Barcarolle

As I’ve described on the “About” page here, I played piano for many years and then stopped playing for many years, from the early 1990s until we bought our current piano in 2010. During the time I wasn’t playing, I was still listening to piano music, and, as tends to happens with pianists, I would occasionally hear something and wonder what it would be like to play it myself.

Chopin’s Barcarolle was one of those pieces that I fantasized about playing. A lot. I love the piece and thought that, in my prime, it would have been a good choice for my repertoire. The second half of my junior recital in 1980 was, in fact, devoted to Chopin, concluding with the Polonaise in f-sharp minor. The Barcarolle would have fit nicely in there, too: a beautiful piece with lots of variety and a big finish.

But hearing it while driving in the car, the fantasy usually ended up with a sigh and a realization that such pieces were beyond my reach after so long away from the piano. I believed that I had lost my chops after years of not practicing, and that even were I to start playing again, the days when I could manage the likes of the Barcarolle were long gone.

But my fingers have been getting back into shape over the last two years, and on my to do list for 2012 was to learn something technically challenging. The Barcarolle came to mind, and last month I started working on it. It has been a lot of work and a lot of fun and I’ve been ridiculously pleased with myself for being able to play it. Here’s a video I made this morning. All the usual disclaimers apply: poor sound quality from my camera, played much better in the run-through earlier, etc.

I think that playing this has made me so happy because the Barcarolle came to signify all the regrets that I had about not playing all those years. It was sort of my “I coulda been a contendah” piece, the one that got away. I really believed that I would never be able to do it, and now I have, and that accomplishment is now suggesting lots of other hitherto impossible ideas. And, most importantly, it is just a blast to play, especially the ending.

2 thoughts on “<i>Barcarolle</i>”

  1. Jamey, this is just so beautiful. I vividly remember why you chose the F#-minor Polonaise for your recital (and how wonderfully you played it)!!!

    The Barcarolle is one of my “must-have on a desert island” piano pieces, and you just now played it exactly the way I need to hear it on that distant shore.

  2. I was finally able to check into the blog, but because our temporary housing is in the school’s dormitory, the network restricts my use of video content, Facebook, attachments, most other normal computer interactions. So I’ll return to this piece once we settle into a house in October. But I’m sincerely happy you attempted something you once thought impossible–I can relate to this feeling so profoundly!

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