My second to last lesson for the semester took place last Friday, and it's hard to believe it's nearly over now for the summer. This is one of the disadvantages of taking lessons for credit--they only last as long as the semester. It will be interesting to see how the summer goes without that weekly carrot on a stick! It's not just the assignments and the struggle to avoid making a fool of oneself, but it's also the ongoing feedback from a teacher. Particularly when it's encouragement--even though it seems undeserved at times!
I started of my lesson with Hanon 14, slow then with "quickfingers," as she likes to call them. Amazingly I didn't do too badly on the fast take. She assigned 15, which is sequential thirds, to be played strictly hands separate. She was adamant on this point, so I don't think I'll try to hot-dog it and try hands together anyway. Sometimes it's hard to tell if they're trying to save you the trouble, or if there's a genuinely pedagogical reason for doing it this way. In such cases I figure it's best just to follow the directions on the box until I understand the reasoning behind them.
Then I played Burgmuller 15 ("Ballade") and I really expected it to go better than it did. The A sections aren't too bad, but I still miss the block chords from time to time, and this was one of those times. The middle section is supposed to be pedalled, and I still don't do pedalling well. Still, the criticism was very constructive and more concerned with dynamics than missed notes.
I wound up with movements 2 and 3 of the Clementi Sonatina. Two went a lot better than the first time I played it. Again, there are a lot of dynamics I could "exaggerate" better than I do. And I really do need to exaggerate them. It's a lot like taking a drawing class--beginners always shy away from using the really black charcoal, sticking instead to the various shades of gray which, while they convey some sense of depth, they really don't bring out the light and dark contrasts. The more practiced you get, the more you realize how important those contrasts are to conveying the illusion of depth. And that's what I need to really work on--bringing out the contrasts, both in volume and in tempo. I do okay for tempo (ritards and such). I'm much better at it now than I was as a kid--all those dynamic markings used to just seem like a nuisance. Now it's making more sense to me--particularly when I have a teacher who can demonstrate it well.
Once I get the pieces memorized I find it's easier to play with the dynamics.
My assignment for this Friday is to play everything I've played so far this semester. That would be:
Clementi Movemens 1-3
Burgmuller 1,2 and 15
Nannerl's Minuet (Leopold Mozart)
Schumann's Soldier's March
I haven't played the last one for her just yet. It's not fully formed anyway; it's block chords all the way through, and even though I have it "memorized" it's not nearly as smooth as it will be.
So, if she forgets that she assigned it at all, I will consider it a bullet dodged!
I wasn't sure I was going to finish Clementi before the end of the semester, so if I make it through I will consider that a major triumph. For that matter, the Schumann piece will have been quite a triumph as well, as I consider that to be a fairly difficult piece, and an important "rosetta stone" for playing pieces built around block chords. From here on out, working through the hymnal will be a lot easier.
We haven't discussed summer pieces yet, but I've just discovered that the Bach Prelude No. 1 from the Well-Tempered Clavier is actually quite easy, so I think I'm going to get that one nailed down for sure. Right now I'm looking for an efficient way to memorize it, and it seems that since each bar is a single chord, learning each of the chords before arpeggiatting them would be the way to go. The little tailpiece figures at the end can be handled separately. I think I can have this one memorized within the month. The question will be whether there are any others out there that I can tackle next! I might as well start looking for real music I can play now, rather than seeking out adaptations that I'll have to unlearn later on when I attempt the real scores.