Sur Mer

Following a Rachmaninoff related mishap with my right hand last week, and a rather stupid insistence on continuing to practice through some discomfort, I am now taking a short break from playing the piano in the hope that sometime next week, I will be back at it with my Gondolalied and Bach Invention Number Tortuous.

In the meantime, I keep finding pieces that I want to learn, random but amazing pieces. This is one.

Sur Mer by Felix Blumenfeld, played by Daniel Blumenthal.

I should probably listen to all of that album, this one track is already amazing. It’s probably far beyond my skills at the moment (given my skill consists of being stuffed by Rach right now…) I hope that Felix’s chords aren’t anywhere near as challengingly big.

Rather annoyingly, I don’t find a published print of it at the moment but it is out of copyright so IMSLP has it. You can find it here. I had a look on Abebooks for it and found one seller in Germany but the quoted price was over 60 dollars. I don’t pay that for brand new sheet music books and I’m not sure I want this one at that price when I won’t be starting it for a good while and have some other things to do [I’m wondering if it is acceptable for Grade 8 but since I can’t find a published print I think I will struggle to use it].

The opening bars put me in mind of a great naval ship (sailing, 19th century) racing across the ocean, with the occasional encounter with someone else’s great naval ship. I love those opening bars, those arpeggios.


When I was doing some research around the prelude in C major from the first Well Tempered Clavier, I came across a reference to Anna Magdalena’s Notebook. It’s a collection of music which JS Bach put together for his wife and it includes the prelude in C major.

I liked the idea, and also I own some of these things:

More baby sketchbookd
They are around A6 sized. Small. Anyway.

There are lots of clips of pieces of music which I like – parts of Tchaikovsky’s 2nd piano concerto, for example, elements of the piano parts of Rachmaninoff’s Sonata for Cello and Piano (I really want to include mention of the piano because it isn’t merely a backdrop to the stringed instrument here) and there is an extraordinary opening for one of the Schuman violin sonatas which I came across in a very old clip of Helene Grimaud:

A very young Helene Grimaud working on Schumann

I like the idea of a notebook full of extracts I like, and might even try to learn if they don’t try to injure me (looking at you, Sergey). But I thought the A6 notebooks were a little too small for that (I fancy being the type of person who has a notebook to sketch out compositional ideas while waiting for dinner to be served which is why I have the A6 notebooks). So I got this.

Music sketchbook A4
A4 Henle Notes sketchbook for music.

Sporting injuries – Rachmaninov

I’ve never worked out whether I prefer the v or ff spelling and today I bought some more music published by Henle who spell it with a w. Gotta love German.

Anyway. I’m fully aware of my limitations – I started working on the second piano concerto when I was 15 and still struggle with polyrhythms – and I like to think I pick my encounters with Rachmaninov carefully. I have some pieces on my longer to do list and then I have some snippets on my snippets. I lately came across Heart of the Keys having a go at the Prelude in G minor (playable by people who have been learning since yesterday 4pm according to Reddit) and it occurred to me that it had been a while since I had listened to it. So I did and it’s broadly an ABA structure, which is nice from a logical point of view, and the B is really a gorgeous piece of music.

I already had the sheet music, in a Boosey & Hawkes edition [and I have say I am not totally lost on the paper] so during a bout of insominia yesterday I got it out.

The sheet music is here on IMSLP, if you want to have a look. This is the key part, right at the beginning of what my popmusic soul still calls the bridge:

Clip from the sheet music of Prelude in G Minor, first bar of B section

See that chord highlighted in red? That there is an innocuous looking little octave sized chord where the position of the D and the F which is an F sharp courtesy of an earlier accidental are basically impossible for me to play at this point. Yes, I hurt myself.

I have a 9 white note span. I was not expecting this and I would be disappointed except Ouch.

Snippets July 2023

Diversions from the plan

One of the reasons I want to fix my sightreading is so that I can also speed up the rate at which I learn. There are a couple of pieces which I am looking at picking up pieces, some of which are also future projects but I am not urgently looking to finish them – I will take little extracts here and there. Amongst the pieces currently on my list for snippet learning are

  • Rachmaninoff – Lilacs
  • Brahms – Opus 118/2 – Intermezzo in A major. I love this. There is an extract of the Tonebase tutorial for this by Seymour Bernstein and Garrick Ohlsson. I would kill for a recording of Garrick playing it. It’s just a complete punch in the gut and I feel so lonely listening to it. But Helene Grimaud has a great recording of it. I have started looking at a clip out of this and I really like how it makes me feel.
  • Chopin Barcarolle in F sharp. I’m so not a fan of this key but on my to do list there’s a torturous piece in D flat so this is mildly troublesome in comparison.
  • Nyman; The Heart asks pleasure first. I don’t know why I’ve a yen to play around with this.