Dreams and a new year

Some time before Christmas, this cropped up on my youtube recommendations.

We don’t get Pianist Magazine here and being somewhat concerned about moving, I tend not to go for postal subscriptions. But I figured I had a couple of trips to Ireland so if I got lucky, I’d pick up that magazine and if not, I’d do a one off online order for it. I liked that piece a lot. It seems I like certain waltzes as my queue of music to learn includes a Sib waltz and there is the ongoing behemoth Valse Fantaisie and I’ve got a transcription of the Masquerade Waltze by Khachaturian as well.

But I have no hope of actually learning any of these things without a bit more work.

2018 had some high points. I performed in public again for the first time in a few years; I played a few beautiful pianos, some more than once. I fell in love with a Steinway; I won’t ever be able to afford it. And I built this site with a view to working harder. Some of the work happened but not regularly, so objectives and goals were either not met, or were interrupted.

So for 2019, the overall objective is to get more work done, more technical improvements, and a couple of pieces finished or pushed forward. There are two big pieces I want to learn which are challenging and long term projects.

Hard pieces

  • Ballade No 1 in G Minor – Chopin
  • Valse Fantasie – Glinka/Gryaznov

Less hard pieces

  • Valse Triste, Sibelius
  • Sur Le Fil – Tiersen
  • Valse d’Amelie – Tiersen
  • Nocture in C#m – Chopin
  • Christmas Tree – Ribokov

From a technique point of view, I have some Hanon and Czerny to work on. After that, no skillset issues – keep practising sight reading and relative pitch exercises and continue auxiliary reading.

Gounod’s piano music

I was looking for some choral music today, a piece out of Mors et Vita which I have already loved. Unfortunately I find it hard to find stuff on Google Music sometimes and a search brought up a load of Faust but no Mors et Vita. There aren’t too many recordings of the choral version of it lying around although an orchestra transcription pops up now and again. This is what I was looking for:

It is a great recording. Well worth buying. Michel Plasson did some great stuff with Gounod – I think it’s his recording of Faust I have too. Anyway the choir kicks in after about 2 minutes. Absolutely great stuff. I know this is a piano blog but seriously, you need to have an open mind.

However, Google did reveal that there was a new album of piano music by Gounod lying around, by Roberto Prosseda. I’ve been listening to it since I switched away from the Pearlfishers by Bizet this evening and I have to say it is gorgeous. From the opening La Veneziana, to the variations on Bach’s Ave Maria.

I’m not sure what sort of piano they used for the recording Prosseda seems to use some historic instruments and this has very much the feel of una corda. In particularly, I like this piece here:

It’s the opening track on the album and rather gorgeous. I’m tempted to go looking for it. ETA: Sheet music is here.


New music and fewer excuses

Yesterday I got to visit the friendly Model D Steinway which I am in love with but will never own so that made the day a rather lovely day. I did it early in the morning too, so it started off well.

Friday, I went to my friendly local sheet music shop. I was looking for School of Speed by Carl Czerny and if I could have found the Opus 27 C sharp minor Nocturne by Mr Frederic Chopin, I would have been happy. Instead, I picked up one of the other items on my list; the Preludes. On the downside, I have not actually had any time to do any serious practice in the past week or so and I don’t really have any major progress to report. I won’t have time tomorrow either.

I have been thinking about how I can minimise the impact of the lost days – tomorrow I will spend a lot of time travelling, for example, so how can I best use that time?

Well, I have big gaps in music theory, so I have downloaded some reference books to see about filling those gaps, and I am weak in some respects in reading music, so I have apps to work on that (it’s been effective so far).

The other thing I will want to do is finally set some goals and objectives. I have a lot of sheet music – I went to the trouble of listing the music I have here (as opposed to the stuff which is in storage in Ireland) – and there is plenty of it. I’d like to learn some of it.

I have two major targets, both of which are overwhelming jobs for someone at my level, one of which is the Valse Fantaisie by Glinka/Gryaznov. The other is Ballade number 1 by Chopin (although there is a good chance I will travel there via Ballade number 2 first). They are both big pieces of music. Alan Rusbridge talks about the time he put into the Chopin – we are talking a full year and then some. The Valse Fantaisie is an equally large challenge although I suspect it has a different set of obstacles.

But these are not good goals for measuring progression. So I bought Hanon, and now also the School of Speed and from the point of view of piano technique, I plan to work through the Hanon and Czerny on an ongoing basis.

In addition to that, I need to finalise an arrangement of some Irish Christmas Carols (Wexford Carol, I am looking at you) for a concert on 5 December, but these are not as taxing as the thing which cause me to get better at various aspects of the piano. So I am wondering about some shorter pieces.

I have had late night Arrangements with Chopin (that man….) and his posthumous Nocturne in C# Minor. I love the opening chords and when you have been spending many hours over a bunch of octaves, the accessibility of what has to be one of Chopin’s least difficult pieces from a finger position point of view (whatever about interpretation) is very welcome. Particularly if you are doing this at 1am because you’re suffering from insomnia.

So that’s on the list of targets. The other item I am reviewing with a view to putting it on the list of short term targets is Valse Triste by Sibelius. I have two great recordings of that, one by Alexandre Tharaud and one by Leif Ove Andsnes. There is some fantastic emotion in that piece. I expect it to be challenging, although hopefully, not as high a mountain as the Valse Fantaisie is.

The current work plan can be found here.


Some useful Youtube links

Alexandre Tharaud – Nocturne in C# Minor, Chopin (promo for his Journal Intime Album which I otherwise like very much)

Leif Ove Andsnes – Valse Triste, Sibelius (playing notes and background extracts)

Top 10 piano concertos right now

  1. Rachmaninov – Piano Concerto No 2
  2. Saint Saens – Piano Concert NO 5 (Egypt)
  3. Beethoven – Piano Concerto No 5 (Emperor)
  4. Grieg – Piano Concerto in A minor
  5. Hummel – Piano Concerto no 3
  6. Brahms Piano Concerto no 2
  7. Liszt Piano Concerto no 2
  8. Paderewski – Piano Concerto in A minor
  9. Tchaikovsky – Piano Concerto no 2
  10. Poulenc – Concerto for 2 pianos

This list changes all the time. All the time.