14 September 2011

Thirty by thirty update: piano pieces

When I wrote my 30 by 30 list, my intention was to identify some goals that would be fun, interesting, and rewarding to conquer. But in actuality – especially now that I have a thesis to write – I, uh, I think I mostly just succeeded in creating a procrastination device. Oops.

And there’s one list item in particular that is especially useful for feeling productive while making absolutely zero progress on my thesis! Guess what it is. Go on, guess.

Too obvious?

Clearly, I'm referring to #28, learn or re-learn five piano pieces! I’ve been devoting a lot of otherwise useful brainpower to choosing which pieces to learn, and so far I have chosen (and begun to practice) three of them.

The first is an old one but good one:

Beethoven’s Pathetique Sonata, at least the first movement. I learned the entire sonata for my senior recital in high school, and the first movement is by far the most challenging to me. For now I'm not working on the second and third movements, but I might try them because the first movement has gotten back under my fingers more quickly than I expected. Thank goodness for muscle memory. (Don't let the slow intro below fool you. It gets crazy around 2:10.)

Another returning piece is Liszt’s Liebestraum, which I first learned in college. That one is more difficult because I didn’t learn it nearly well enough the first time. It’s definitely a bit more tedious. I doubt Mr. P is enjoying listening to me bang out the cadenzas over and over in an attempt to perform them as well as Lang Lang which, let’s face it, will never happen.

(Also, an indication of my priorities nowadays: I very nearly called the improvised passage a credenza.)

And finally, for now, a new one: Rachmaninoff’s Prelude in C# minor. Which is terrifying for multiple reasons, like the fistfuls of chords and the double-sharp accidentals and the fact that the end has four staves:

You don’t have to be a pianist to appreciate the fact that four staves means two more staves than I have hands, and that having one person play two pianists' worth of notes is quite the challenge. I find myself channeling the Emperor from Amadeus, suggesting that there's too many notes. But oh, is it a rewarding piece to play:

I mean, check how much his hair is flopping all over the place at the end. There aren't many works for piano that require headbanging, but this is totally one of them.

So! Those make up the current repertoire, but I’m still trying to figure out the other two. I’d like a good modern piece, perhaps impressionistic, or something like Gershwin (I’d kill for the time to learn Rhapsody in Blue, but that would be reaching a bit). Or perhaps Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody, since I seem to be into pieces with too many notes, but I'm already working on one by Liszt. Hmm. I know I have some musicians reading my blog, so your thoughts are welcome!

And yes, practicing piano is a great way to put off writing my thesis but – BUT! Over the weekend I was asked several times, by people who knew me back when I played a lot, if I was still playing the piano. It was so totally rewarding to say yes, yes I am. And I always will.


Miranda said...

Yay! That's so awesome. I'm totally envious of your talents. :)

Sarah said...

Aww, thanks for the encouragement Miranda! You know, I'm envious of your house cleaning goals! I've been reading your blog, but then decide to play piano instead of clean ;) It's seriously an excellent way to procrastinate!

Christal said...

I nominate you learn Chopin's Nocturne #2 in E Flat. Then I nominate you play it for me constantly. :-) Hooray for you to take time to enjoy your many talents!