Day Three in the “Loony Bin”

Kenneth mentioned at the start of the week that Craighouse – where the piano course is held – was originally a mental health institution and in fact the very same institution that housed Wilfred Owen and Sassoon. It also seems a rather fitting place to be undertaking an intensive piano course where my sanity and concentration are also being tested!

Quick walk during a break

Day three started off with the ‘play-throughs’ and again some major works presented and some detailed discussions ensued. Bach’s Goldberg Variations necessitated debate on the realisation of ornamentation and it reminded me why I also stay away from such repertoire. Nigel Kennedy’s recent remarks on the issue of authenticity – – came to mind. I find myself drawn to repertoire of the more recent past because the instructions (score) are detailed enough for me to feel I can faithfully reproduce the intentions of the composer. Of course there is intrigue in exploring earlier repertoire where the score lacks the detail and the performer has the opportunity to delve deeper into performance practice and conventions of the time. Berg’s Op. 1 Sonata was played and I felt encouraged by it that one day I might take a closer look at the score myself. Interesting piano writing and I could see that even with a less stable tonal vocabulary – though I felt there was something of jazz in this work in it’s harmonic approach – there were recognisable moments of melodic development and a motivic approach in the writing.

Day two gave me the realisation that my practice needed greater focus and with regards to the piano it needed to involve training of the fingers to play the repertoire. My work today focused on getting the fingering and notes for the second movement of the Prokofiev sonata into my fingers. Using the metronome I worked at the quaver and reached quaver = 135. After my individual session with Kenneth that looked at how to finger/play the left hand material in the Fauré Nocturne I came back to the Prokofiev and tiredness and worn out hands resulted in less successful practice. Even after semi-supine and a short walk, four hours practice today was my limit so I departed. I am rather annoyed that practice ended on a less than good note as I will be presenting my work-in-progress of the second movement in class tomorrow. Before my lesson with Kenneth I felt confident I knew it but now I feel tenuous about how successful my play through will go. It presents some interesting challenges – with staccato quavers against sustained notes – and at speed it will either sound accomplished or could collapse like a poorly constructed tent. I’ll return to it tomorrow following the class and hope some encouragement from the class will help tackle it with renewed vigour.

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