Tuesday, April 20, 2010

studio class tomorrow

I am playing Chopin's "B-flat minor" scherzo and the Prelude from Bach's English Suite in A minor in a scholarship competition a week from Friday. Petitto has scheduled a studio class for tomorrow, sort of a dry run for her students who are competing, I think. I am not ready, but it's *possible* I will not fall apart when I run through these pieces tomorrow. I am putting them together bit by bit.

Last night I worked for two hours on the first sixty-four bars of the scherzo; today I spent a lot of time on just bars 117-132, which is the difficult flourish which closes the A section. I used practice rhythms and gradually worked the tempo up from dotted half = 27 to dotted half = 80. I think I have found the key to tackling this figure, which is to use, in the descending arpeggio which finishes the phrase, a flat pinky to strike the A-flats, and a flat third finger to strike the D-flats. I am determined to master this without using the left hand to help.

Then I spent a bit of time on bars 516-551 (the bravura passage which uses chromatic modulation to return to B-flat minor), simply playing it with the metronome, working from dotted half = 50 up to 80. I don't really have time to use rhythms at this point, since at this point I'm just trying to see if I can make it through the whole piece. After the class tomorrow I will be working on various sections more intensely until Wednesday. This practice was a little awkward because I do not think the grandiose sequence from 544-551 is meant to be played without pausing dramatically after each downbeat (more so on the first, third, fifth, and seventh measures of the sequence, less so on the second, fourth, sixth, and eighth). I am trying to use the metronome anyway, to make it as technically accurate as possible, but I will play it more naturally in performance. I have a lot still to work on throughout the piece; I have to guess which section is weakest and work on that. It's not like triage, since I must refuse to reject any "patient" as beyond help (*and* every section must eventually receive very focused attention).

Music geek moment: The Wikipedia page for this scherzo incorrectly refers to the passage from bars 716-731 as having some sort of "key change". It's just a major chord on flat six and then a chromatic progression to a one six-four chord. Change of key signature is not the same as a key change.

I just played through the English Suite, going from quarter = 60 to 69, trying to find which passages are most treacherous. Bach is all about memory. Solid wrong or split notes are not really a problem, as long as there are very few. Any hesitation, however, is a disaster and ruins the performance. There is a lot of work to be done here as well, but I found the passages which tripped me up more than once were bars 59-61 and 82-83. So, stuff in E minor. I know my fingerings in 59-61, they just need to be more secure - I will write more detail into the music to help reinforce it. In 82, it's navigating the direct modulation and then remembering which measure I am in, since the notes are identical to measure 60. I will practice both sections with practice rhythms tonight.

About three hours of practice so far today; I'm hoping to get in another three. One's brain makes progress best by taking breaks, though, so I am off to do some errands before returning to Bach and Chopin.

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