BR: Grand Obsession, Perri Knize

I spent some time lately searching for books about pianos; I’ll be honest and say I was hunting for the piano equivalent of a coffee table book but the problem with looking for piano books is that you have to sort through a lot of piano sheet music. In itself, this is not totally bad – it means the sheet music exists – on the other hand, you need to be lucky. I found Grand Obsession on several lists of “Top N Books about pianos”. I’d read the other common candidates, namely The Piano Shop on the Left Bank (one of the best books ever), Play It Again, etc. I have Forgotten Siberian Pianos somewhere which I need to dig out. But I had not heard of this Grand Obsession and the premise sounded right up my street, as in I have found a German piano that intrigues me, that I am considering buying.

Book Review Grand Obsession

So I ordered it from Amazon, as you do when you know full well none of the bookshops around you will have it. Trust me; they don’t. And I was impatient.

The premise is enticing: middle aged woman falls for a “rare” German piano, buys it, ships it from New York to somewhere else, I think it was Minnesota and from then on, the piano displays its true temperament. On paper, this could be me, without the American stuff. I have found a rare German piano (No inverted commas here to some extent), and I am middle aged with wild cravings for salt and sugar and mad needs for naps on a Friday afternoon. My relationship to the piano is not that similar though. I did play on and off most of the time from when I was 20, there was no loaded conversation about what instrument I would learn as my parents were open to most things within reason. We had a piano at home. I played in one shape or another from the age of 8. I decorated the piano when I was 5. I had lessons. So, hmmm. Maybe this idea that I might identify with this was a bit naive.

I’m going to say that the book is clearly written by someone who can write, but after that, there isn’t a lot that I liked about it. It left me utterly cold about the piano world in the US. A good chunk of the start f the book was around the hunt for a piano, and how amazing the Piano World forums were. I understand it but I also found it a touch tedious. The advice was to pretty much play every piano she could find and “she would know”. Eventually, the piano showed up in New York. She did not live in New York. The piano was a Grotrian Steinweg and from what I can gather, it was a new one. It seemed to be the source of a monumental amount of drama: played beautifully the first time it was played; was the subject of arguments because it was more than Knize had budgeted. 9-11 changed things apparently, both in Knize (we live for the moment) and the piano shop (we need the money). I’ve whole mixed feelings about this.

I understand the falling in love with a piano. I’ve never met a piano sales engineer who tried to sell me a piano I genuinely have not budgeted for. So the whole conversation about eventually buying/financing the piano left me totally meh. After that, we get into the army of technicians. Problem: “piano does not play the way it did the first time I played it months before 9-11”. Solution: several hundred pages away.

It proceeded not to play the way it did the first time she played it for most of the rest of the book. The sole interesting part of the book for me was the visit to the Grotrian factory (something I would not mind doing in general). The long discussions with the technicians she got to look at the piano, the piano dealer, they wore me out. Early in the book, one technician said it was a question of tuning. The piano was fixed by it being tuned by him a particular way near the end of the book. I struggle to understand why I had to read through 370 pages include a discussion of Rudolf Steiner in the section around trying to understand the science about why some people are affected by some pianos. That was depressing.

I can’t understand the reviews I have seen about this book. Some wisely suggest it is for lovers of pianos. Not this one anyway but then since I don’t like Bartók my credentials are in doubt.

Lucid yet lyrical, analytical yet deeply affecting

Quite. I don’t quite agree with the Washington Post

I don’t especially recommend reading this. I was deeply frustrated by the descriptions of what technicians were doing to the piano. Maybe it’s because I grew up in Europe and of course it is different here, but I would not be happy to see technicians doing what they were doing to the hammers on that piano. I didn’t feel on the same journey in terms of a dream piano. It’s well written. It is somewhat of a fairy story. It is too close and too wrong for me. Other people clearly enjoyed it. Not me.

The learning period of a piece

I’ve been working a piece of music lately – one of Mendelssohn’s Gondellieder – I’ve already written about it here – and in the context of some content I have seen on the question of exam preparation and general repertoire learning, I want to comment some discussions around how long it should take you to learn a piece of music. This piece has taken longer than I would like and there are a couple of reasons for this. I intend to figure out a way to do a youtube video on this later.

I tend to think a lot of questions like this come from adult learners with not a lot of confidence. I seem parallel questions from other people who “played until they had to give up for practical/academic reasons” about 20 years ago and are concerned it is too late to pick it up again. Is it really gone?

