Sunday, June 11, 2006

70 Short Minutes to Ecstasy!!

Sounds like a spam-mail heading, doesn't it. No, I'm not talking about R-rated things, though Liszt's "Ständchen" is sounding more and more "R-rated" the more I practice it, with its heavy-breathing rhythms, slowly building climaxes, and sublime afterglows. I'm in the afterglow, in fact, of practicing this wonderful piece.

As you can read in my piano-practice log below, I spent about 80 minutes practicing this evening--about 10 minutes on scales and arpeggios, and about 70 on the Liszt.

I am amazed at how much can be accomplished by just a few minutes of intensive focus. I mean, 70 minutes is not a long time in the great scheme of things, or even in the small scheme of things. It's just barely more than an hour. It's longer than I spend each day on the elliptical trainer, and just over half the length of a good, long movie. Seventy short minutes.

In 70 minutes, I went from being very confused and uncertain about the timings to playing 2-against-3 with the metronome. It's necessary that I be able to do this; only after I can play it with perfect timing will I be able to "stretch" or "compress" sections as the emotions move me. Kind of like a writer needs to know the rules of Standard Written English before he can break them to achieve certain effects.

In 70 minutes, I went from sloppily missing the ornamented notes to playing them perfectly and in time. In 70 minutes, I was able to play that tricky measure 101 gracefully. In 70 minutes, I was able to play measures 91 through 101 many times, listening for the dynamics, focusing less on hitting the notes, and concentrating more on communicating the emotional power.

After 70 minutes, I called my brother and played those measures to him over the phone. He said he could hardly believe I was playing it. "Ständchen" is a long way from Liszt's virtuosic pieces, but it has a virtuosic sound all its own--a virtuosic sound that I usually hear coming from a recording, and not from my own fingers.

What an amazing feeling, to know that all of that gorgeous music is flowing forth from my own fingers, with the help of George's wires, hammers, and keys. After 70 minutes, I feel like I'm on top of the world. Like I've taken illegal happy pills. Like I'm floating six inches above the ground. Like [insert cliche' simile of choice here].

Seventy short minutes to ecstasy, indeed. And I haven't even begun the "easy" sections--measures 1 through 90. I start those after my next piano lesson!

1 comment:

  1. Standchen is a wonderful gorgeous piece - I wish I could play it! The afterglow as recorded by M Perahiah just takes away your breath. While less pretty, there are a couple of Scriabin Poemes that are equally spine chilling. try the Poeme no 4 in F sharp (op.32). Short and lovely. WOuld love to hear your comments. CHRIS

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