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.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Beethoven in 15 Minutes a Day - Assessment and Day 7

In yesterday's post I started by talking about some non-musical things that I did in order to gain some more footing on my Beethoven concerto project.  I continued in that vein after recording my day 6 practice session by performing what I will be performing in a couple of weeks and videotaping it.  Here's why I did that...

As a collaborator, I have been doing this more and more often as a way to keep me on track and to keep me focused on what I need to do in my very brief practice sessions.  The idea is that I let go of my practice room mentality and perform, not worrying about mistakes since those are bound to happen, but focusing on musicality, rhythm, energy, and intent.  This might ruffle a few feathers, but I actually use the opportunity to see what I have to do in order to get through the piece musically, even if that means leaving some notes out or rearranging it.  (I talk more about this in my post, "Confessions of a piano collaborator.") This is not to say that I disregard the composer's intentions - quite the opposite, really.  Because I do a lot of analyzing in my practice sessions, I work hard at understanding the core of what's important about any given piece of music or about individual composers.  Then when it comes time to perform or to do one of these assessments I have something to focus on - the composer's language, rather than nailing all the hard passages and remembering every little detail I'm supposed to remember.  I let go and just play, which sometimes involves some minor, undetectable adjustments all in the name of a musical, engaging performance.  With my assessments I pay close attention to sections where I couldn't let go very well or where I couldn't get through the music - these are the places that I need to delve into more deeply to get to the root of the music.  The assessments also expose passages that need more technical or memory work.  

With that said, here is my first musical assessment of the Beethoven as I will be playing it for the videorecording...

Doing this also gave me further peace of mind since it gave me an opportunity to determine whether or not I feel good about the arrangement I have made.

With that done, it was time to move on to my practice session.

My assessment convinced me again that I need to get through the entire cadenza before I do anything else.  The cadenza will be first step out of the starting gate and it's an important piece of music, in my opinion.  I think Clara Schumann did an amazing job of summing up the entire concerto, not just the first movement, in the way that she wrote it so I want to do it right.

For the first part of the session I concentrated on this left hand pattern that I find physically awkward.  I was determined to find a way to move my hand so that it would fit all three notes, connected with the next set, in a comfortable, smooth way.  I then moved to my right hand to make sure I knew the melody without having to really think about it.  This enabled me to focus at first on the left hand while leaving my right hand mostly up to my ears.  At the tail end of working on this passage I made sure that I could connect it with the one that follows.  I find that it's very easy to work on sections one at a time but to forget to connect them so that it makes musical sense and so that it feels good in my hands.

I continued moving backwards in the cadenza, looking for patterns and practicing using rhythms.  This is all sounding pretty old hat now, isn't it?  It should because it's really not very complicated.

We'll see in 13 days whether or not it will all pay off! 

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