Chris Maene Piano Collection
Here are some nice historic pianos to break the wall of text.

I’ve also been looking at online teachers who teach to one or other of the grading system. The teacher in question does excellent supporting youtube videos as does the teacher whose video about how long it should take to be learning pieces so arguably, they are arguing from experience and I am arguing from my reality which might be difficult. The Mendelssohn has taken longer than I expected from the outset and even so I am not in favour of blanket statements that the process of learning the notes and perfecting the delivery of said piece should only take 8 weeks for the most part provided you practice X time per day. Otherwise it is too hard. Alternatively, the idea that you should be able to prepare exam pieces in 4 to 6 weeks is equally ambitious.

Most people will, at some point will try a piece that is beyond them. I did that with Rach II at 15 and I put crazy time into parts of its second movement when I was 17. There are a lot of things which feed into the learning process but above all, it doesn’t matter how hard or how easy the process is (honestly, Bach’s WTC Prelude in C is baby level easy for me at this point and I will write about that some day as well).

In one respect, the most important thing for any pianist is to develop a consistent habit that works for them. It’s 9.50pm here as I write this – most evenings I am playing at this point for a while. We put a lot of weight on people’s shoulders. Do Hanon, do scales, do repertoire “in line with your ability” from whence a load of questions about what grade pieces are I guess as people try to work out what is in line with their ability.

For myself, I have a couple of criteria around the learning of the piece and they are as follows:

  • do I like the piece. I’m 50. The exam system put me through hell with pieces I hated when I was about 14 or so.
  • how long is it? The longer the paper, the longer to learn
  • What key is it in? D flat minor? Eh…we won’t be winning any races here.
  • Are there any obvious dragons here? Like big chords and polyrhythms?

Then I do the following:

  • Try to sight read it through, both hands together.
  • Break it into parts and identify initial targets.
  • Work through the individual parts, hands together for preference, but hands separately where it’s not an instinctive piece of music. Unless it’s Bach. Bach, really feel you should play hands together if at all possible.
  • Work through the transitions between parts. I cannot emphasise how important this is.

You cannot estimate how long this is going to take in terms of weeks. You need to put into context what your life is like – as an adult, it’s often stressful in a way around practice (often a lot of people around you don’t see why you would want to do this) and there are interruptions. Let’s take me with the Gondollied above.

  • Yes I like it, check
  • Two pages, so short, check. I mean, that Sonatina by Beethoven is longer I think.
  • Key: G minor, not completely comfortable but generally okay,. Scales ahoy
  • No obvious dragons

That word “obvious” is doing a lot of heavy lifting there.

What was interesting about the next steps is the site read went okay. The parts went okay. They mostly went hands together, slow. And then we got to the transitions between the broken down parts/sections. Specifically, we got to this across page 1 to 2 of the piece. (see sheet music here)

Mendelssoh Venetian Gondola Song 19b

when I see that the movement from the last bar on page one to the first bar on page 2 has accounted for about 60% of the effort attribute to this over the last three months, I am not exaggerating. When I did the initial read through, when I did the dragon hunt, nothing. Not a squeak. Regularly playing it, however, revealed a fingering problem which alone caused issues.

But the point is, of the piece 4 pieces I have on my schedule at the moment, this is otherwise, not difficult. Absent those three bars, we are talking about a piece that I flew through.

Is this a kind of self justification? Well obviously? Does it counter two experienced teachers? To some extent, I think there is a difference between having a go at Ballade No 1 by Chopin (uhem) and running into an unexpected barrier on a much easier piece.

In a way, I think “how long to learn this” “how long should it take” questions miss a point. I love this piece of music, even after playing it 1000 times and regularly getting stuck at the start of page 2. I’m doing grade 6 purely because I was learning this piece anyway (but found 3 other pretty pieces). But there needs to be a question around the objectives. Why do you want to do this? Do you recognise the opportunity cost? What if we meet an unexpected problem, can we work around it? What represents success here? Why is there a deadline – are you not enjoying the process?

For me, in the background, it has taken considerably less time to master the parts, and the transitions are linked with memory issues (perimenopausal woman, and brainfog and I don’t worry about things taking a little longer for that reason) and for the other two pieces, the sight read was okay, there are a couple of dragons in terms of bass chords. The last remaining example is a Bach two part invention.

