I guess I’ve been good, since Samantha Claus left some new music under the tree this year. (In our household, Santa brings gifts for Frances, but it’s Ms. Claus who brings them for me) So, of course, I’ve been having fun playing through various new scores, all from the fine folks at Dover:
- Beethoven: Complete bagatelles. I love Beethoven’s Bagatelles, especially the Op. 126 set. They are so idiosyncratic, so personal, so much fun to play. But the Op. 33 and Op. 119 sets are no slouches, either.
- Satie: Gymnopédies, Gnossiennes, and other works for piano. I have a few volumes of Satie, but somehow I never managed to get the Gymnopedies or the Gnossiennes. Classics I really needed to play! This volume has a bunch of other pieces I never had the scores for, including some of his Rosicrucian pieces, like Le fils des etoiles and the Sonneries. Those pieces are quite odd, I must say, and playing them made me realize that they have connections to Cage’s String quartet in four parts. I never really thought of that before, but the odd, disconnected sense of harmony in the Sonneries reminds me of the harmonic non-continuity of the String quartet. Cage began the quartet on the same trip to Paris where he went to libraries to find obscure Satie scores. I wonder what pieces he was looking at? Perhaps the Sonneries put some ideas into his head? Anyway, the collection also includes some four-handed music, including the Morceaux en forme de poire, which is one of my all-time favorite Satie pieces. Frances & I will have to give them a go!
- Ravel: Piano masterpieces. This includes the famous Pavane, which I’ve always wanted to play. This collection also includes Gaspard, but there’s no chance I’m up for that. I may try reading through Ondine really, really slowly when there’s nobody else in the house and the windows are closed.
I spent a lot of yesterday playing through all of these things while Frances curled up on the couch and plotted next season’s botanical adventures. I was figuring out fingerings for the Ravel Pavane, periodically going “Hmmm…” as I discovered new possibilities, trying to find a way to play the melody line completely legato, even without the pedal. I caught her looking over catalogs and going “Hmmm…” herself. Meanwhile it was snowing and the lights were twinkling on the tree. It was so blissfully domestic that I had to go over and give her a smooch right then and there. “I love hearing you play,” she said.
I was struck by the old-fashioned quality of the moment. I felt like I really understood the pre-phonograph world, where loving a particular piece of music and wanting to hear it again meant getting the score and plunking through it at the family piano. My bringing favorite pieces to life while Frances read her garden tomes filled the house with a warmth different than what we get when I tune in Pandora on the computer (and yes, I do that, too).
One of the questions I had when I started playing again was “What does playing the piano mean for me now?” It was always so tied up with accomplishment: in the eyes of the world, but especially in the eyes of my mother. I wondered what it would be like to play directly from my core and not with an eye on someone elseI. saw one answer to this yesterday, here in our little cottage in Griggstown.