Monday, September 20, 2010

Concert No. 2

It’s hard to believe but the San Jose cycle is already 25% complete. The Appassionata was probably the highlight to date, and with a few retakes, Op. 109 came out really well too. None were disastrous, I am pleased to report.

This time I used a couple of cheat-sheets. The first movement of the G minor sonatina, Op 49 required so little work to get it the way I wanted that I never quite managed to lock it into my memory bank, having missed learning that one as a kid.

There was an event during the opening movement of Op. 54.  Beethoven’s music possesses a powerful inner logic. Most of the notes are precisely the notes they have to be at any given moment, and as a result, memorizing his music is generally easy (for me, at any rate). However there are certain movements, often slow ones, containing several variegated iterations of the same theme.  Generally, those inner variations become more elaborate as the movement progresses, but still, memorizing those differences give me my share of trouble. As a result, during the performance, I also end up spending far too much of my creative energy worrying about what’s coming next.  The first movement of Op. 54 is one such instance, so I placed a sheet containing the last page on the music stand.  As I turned the first page, which was easy to do because there is a long rest for the right hand, the resulting breeze blew the extra page off the piano onto the keyboard, then onto my lap and finally onto the floor. All the while, I was performing and the microphones were recording the proceedings. Needless to say, that movement required more than one re-take the next day.

Given that these works are being recorded for future release, from now on, I might very well play some of the sonatas with the scores open, and even with a page turner.  Feedback anyone?

Incidentally, there was an on-line review of the first concert:

Next up, some thoughts on editions and adherence to text. See you then

Monday, September 13, 2010

Thoughts on the opening concert in San Jose

The program of last Thursday’s concert reveals such a wide array of moods--from the storminess of the first sonata’s outer movements, to the comparative gentleness of the Op. 14/1!  Even more impressive is Beethoven's mastery in so many different compositional styles. Compare, for instance, the breadth, brilliance, yet relatively simple texture of the Waldstein, to the thorny, compact, pervasively contrapuntal Op. 101, which could (and should, IMHO) be a string quartet or quintet. How many of us, if we knew only one of those works, could intuit that the same composer wrote the other?

During the recital, I felt a bit like an athlete at the moment of a competition. The principal goal at the actual performance is not to duplicate the best of one’s practicing over the past several weeks, but to make use of the acquired insights and technical improvement so as to better access whatever inner creativity can be summoned up at the moment. I’ve now heard the “rushes” and hey, they ain’t all that bad (in Bob Silverman talk, that’s good). The touch-up sessions should take care of the most egregious clams, but it is already clear that, if this set sees the light of day as a recording, it will indeed be a live performance, warts and zits included, not a carefully edited studio product.

Earlier on these pages, I wrote that this traversal would be different than my earlier one.  For a short while, I tried to deliberately introduce differences, but quickly learned that I could not. Differences, there will be, but they will have to be the result of new or enhanced ideas about the pieces that reveal themselves through further study of the score and a striving for more technical perfection.  Or by the simple fact that I am 15 years older than I was when I first approached many of these works.  One cannot “fake a difference.”  Self-conscious phrasing creates caricatures, not portraits.  Choosing a tempo that is incompatible with one’s inner clock never works. A tempo can never so slow as to impede the flow of ideas, or so fast that the ideas don’t have the opportunity to breathe, or that the listener cannot adequately digest them.

And now, back to Op. 54.  I love the piece this time around…