Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Mozart Homework

I love homework like this.

Here's a snippet of my piano homework:

1. Listen to lots of Mozart, particularly Symphonies No. 40 and 41.

2. When practicing this week, start with the Bach Sinfonia as the 10-minute "appetizer," focus on the Mozart Fantasie as the 30-minute "main course," and savor the Chopin Nocturne as the 15-minute "dessert."

3. Decide what I want to add to my repertoire once the Mozart is up and running.

See, I've had a problem with the Mozart piece. Not really a problem ... it's just that I'm slow to warm up to new pieces. They're just like people. As an introvert, I'm not one to strike up sudden friendships; I tend to know someone for a good, long while before the friendship really begins to blossom. Ten years later, if I'm lucky, we both realize that we've made a friend for life.

It's kind of like that with music. When I take on a new piece, it's kind of like I've let a stranger wander in on my tea party tete-a-tete with my best-friend composers. Mozart has wandered in on the most delightful of tea parties that I've been having with Bach and Chopin. And we all have to move over to make room. I humored him and learned all the notes to his piece, but now he's demanding that I go further--that I think hard and concentrate on things, Mozartean things, I didn't have to think so much about with Bach and Chopin. While I'm intellectually excited at the prospect of learning new ways of thinking and playing, part of me just wants to ignore him and continue my lovely tea party with Bach and Chopin, with whom I've become so familiar.

And what's so funny is that, if composers were really my friends, Mozart would be one of my very BEST friends. Heck, he would have been a bridesmaid at my wedding. His wedding march from The Marriage of Figaro was my wedding march. I requested it so the genius of my old friend Wolfgang could be there. I've listened to some of his symphonies so many times that I can pretend-conduct them in my car as I listen. I've seen Amadeus more times than I can remember. Mozart is the reason that I quit listening to 80s pop music in 1984 and became a classical music nut. Mozart is my FRIEND. He's been with me for more than half my life. We have been through a lot together.

But for some reason, I'm hesitant to work with his Fantasie in D Minor. This may be for several reasons:

1) As much as I love Mozart, his music is very difficult to play. Oh, it seems deceptively easy ... and "deceptively" is the word, dear readers. If you think Mozart is easy to play, be assured that you are missing something very important. His pieces are really quite challenging. It's a major accomplishment to play Mozart well. Perhaps I fear I'm not up to the challenge. Or that I'll take on the challenge and fail. That I'll think I'm playing it well when really it sounds awful. And then I'll be a loser and a fool and no one will love me anymore and I'll shrivel up and die. And Mozart is supposed to be my FRIEND.

2) It's a beautiful, slow piece. I'm playing nothing but beautiful, slow pieces these days and really want to learn something that's a bit faster and more lively. More biting.

3) I'm shy. The Fantasie is like the new kid at school. I'd like to get to know her, but don't know what to expect, so it's easier just to hang out with my old friends Bach and Chopin.

4) I've started to learn a million Mozart sonatas (OK, maybe five or six) but, due to a lifetime of bouncing from teacher to teacher, have never finished a single one. So why even try?

But now that Mozart is the 30-minute-a-day main course, I'm sure I'll start progressing in no time.

Even if I don't ... at least I know I will enjoy the homework. It'll be almost as hard as the homework I had when I took "History of Jazz in New Orleans" for May Term in spring of 1989. The assignments included "listen to lots of live jazz," "go to every single day of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival," and "listen to all these great jazz tapes that you'll be tested on at the end of the course." I made an "A" in the course. And I STILL listen to those tapes.

But for now, I'm listening to Mozart. And pretend-conducting in my cubicle. La la la la la.


oceanskies79 said...

Hi, I would fully agree that while Mozart's music may seem deceptively easy, they are really hard to play! It doesn't apply just to piano music, I suppose. I don't play the piano, but I often feel that it is not easy to Mozart's piano pieces well. When I play Mozart's symphonies in an amateur orchestra, it has always been challenging to play what seems so deceptively easy. I am not sure if I could say that playing Mozart's music is an exercise of both the intellect and the artistic expression of the human emotions?

Enjoy your homework!

Waterfall said...

Re: Mozart and intellect/emotions ... I don't know. I don't know how to balance them in Mozart. That's difficult, too. I'm much more comfortable with Chopin and Liszt. With Mozart, I feel like there should be a more clever, machine-like sense, with the rigid timing and perfectly constructed phrases ... but that doesn't make sense to me, either. Because much of his music sounds very emotional, even though it's not in the overflowing sense of Liszt or Brahms. And this Fantasie in D Minor is definitely not rigid ... it's hard, knowing that the timing is still so important ... I want to "Chopin-ize" it all, but I know I'm not supposed to do that. If you have any advice for me, I'm all ear!

oceanskies79 said...

I am afraid I have yet to find a way to play Mozart the way it should be. Despite playing a few of his overtures, symphonies and piano concertos (though please be reminded I was playing the accompaniment on the double bass), I often find my playing unsatisfactory.

Then again, there is this good old maxim that says: "Practice makes perfect". So for the time being, I could only do my part of trying to discover how to play Mozart the "authentic way" by listening to recordings on Mozart (then differentiating what sounds "good" from the "not so good"), and then practice to attain the "good" sounds. If I were to be successful (to my level of satisfaction), I shall share with you. Please be patient though, ...it will take time as I would be spreading my resources to do the same thing with the music of Brahms and others.

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