I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect someone to learn these four pieces in 4-6 weeks. I also don’t think it’s reasonable to state that if pieces cannot be learned in that time frame, you shouldn’t be learning them. What I do think, however, is that we should have honest discussions about what repertoire we are working on, why, where the pitfalls are and when we would like to be ready to do it.

Ultimately, learning something is a process and if you do not enjoy the process, you will never get out the other end either way. Artificial time limits are not going to solve that.

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.

All the questions I don’t understand

Every once in a while, someone pops into r/piano on reddit and asks, often plaintively, where can they find music to play. Where can they find songs.

I struggle with this. There is Google. There are sheet music shops. There are such easy answers to this question that I can’t quite get why people are able to operate Facebook, or, even r/piano itself, but cannot find sources of music. There will be some answers here.

Mostly, though, people are looking for low effort, free. This is my sole understanding. They don’t just want the music from the movie Amelie. They also want it to be free. Bully for that – Yann Tiersen is not dead, and it’s not going to be free until 70 years after he is dead. The average redditor will be a long time waiting. However, helpfully, it’s all in this book here, and also, I’m pretty sure that people have put transcriptions up on musenote.

I own two books by Tiersen, this one (which I love because it has a chunk of stuff off other albums which I want to learn to play as well) and Eusa which has some stunning stuff on it. For modern composers, you can’t really go wrong with him or with Olafur Arnalds. Olafur occasionally makes some of his sheet music available via his social channels, he was selling one book (one beautiful book) while touring last year. He has a couple of other books on his online shop currently out of print which I covet. Also, go see him in concert.

I am very lucky to have a good sheet music shop near to where I live, linked to the fact that there is a music conservatory very near it. They clearly cover a giant chunk of the classical repertoire – and I will come to that in more detail in a moment – but they also have a significant amount of film music, games soundtrack music and especially music by Japanese composers (Howls Moving Castle has a bit to answer for). They will order anything you want. I will be honest – there is nothing more pleasant (or expensive) as browsing a sheet music shop. It’s worth supporting them.

For classical music, there are several routes to heaven. There is your local music shop.

However, if you are tied for cash or not prioritising the spending of your cash on sheet music, and you are into classical music and you have either an iPad or a printer, you are quids in. There is the IMSLP library (which you can also support with cold hard cash because they are not Facebook or even remotely trendy to techbros). This has a vast array of scans of sheet music for out of copyright and often, out of print classical music. This, by some distance, is the country mile cheapest way to get music. It is an incredibly precious project and also, if you subscribe to them, you have access to a library of streaming music. This is kind of handy.

On the online front, there are a couple of options. Several publishing houses have their own apps or shopfronts for online sheet sales – Henle is one and I use their app and like it. Schott I think also do online sales. Some of the online shops like Stretta (I live in Europe) and probably SheetMusicPlus will sell downloadable PDFs. NKODA has a subscription model. I can’t comment on it too much other than yes, it has a lot of music, especially music that is out of copyright, but I’m not totally onboard with the financial model and most of the music they have that I might want is either available in physical copy in my local music shop, can be ordered or can be ordered as a pdf from elsewhere. If you’re into modern pop and other more recent compositions it’s probably a better option.

For jazz, I can’t help you. I do know again that there are transcriptions of Keith Jarrett’s Cologne concert knocking around (great piece of music. You should give it a listen).

Most other stuff, I arrange for myself. Then people ask me for the sheet music which is challenging since I pretty much play it by ear, and it changes all the time.

Some much for that one. Moving onwards

I have been learning music for 3 months, and I can play Fantaisie Impromptu. What should I play next?

I have very real problems with this. I have particular problems with someone claiming that they started playing in January and here’s them playing Rachmaninoff prelude in C sharp minor and to put my cards on the table, I don’t believe them. It’s not possible to learn to read sheets adequately to play Rachmaninoff in that time, and when you scratch a little between the lines, very often, they didn’t learn to read sheets, they followed a key tutorial on Youtube.

I feel stuck between the devil and the deep blue sea here. Basically, I feel if you can play Fantaisie Impromptu competently, you have enough knowledge to know what you want to play next, or have enough interest in the piano to have some idea of the repertoire. There is, if you are interested, plenty of ways to find similarly scaled difficulty (go look the piece up on Henle’s catalogue, find out what they graded it as and look at other pieces of the same level) (if they have truly learned to read music, this will be a piece of case).

If you can’t, I kind of wish you wouldn’t post it on r/piano that you can. There are adults going through hell preparing Grade I exam pieces after 2 years of work and lying about what you have achieved, or how long it took you to achieve it, is completely demoralising, and also, it’s a bit amoral. But you do you on that front.

