20240210 Practice Diary

This week, on Tonic, I was in the Gold list having gotten myself promoted a couple of weeks in a row. Now, playing with the big boys and girls. The ones who clearly don’t have full time jobs. * rueful smile.

I haven’t done today’s practice session yet so who knows this could change after I have done it. It was at best a mixed week. I missed at least one day because I was at a concert (a good reason, you would admit). But I also started a new job and much to my surprised this has resulted in me getting home later rather than earlier. I didn’t have so much time to practice, and also not so much time to listen in to other people practising.

So, in terms of what went well: the Mendelssohn is getting slightly more security; it’s not where I want yet but okay, there are no obvious weaknesses except when I am tired. The Rebikov is now more or less internalised but in some odd hybrid short/long term memory mess. This means some times I can play it under finger without one error; last night I spent a lot of time again trying to render a section of fluent, a section that I know intelleuctually in my mind but my fingers take on crab like features of their own and I watch as a C sharp/A figure turns into something akin to a diminished chord undescribed in no music theory text book; a flow of notes that my wrists do not wish to play even as I know in my mind what notes they are. More work is required. Nevertheless, despite being the last of the pieces I started learning, it is the second closest to ready.

For Elissa Milne’s Indigo Moon, I have struggled to memorise this. I would like all four pieces to be memorised so there’s work to be done here. I didn’t touch this for several months (and it shows) but although I can’t play it fluently at all, it is in reasonable health for the effort it got. With both Rebikov and Mendelssohn demanding less time over the coming month or two, I expect this to be okay as it was fluent at one point. The shapes are broadly okay for my fingers.

This leads us to the Bachs, Johann Sebastien and his son Carl Philipp Emmanuel. Invention in E major is out (I have no idea but it really wasn’t coming for me at al) and Solfeggio is in. The read through for that went okay, and the chunks of it getting touched in practice is about half the piece. This is a piece that I absolutely have to memorise – I cannot read at Prestissimo velocity – and it is a piece that demands work with a metronome. It is nowhere close to written speed and that will be a while. But it altogether feels more realistic than his father’s easy training piece. It will also feed into the Rameau I have lined up for after.

Outside that, there were two or three other pieces this week. Reddit’s Piano Jam for the month had a small waltz by Shostokovich so I read that through, and I’ve also been working on the infamous C Major prelude that is Fur Elise-sque in its popularity with being hacked to pieces and murdered screaming. I’m influenced by Alexandre Tharaud’s carefully pedalled recording. I am happy with how this is going although strangely enough I struggle to memorise it. But it is very easy to read. And just because I was super angry about the Bach invention last week and needed something more motivational, I have Handel’s Sarabande on the go, also easy to read, but I haven’t tried the couple of variations yet.

At some point I need to write a piece on sightreading and discuss all the can’t lose hints I keep seeing.

Autumn Leaves – Rebikov

It’s after midnight on a Friday night in Brussels. It hasn’t rained much today, but I napped this afternoon which tends to wreck in terms of sleeping. This is one of the reasons I have a digital piano of course (money being the other primary blocking in point in terms of a big acoustic piano). I played, late.

The focus this evening is Rebikov, the 4th piece for my Grade 6 exams. It’s been on the Grade 6 list in the past (therefore complies with the need for the self choice piece to be of equal difficulty of the other pieces). (in theory). I started it for the second time last night; truth be told the first time I looked at it, I had a LOT of problems with the left hand. Not to read, but to move between the notes with some element of grace. I set it aside. For the exam prep, I have been mostly working on the Mendelssohn, the middle of which has been causing major grief, and the Hillne which I have inexplicably completely forgotten. If you look at my goals page, you’ll see this is likely to be the last jazzy piece I do and in short, some of the styles in it are not instinctive to me. I do like how some of the chords fit together but I cannot commit them to memory and this is causing difficulty with the interpretation. I expected to be finished it and Mendelssohn’s nice Gondollied by end of July which is next Monday and I’m not there. But I also need to start the other two pieces with a little more seriousness, and the Bach is going very slowly at the moment. The Rebikov was stuck without petrol in the engine.

On second sight it does not appear to be as difficult as I imagined the first time I started it. I know that in my memory, what concerned me more than anything was the shapes I couldn’t make with my left hand. So I took the child honoured way of separating out the hands and built some experience with the right hand and that surprised me – it turned out to be surprisingly easy and it appears to have opened some doors to my mind. It has a beautiful melody, and I love the many triplets while recognising they will bring with them some 3:2 polyrhythms. But this is a journey. Then, instead of starting at the beginning with the left hand, I skipped to the last 10 or so bars, the close out. For this piece, it’s particularly beautiful and heart tugging. I get so much pleasure out of how it sounds, it distracts me from actually working on any of the rest of it.

Today, though, I bit that bullet. I’m really pleased with the progress on the opening 12 or so bars. There isn’t any consistency there, and I’m not always sure that I’m playing at my best at 11pm (if you heard my Mendelssohn just afterwards, you’d understand why I say this). Thing is, this was a desperate choice after realising some other choices (Reverie by Debussy) were probably too challenging. For the first time, I actually thought, you know, I like this. I like it enough that once this exam is done, I will keep it. I can’t say that about the Bach two part invention, not yet at least.

Rebikov has a waltz which I think is colloquially known as the Christmas Tree waltz. See here for a link to a video of it. I did actually eventually get that issue of Pianist so I have the sheets for it and anyway, I think he is dead long enough that it is up on IMSLP. It’s randomly on my learning list for when I have time and also can read music more fluently.