December 14, 2012

“What do bar lines sound like…?”


.. asked the piano teacher in our lesson this morning. Lessons with him are always funny, challenging, and ridiculous; and he always finds a way to throw me off-balance.

Our lesson this morning had been no different. After making it to uni at 8.30am in the dark, foggy weather (climbing up a hill that is ice-y and slippery is really quite unpleasant),we worked through Piazzolla’s Angel suite of tangos, and realized that it didn’t fit nicely into the programme I was planning. “Let’s try the Brahms”, he suggested, and I played through the Op. 118 no. 2 Intermezzo which I had been practicing.

“You have too many ideas all over the place,” he said  plainly when I finished playing. Motioning me to move aside, he sat at the piano. “You’re making the piece sound more complicated, when it is all very simple.”

“But isn’t Brahms supposed to be complex?”

“Make it sound simple, and follow the phrase markings,” he replied, demonstrating the first page. When he got to the fourth line or so, he pointed at a bar line and asked, “what are these?”

“Er… Bar lines?” I answered nervously, unsure of where the conversation was going.

“And.. what are they for?”

“To mark out the beats in a bar…?”

“Because if we didn’t have them, music would be a complete mess to read. Now tell me, can they be heard?”

“Uhhhhh… no.”

“Well, yours are audible.”

He then went on to show me how it was supposed to be played, following the phrasing, pencilling in new bar lines into my sheet music and completely disregarding the printed bar lines. “It should have a sort of lilt”, he added.

At the F# minor section, which I took at a faster tempo and a little more actively, he disagreed. Saying it should be like a daydream, he then scrawled DAYDREAM onto my music. “What about the chorale-section then?” I asked. “That’s the dream,” was his reply.

At the end of the lesson, he asked if I had enough music to play. Before I could answer, he said to learn Schubert’s Drei Klavierst├╝cke D. 946, along with Webern’s Op. 27 Variations. Interesting programming idea though – contrasting the two Viennese schools.

Here’s Pollini playing both works:

Webern?!?! “It’s just math,” said a friend trying to reassure me.

But I’m terrible at math! Next lesson in a month’s time. ohmygoodnessme.

Seriously, serialism? Bah.

I’m hungry. Shall look for cereal for lunch. (:

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