In the meantime, I am tempted to answer Islamey by Balakirev (it’s less painful than Rachmaninoff at first appearance) or Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. Refer to the answer on sheet music above after that.

What piano should I buy?

Questions of this nature come with completely unreasonable budgets, usually. My personal view is this. There are several input questions:

  • How much money do I have, really?
  • How much space do I have, really?
  • No, go back and answer those two questions HONESTLY
  • What kind of music can I play now?
  • What kind of music do I want to play in the future?
  • Do you want to play daily?
  • Do you have neighbours who work nights?
  • Do you live in an apartment?

I could also ask, do you collect pianos? And Have you gone to the Piano World Forum.

Typically, if you have 200K and the space, I would say by a Steinway D. Try to play more than Twinkle Twinkle Little Star on it unless you’re going to do a set of variations that exceed Mozart’s efforts. For the rest of us in a different reality, I would suggest, you want to spend enough to make it a decent piano (so free looking for a good home is a risk) but not so much that you have anxiety attacks the next time the electricity bill comes in.

I bought a brand new Kawaii CA59 as I a) knew I wanted to buy a Kawai if I bought a digital from many tests, b) had a little bit of space for it in my office (by the time it arrived, I didn’t any more but I had space in my living room instead) c) some classical, lots of folk and pop d) more classical, lots of folk and pop e) yes but life innit f) no idea and would prefer not to find out the hard way by being yelled out and g) yes so headphones will be handy.

I will do a post on my life in pianos later.

What grade is this?

There is an ongoing debate about the value of ranked piano teaching systems. Places that don’t have them think they are batshit crazy. Places that grew up with them are like “meh, that’s just how we roll”. Mostly they are ex-British colonies and the UK itself. I did piano grades as a teenager and as you’ll see here, I’m planning to do them again but more interesting than what I did age 15.

That being said, people really do want a way to objectively place themselves in a world where there are people claiming that they can play Fantaisie Impromptu having played the piano for the very first time in St Pancras Station (the not-Yamaha) yesterday and I can understand that. There are a few sources, and to be fair to the r/piano community they tend to provide them. Henle rank the pieces they publish on a scale of 1 to 10 where 1 is relatively easy, I haven’t found 10 yet but most of Chopin and Rachmaninoff are 7 and above. If it is on an ABRSM syllabus, they will generally mention that too. There is also some other site which I haven’t bookmarked that has a lot of things too although curiously not always the Mendelssohn pieces I am looking for. And after that, there are the repertoire syllabus for ABRSM, TCM, RIAM and RCM and worth looking through them to see if the piece is there.

After that, not sure we can help. But think about what you next want to learn.

Chris Maene’s collection of historical pianos

One of the items on my to do list was to give a trip to the Museum at Pianos Maene in Brussels. You can find some information here, but in brief, Chris Maene, in addition to designing, building and selling pianos, also collects antique pianos and harpsichords. Out of a collection of about 100, 25 are on display in a museum at the premises of Maene Pianos in Brussels near Gare du Midi. I like collections of musical instruments and he has accumulated some interesting things. The museum spans almost 400 years of keyboard instruments and bearing in mind that there are three times as many instruments in storage as there are on display, I can only assume this is very much a labour of love.

The oldest instrument on display dates from 1632. If I understand the information video correctly, it’s one of just 4 linked with a leading harpsichord builder from the area and it floated in and out of documentation during the course of about 200 years.

Chris Maene Piano Collection
This is an interesting instrument, not least because work was done on it about 200 years ago as well.

There is a mixture of pianos on display, some grands, some vertical grands, early uprights, some square pianos. I’m not sure what I found most interesting to be honest – one of the things that startles me generally is how ornate pianos could be. Like this:

Chris Maene Piano Collection


Chris Maene Piano Collection
Chris Maene Piano Collection

There was a really unusual to me Pleyel with a double keyboard

Chris Maene Piano Collection

Of the grands, I rather liked this one:

Chris Maene Piano Collection

This is one of the square pianos I think

Chris Maene Piano Collection
Chris Maene Piano Collection

And there was a player piano of an efficient construction:

Chris Maene Piano Collection

The museum is well worth visiting. If you are interested in musical instruments, this and the MIM collection are worth some of your time. MIM also sells a lot of music gifts. Maene sells pianos which are somewhat less portable.

