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.
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!
Rach 2 first movement recap, the excerpt I practiced today. It’s improved compared to the first video from earlier this week for sure. Next step—cleaning up the pedaling and inner lines, and more shaping.
My wife Kay Hanna, asked me to let people know that she has been following along with this challenge and the piece she will aim to record is a new/recently published piece by Ola Gjeilo entitled "Blue." For her, this piece evokes images of the sky, and she says it is her current most-loved piece of all that she plays.
Because her practice time is limited by health issues, I may not be able to get a progress video from her, but rest assured she has been working on "Blue" regularly, along with a number of other pieces she is preparing for a small on-line concert for friends just before Valentine's Day.
As for myself, I'm working on Cesar Franck's "Prelude" from the Prelude, Fugue, and Variation Op. 18, transcription by Harold Bauer - one of my favorite pieces of all time for its haunting melody.
I did learn this piece some 15 years ago, but since then I have developed a significant physical tremor (apparently some variation of Essential Tremor), and I have had to rebuild my piano technique almost from the ground up to continue to play at all.
As it happens, my tremor shows itself only when I am exerting muscular effort or dealing with nerves. So the challenge for me will be to learn to play the piece with minimal effort - such as is afforded by my new technique (a floating touch with no "arm weight" and no pressing the keys) - memorize it for fluency, and then record myself when I'm feeling more-or-less in command of it.
The good news is that actually playing the piece is quite a bit easier with my new technique compared to my old. The bad news is that I find it harder to memorize things these days, and my sight-reading has always been torturous. Meanwhile, the recording situation can stir up self-consciousness, which can stir up my tremor. So I don't yet have any progress video prepared. I'm slowly learning to stay focused when I record, to play without tremor and maintain the flow of the music.
So I am late to the game. Thought I'd try to manage Chopin's Waltz as I really loved Ben's tutorial. I recorded this on the 24th. Then, I came down with a horrible cold. At 70, I can't fight these things as fast as I once could, and I have missed days of practice. But, I am not giving up! And, oh my gosh, so many talented people. You all are amazing. But, I need the practice, and I need the structure, and I will always appreciate anything helpful you can say. Next week will be better I hope as I'm mostly back. Here's my first try mistakes and all:
I’m a little late to this but… Didn’t want to miss it.
In this video, I’m playing Scherzo no.1 of Chopin. I know there’s many things to get better but I’ll have it, I think in a week or 2 (with practice) :). I like this melody because it always puts a fire in my heart. And the slow part (the lullaby polish song) it’s so beautiful and poetic (like Chopin knew how to do it).
I’ve chosen Chopin Berceuse op.57. I’m coming back to it after a long break from the piano, and I’ve chosen it because it is not a commonly played piece for Chopin I think. He didn’t write many pieces like this-variations, later titled Berceuse (lullaby) by a publisher. He wrote it while living with George Sand and it is said that this piece was inspired by a little daughter of an opera singer who was staying with them at the time. It is one of the few Chopin pieces that are more peaceful in his rather tormented and short life.
Good afternoon, piano friends!
The piece I've selected for this month is the Balakirev "Toccata". I piece I REALLY love is his "Islamey", but I'm just not advanced enough (yet? I hope!) to tackle it.
Just for fun, I asked ChatGPT to write a paragraph of Balakirev's biography, just in case some of y'all aren't too familiar with his work. I must say that ChatGPT did a very good job:
Mily Balakirev (1837-1910) was a Russian composer and pianist who played a significant role in the development of Russian classical music. He was the leader of the "Mighty Handful," a group of composers who sought to establish a national style of classical music separate from Western European traditions. Balakirev's music blended elements of Russian folk music with classical forms and was characterized by its colorful orchestration and sweeping melodies. He composed several works including the overture "Russia," the piano pieces "Islamey" and "Toccata," and the orchestral piece "Tamara." Balakirev's influence can be seen in the works of several composers, including Rimsky-Korsakov, who went on to become one of Russia's most important composers.
I'll post my video in a moment.