My passion is to help others in the community, young, old, and everyone in between, find relevance and joy in learning, performing or listening to classical music.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Beethoven in 15 Timeless Minutes a Day - Day 12

First off, I have to say that I find the slow movement to this concerto to be one of the most exquisite pieces of music to play.  I wrote about it more in detail in my post, "The slow 'moment' from Beethoven's 3rd piano concerto," but to sum up why I feel this way about this music, Beethoven manages to stop time with music such as this.  In our busy, crazy world I feel that's a unique gift and one that has a lot to offer anyone listening or participating.  

To relate that to today's practice session...

Because I love this movement so much I think I tend to treat it with kid gloves.  The result?  A weak, fragile sound that sometimes prevents all the notes from speaking.  In an effort to combat this problem I decided to practice the opening without regard to time, focusing instead on letting my weight sink into the keys and allowing the keys to go all the way down for each and every note.  Perhaps this sounds crazy, but my goal was to have a physical sensation that feels yummy.  I know, I know - a strange word in relation to playing the piano but that's all I can come up with that adequately describes what I was going for.  I didn't want to feel held back, nervous, or careful.  I just wanted to enjoy every aspect of it.  Otherwise I'm afraid the audience won't get the full effect of the beauty of it all.  

My work in the cadenza was mostly about memory and woodshedding.  Same goes for the last movement.  Today and in the days to come, I will be doing a lot of slow memory work, some of which involves blocking* left hand accompaniment patterns.  It is all too easy to keep playing pieces through up to tempo (or faster) in an effort to memorize but I feel that when I do this a lot of details get brushed over and I'm not truly memorizing, and more importantly internalizing, everything.  If I can play through it slowly by memory, it's testing everything - my brain, fingers, and ears.  It gets everything working together.  In performance this means that I have a stronger, multi-strand cable on which to rely when it comes to memory.  

We'll see how it works in 7 days.  

* Blocking is when I take the all the notes of a beat or several beats and play them all at once, as a chord, as in the example below.


  1. It has been interesting reading about and watching your practice sessions because I have a solo performance with orchestra in a couple of months that I have been sweating over. The type of practicing you describe here, "feeling yummy" on every note -- I do that quite a bit on the cello. I think it's harder to do on the piano, where you don't have direct contact with the sound production as you do on the cello.

    I definitely think slow practice is the best way to improve memory.

    1. Oh wow, Harriet - that's fabulous! What are you going to play with them? And I have to say, I'm so glad that you get the whole yummy feeling thing. And you're right, it's different and much more intimate on the cello but it can still be done on the piano as well. I think it partially has to do with an incredible sense of release that my whole body feels so that I can allow all my weight to sink into the instrument. At the piano when I'm in that yummy spot, I feel like my fingers are literally sinking to the ground when I play. With cello, it's similar, only the weight seems to go first into the instrument, then into my own body, and then down to the ground. Ooo...I just love that!

      Best wishes with your prep work, Harriet. I look forward to hearing all about your performance!