Week 1: Status check! (also pick your piece!)
Hello and welcome to the WEEK ONE Main Thread for this challenge!
Alright everyone - this is the thread where we'll all be posting our daily updates.
Make sure you've read the rules before replying (<- click)
Twice a week between January 23 - 30 I hope to be reading your daily updates in this very thread right here!
Here is this week's assignment!
1. Pick your piece!
2. If a new piece, post your sight-reading of it (never hurts to practice this valuable skill!) If it is an old piece, let's try and dust it off, and play through what we can, to evaluate its current condition. Let us know what your "piece status" is!
3. Optional: Tell us WHY you picked this piece that you love so much!
My choice is the Adagio Cantabile movement from Beethoven’s Pathétique Sonata. I am working on the first movement of this sonata too, but felt that the 3 week time period of the challenge is actually more suited to the second movement for me. What do I love about this movement- the beautiful melody that rises above the other voices. It is like a transcription or “song without words.” On a personal level, this sonata, and especially this movement, is something my dad and I used to listen to often and talk about when I was young. He lived in Germany for sometime and developed a love for Beethoven’s music. He passed away recently and this sonata makes me think of him. I am happy to have the opportunity now to learn and share this beautiful piece.
As I'm on the 'home' stretch of my exam recordings, I would like to pick one of my exam pieces rather than learn a new piece. I'm proposing Czerny's Variations on a Theme by Rode " La Ricordanza" op 33, a piece I fell in love with when I first heard it, and was so surprised that its composer was Czerny.
It is such a pretty piece that i insisted on learning it against the advice of my teacher. For a time I did think I bit off more than I could chew, but after more than a year of hard practice, I'm in not-a-bad place with it.
For this community challenge, I'm motivated to polish up the cadenzas and search for more LH and inner voices to emphasise. I'll aim to play 2 variations each week, and also play the repeats which I've not done so far.
I think Czerny is not loved much because we associate him with tiresome finger exercises etc, but i hope this piece can help to raise awareness of his other compositions - hopefully i can do it justice. Certainly he deserves more love for being an important transitional figure between the classical and the romantic eras - having been a pupil of Beethoven and a teacher to Liszt! Now I can see where Liszt's filligree passages come from....!
Love to Czerny!
Coincidentally, I happened to be flipping through the Beethoven sonatas yesterday, and I came upon Sonata 12, Opus 26. It was love at first sight! It sparked a level of excitement on the highest order. I see in it reassuring echoes of Rameau of Scarlatti, the manic craziness of the Diabelli Variations, and (Chopin-like?) areas of lugubrious eccentricity. This Sonata needs psychotherapy, and its flux capacitors need service.
I thought I might take a stab at (some of) the Andante con Variazioni during the next three weeks. It's a major stretch technically, but presents challenges that I would benefit from working on, like the wide interval leaps, the sandwiching of melody lines between notes above and below; and the divided use of the right hand for figurations on one end, and melody on the other. The dynamic markings for phrases and accents are not immediately intuitive.
Plus it falls into bite-sized pieces for convenience in video taping--and Bonus!--no page turning. These features prove that I was fated to date this piece for the current challenge.
I chose Joaquin Nin-Culmell’s Baile de Burgos (No. 7 from Tonadas, Vol. 1) — a short, simple but beautiful piece that beginners and early intermediate students can learn to play. I love this piece when it is played slowly. When I first heard it last year, it took me back half a century to when I was a college student visiting my aunt and uncle in Madrid. They took me to the city of Teruel in Aragon, where we explored the historic Mudejar architecture that blends Eastern/Islamic elements with typical Western forms in churches and town structures. The cathedral there provided moments of meditative awe, which this piece again evoked for me. I hope I will be able to play it with resonance and expression to convey the experience of walking through those gorgeous, exotic Spanish spaces.
This piece was also my introduction to the works of Joaquin Nin-Culmell (brother of Anais Nin), a fascinating composer of Cuban and Spanish heritage who led the music department at UC Berkeley for many years.
Here are three photos (exterior portal, interior ceiling, bell tower) of the Cathedral de Santa Maria de Mediavilla de Teruel, borrowed from the Internet.
I choose Shostakovich Prelude and Fugue op. 87 no. 7
I first heard this piece when I was 16 and love it esp the fugue - so pretty and joyful - not something you normally associate with Shostakovich's music. I found this piece again recently through my work colleague who suggested the opus when I was pondering what to learn next.
I have already planned to learn the piece this year so taking the opportunity to kick it off. Starting with the fugue - which I already feel pretty challenged in working out the fingering and rhythmically playing both hands esp when 3rd voice enters. It's definitely not one I can sight read and it's not going to be a quick one to learn but let's just see how far three weeks can take me.
I also find doing this challenge itself poses another challenge of sharing and embracing the piece in-progress with all its blemishes ... This is me at day 3 for the first 20 bars.