Update after a brief hiatus

I haven’t posted in a couple of months. I was out of town on retreat for a couple of weeks, and then just plain busy and not able to get to blogging. Here’s some of what I’ve been playing over the last few weeks:

  • I sort-of learned the Schubert Sonata in B-flat, Op. post. (D. 960). This and the one in G, Op. 78 (D. 850) have always been favorites of mine and I made the resolution this year to learn one or the other. I say “sort-of” learned because I didn’t really work that hard on getting all the notes down right: I fake some of it still. It was much more difficult than I thought that it would be. It’s difficult in the way of Mozart: lots of exposed lines that need to be very even rhythmically, dynamically, and tonally. This is not something that has ever come naturally to me, and I struggled a bit. But it’s still fun to play through, especially the first two movements. I’ll probably work on it some more throughout the year and see if I can clean it up and make it presentable.
  • After that day playing through lots of Gershwin, I thought about learning some more of his music. I never thought I’d do that! (I thought that I was so over that adolescent enthusiasm) But Gershwin wound up on my New Year’s resolution list, too, and I bought the collection of his own arrangements of his favorite songs. I’ve heard these, of course, but never thought about learning them myself. So far I’ve learned four of them: “The man I love”, “S’wonderful”, “That certain feeling”, and “Who cares?” They, too, are difficult. They are such vivid depictions of Gershwin extemporizing at the piano that they require you to adopt his particular way of playing:  favorite figures, chords, rhythms. These all were completely natural for his fingers, but not for mine, and it’s a bit like learning a foreign language. But I really want to get to the point where they fall fluently from my fingers, so that I can pretend I’m in some Fred Astaire movie …
  • It’s a bit hard to explain, but I’ve been playing just the “Full moon and empty arms” theme from the Rachmaninoff Second Concerto (“Rocky 2”, as we called it in my undergrad piano school days). We just got a “Full Moon Maple” to plant in the yard, and as a joke I suggested that we play lots of “moon” music for it. I love this concerto, as all pianists do. The 1959 Sviatoslav Richter recording with the Warsaw Philharmonic is my favorite rendition, a real must-hear.  In the opening, Richter is so overwhelmingly powerful, you’re completely at his mercy. A completely riveting phenomenon  (if you dare, the opening minute is available as a sample at DG’s website). Anyway, I’m not about to learn the whole concerto (besides, what orchestra am I going to play with?) but it’s fun to play just a short solo highlight like this. I’ve memorized it now so that I can just toss it off when the need arises to show off the piano (or just show off, period).

In addition, I’ve been playing all my usual suspects: Debussy preludes, Ravel’s Pavane, bits of Satie, Chopin, Beethoven bagatelles, Brahms intermezzi, etc.

Now that summer is here, I expect to have more time to play and hence more to blog about. This week I’m finally going to get around to putting up that bookcase in the living room to hold my scores. Once that’ s in place, I’ll pull everything out of the attic and have it close by. More Sunday sightreading possibilities! Plus I just ordered some new scores from Dover: Schumann (another New Year’s resolution), Liszt, Bach-Busoni, English virginal music, and tangos.

Finally, I’m just starting to learn Feldman’s For Bunita Marcus, and that will certainly generate several blog posts. Look for the first one of those very soon, probably later this week.

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