Had the twelfth piano lesson with my teacher today, and he still manages to throw me off-balance with the things he says. As we worked through Janáček’s ‘The Holy Virgin of Frydek’ from On an Overgrown Path, I asked how the middle section should be played. Although marked Un poco più mosso, virtually all recordings I’ve heard speed up so much that sounds as it is marked molto più veloce!
“Your held notes have an impatience to them,” he remarked. After looking at the score and trying it out a few times, he tapped out a tempo for me on the keyboard which was literally un poco faster compared to the beginning tempo. “No rushing, don’t lose the sense of 6 beats in a bar. It’s supposed to be a religious procession, for goodness’ sake!”
At the new tempo, it was as though the gravity of the harmonies came through. “Pay attention to the dynamics.. Then this bar here, with the wrong number of notes, play it like you’re hysterical and shouting.” Suddenly the weight of the music could be felt. Oh, wow.
Having performed Beethoven’s Tempest sonata before in performance class and received comments that it was too polite and nice, I decided to take the third movement with a more desperate and manic approach, as if someone was riding on horseback on a windy, tempestuous night, longing for home.
It didn’t work. “It should be like that, continuous, moving on and on,” he suggested, playing the opening bars of Schubert-Liszt’s Gretchen am Spinnrade and then turning it back into Beethoven.
So much to work on, so little time. How time flies; this is the last week of class in the academic year. No more MMus classes left, just an Italian oral exam and dissertation to submit in September. It’s been an incredible year of reading, learning, practicing. I came here thinking that I was not good enough to perform (my degree is, after all, in oboe performance) and expected to only do academic work. Things took a strange turn; I’ve found practicing and piano performance more enjoyable than anything else that I’m considering practice-based research for a PhD in future.
I’ve learnt to be a better cook too, and met people whom I hope never to lose.
The month of May looks exciting – an exam, the Leeds Half Marathon, a trip to London, a Wagner conference and more!
May the 4th be with you all, happy Star Wars day 🙂
ps. If you’re wondering why I’m picking up the Tempest sonata again, watch this space!