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.

Pianos and social media

There are a few piano forums around the place, PianoWorld and Piano Street being two. And there is r/piano on Reddit. I spend a lot of time on that one because I mostly read it on my phone and the other two aren’t really that friendly on a phone browser.

The thing about the online world, is you get a lot of trollery, and you get a lot of people making odd claims. Fantaisie Impromptu by Chopin is somewhat of a lightning rod for them. I started playing piano when I was 10 years old. I was not totally focussed on it in that I had school, dancing lessons, badminton, choir. My music teacher might tell you I was her best pupil ever; I’m not sure I was her most talented, but I was definitely very, very diligent. Very diligent. I mean, I practised. I tended to get distinctions in exams apart from an accident with the RIAM syllabus one year. At no point, however, were we ever going to discuss the question of Fantaisie-Impromptu or that I might approach it. I owned the sheet music of Rach 2 from the time I was 14 but that was purely indulgent on my part.

But there are a lot of threads for people who appear to be either humble-bragging, or seeking some sort of validation. Like they want to prove something or impress people. So a lot of people are “I learned this from synthasia” or “I’ve only been playing 3 years” or god forbid “3 months” and I can play Fantaisie-Impromptu”. I tend not to believe these stories but I’m interested in the context they operate in. How hard is this, if I can play this, am I able to play the hardest of Chopin’s Etudes. I have been playing 2 years and here’s my Rachmaninoff.

Or, how long will it take me to learn Ballade No 1 by Chopin, I can play Liebestraum 3 by Liszt”. It’s interesting but realistically, if you’re asking these questions, you probably can’t actually play it properly. It’s again like, people want to impress other people or themselves. They are interested in how hard it is (and therefore how proud they should be of being able to play it). But pieces come and go, I learned Fur Elise 15 years ago and I wouldn’t say I can play it now. I have to wonder, what are they trying to prove/achieve/impress? Most of these pieces are journeys and sometimes it’s not the right time to set off on them (if you have short fingers is it ever the right time for Rach?). I don’t know how many people like practising – I like being able to play pieces which is why I keep some pop repertoire on hand to play if people ask for something – but if you don’t acknowledge the effort that goes into learning pieces but are focussing on how much you can impress people by being able to knock out some hard Liszt or Ravel but then humblebrag that you started learning before breakfast…it’s a problem. In short, I see questions about difficulty coming from people claiming the kind of skills that would allow them to answer their own questions which leads me to question the claims. There are a lot of them lately.

By the way, Daniil Trifonov released a fantastic recording of the Fantaisie-Impromptu in 2017. You should check it out if you have a moment.

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.

Gondellied, Mendelssohn Op 19, no 6

There are a few versions of this knocking around YouTube and one of them I will link below to take the blankness off the home page.

I don’t know where I came across this piece of music first; only that I liked it enough to say “I want to play that”. There is a very nice Gondola song around from Charles Gounod that is on my list also and I’ll come to that some other time.

This has turned up on the Grade 6 list for the ABRSM local examinations for the current period. It’s the primary reason I didn’t skip Grade 6 – I was learning this anyway. What is fascinating is how different the various versions of it this are. The Grade 6 prep videos (there are quite a few) are not very pleasant to listen to in the grand scheme of things – there is not a lot of softness to the playing. There’s an interesting tutorial that focuses on the rhythm. It’s one of the interesting things – I haven’t really struggled with the rhythm for this at all – but in general, if you listen to a version like Jan Lisiecki’s version, it is very soft and in the general direction of a lullabye. There’s a glorious softness of most of the track. But I tend to prefer the voicing on other recordings, like this one.

For the opening bars in particular, there is something that makes me so glad to be able to play the piano when the sound I want comes out of the piano. Something like this. There is a glorious voicing on this and the way that bars 3, 4, 5 and 6 progress just sets my heart on fire. You’ll here how I am currently get on with it on that last link. I’ve learned that instagram does not have a block so I’m going to move my piano stuff to YouTube at some stage. Must look into.

You can find the sheet music here (it’s No 6 inside the link). For the record I bought the Henle Urtext because that’s how I roll (can’t get enough of those lovely blue covers).

One of the lovely things about working on Grade 6 pieces is that they feel more or less like adult pieces, even the Bach two part invention which I have not yet conquered too much of. There’s a lot to be said for giving people the opportunity to play music they like (and not the worthy crap that people think they should play like Bartók, I’m not bitter at all).