October 9, 2012

“…but Poulenc died almost 50 years ago!”


.. was what my new piano teacher said, when I told him that the most modern piano music that I’ve played was Poulenc’s. Oops..

I finally had my first piano lesson yesterday, after playing “unsupervised” twice at Performance Class. The feeling of performing on the piano (and not having to look into the audience when I play) is wonderful, exhilarating. And yet it is terrifying, for being in a postgraduate class the standards are rather high and there exists this pressure to play well. Recordings are also made and put on the internet, thereby adding to the stress, but I’ve come to learn that the recording usually sounds different to what I (think I) am hearing  during my own performance!

That aside, I attended a lunchtime concert on Friday to watch my new piano teacher accompany a violinist. The duo played a Mozart sonata and a notoriously difficult Schubert Fantasy. His sensitivity was amazing, controlling the tone of the piano so that it matched the soloist’s, and effortlessly gliding over all the running notes and tremolo passages in the Schubert.

He had called me earlier to ask me to learn Debussy’s Voiles, giving me about a week to learn it before my lesson. During lesson, he asked if I could play something, and having practiced the first movement of  Beethoven’s Waldstein for about two months, I played it from memory. I must have looked ridiculous, using all my might to get a big sound out of the piano, after which he said, “You’re playing Beethoven too nicely. It should be big. And grand, and..”

“Symphonic?” I volunteered.

“Yes, that’s the right word!”, proceeding to demonstrate the passage ever so effortlessly and yielding a sound that tripled mine from the piano ):

While working on Voiles, he mentioned that he agreed with everything I was doing except the pedalling. With pedalling being so important in impressionist music, that was, methinks, basically saying that everything had gone haywire. Using a pencil to draw a little sailboat, he said, “this is how one draws a sailboat.” Then using his finger to smudge the drawing, he then said “This, is how Debussy saw it. You have to be very liberal, yet careful, in using the pedal for music like that”. Wise words indeed.

Upon finding out that the most modern music I played was Poulenc and that I didn’t take very kindly to new music, he remarked “I’m going to get you some new music the next lesson, and we’re going to make sure that you like it first. For next week, learn up Liszt’s Sonetto del Petrarca No. 123.” Eeeep.

T’was a fun lesson, nonetheless (:  

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