Wednesday, January 6, 2010


I wend my way through the key changes and various sections in Schumann's Piano Concerto in A minor, 1st movement, trying to set them in my mind, wishing they were my ideas in the first place. I envy pianists whose memories soak this up in a few playings or hearings, like Leonard Bernstein and his photographic memory. Victor Santiago Asuncion mentioned that he resurrected Moussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition in a week, after ignoring it for more than a decade.

At the risk of overstating my case, I'm getting ready for one of those trips of a lifetime, the Schumann concert, February 20. Unfortunately, I can't buy travel insurance. I practiced 6-8 hours a day during my senior year of college. Now I'm at the keyboard 2 to 4 hours, as if it doesn't really matter because a few other responsibilities interfere and graduation doesn't depend on it. Please tell me my maturity and focus offer a great advantage and everything will come together.

I'm curious, though, what difference 35 years make. Am I memorizing faster or slower? Do I understand the theory and harmony better or worse? Have my interpretation and expression improved? As for fingers, wrists and arms, I'd probably rather not go there. I'll just say they seem to be holding up.

In the Schumann, after 15 pages of rather aggressive playing, the pianist gets to enjoy two slow pages floating around A-flat major. "Love me tender, in the words of Elvis," says Virginia. "If it were opera, you might be in a garden with your beloved."

May tears (I hope not mine) celebrate the joy of this passage.

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