And then there were my own mess ups, centred mainly on CPE Bach but on occasion, Elissa Milne departed my fingers in a less than elegant manner. As it was the last piece I scheduled, those occasions were both times when I had played each of the other three pieces faultlessly.

In short, this was deeply, deeply stressful in a way that no other music exam ever has been.

And I’m going back for more. I will skip Grade 7 and move straight to Grade 8 as I need it for the ARSM which is to follow that. My target date for this is end of next year and I will work to the 2025 syllabus rather than the 2023 as the repertoire list is okay for that. Before I start preparing those pieces though, there will be a short holiday from exam syllabus music.

Recording the Grade 6 video

The Facebook group for ABRSM exams is full of people squealing about how easy the performance grades are. I wonder how many of them have done one. I’ve spent almost two weeks trying to get an acceptable recording for that exam. Amongst the challenges

  • My fingers which can only play CPE Bach when literally no one is looking. They are not fooled by cameras.
  • My brain which decided at one point that I had never before actually heard Indigo Moon by Elissa Milne despite having played it daily for four omnths
  • The not very nice people who race motorbikes up and down the avenue on which I live. I have triple glazed windows.
  • The helicopter flying near the building on Tuesday night.
  • The not very sober people on the beer cycle today yowling Sweet Caroline to me and my ill fortuned neighbours.
  • My brain which decided that Autumn Leaves no 3 too was alien to it several times this week.

The mighty teaching fraternity includes some who say that this is no problem if the piece is secure for you. 3 of these pieces were ultra secure for me except – and this is critical – when the camera was running. Then it was anyone’s guess where I would end up. I’ve played some great jazz chords this week. I didn’t plan to.

Anyway, it’s submitted. It’s not perfect but then perfection does not exist.

Updates to Pianoteq

I haven’t had a look yet but apparently Bosendorfer has arrived on Pianoteq. I disassembled the crazy cabling set up I had for that a while back so I hope I can reassemble it all to see what it sounds like.

Now what

I stand at a crossroads. This must have happened before but I don’t remember it. I spent most of my teenage years pending exams or on summer holidays from the piano. The only time I insisted on doing something I wanted to do, I was learning some of Rach II at 17.

I learned Rach II at 17
A piece not meant for Irish teens.

Treasa Lynch on a Saturday night in June

Anyway, after a week of work, I recorded and submitted Grade 6. I dread something going terribly wrong here and me having to unpublish a whole pile of posts around this in utter shame. The question, is what do I do now? I see two options:

  • Start working on the Grade 8 repertoire (and find a teacher, for the love of god)
  • Take a 2 week break and inflict scales on my neighbours. It cannot be worse than Solfeggiettio has been.
  • Do something completely different from the monster pile of sheet music I own.

Yes, that’s 3 options now that I look more closely.

The four pieces on Grade 8 are pieces I actively want to learn. There are also some pieces for “later” that I could play with too. Brahms 118/2. Chopin’s Ballade No 1. Some of Fauré’s stuff. The world is wide open.

Recent sheet music acquisitions

I found a new sheet music shop in Antwerp last week and while I still don’t have Liszt’s Chorales, or Liszt’s transcriptions of Beethoven’s symphony number 7, I have some new stuff from there, and from Stretta online. I also added to my Henle library app.

On the latter, I added Consolation No 2 by Liszt which I will be starting soon as it is now on my Grade 8 syllabus. I have another edition of it which I will do a compare (mostly the book is gateway Liszt so I want to ensure it hasn’t been dumbed down in any way).

From Stretta, I picked up Early Morning in Istanbul by Fazil Say. I love his music and that has been on my list for a while.

From the bricks and mortar shop, I acquired the Rachmaninoff Moments Musicaux, the Henle edition because I dislike trying to read the Boosey edition. I also picked up some Slavonic dances by Dvorak (and now that I think of it, possibly one of his Humoresques went onto the Henle app as well). The Izmir Suite by Fazil Say arrived into my possession too – I wasn’t familiar with that particular piece and how bad could it possibly be? There are two pieces from it knocking on my ARSM repertoire list. We will see how it goes./

I also picked up the Liszt transcriptions of Schubert songs. I got that because Erlkonig is in it and I am a glutton for punishment. LAstly I picked the Barenreiter Edition of Pavane by Fauré which means I now have two different piano versions of this. Per the notes of the editor, a lot of different transcriptions of this are knocking around. Hmmm.