Thursday, September 8, 2016

#2 - Chopin, Mendelssohn, Debussy

Today, I first played Rondo capriccioso Op 14 by Mendelssohn, followed by the Chopin Ballade No. 2 in F, Op. 38, and finally Debussy Prelude No. 3, Book 1.

Prof Fitenko said he was impressed with my technique and many musical aspects of my playing today. He was very happy with the improvement he could already see after just one lesson and talked about preparing a program for performance as well as for amateur competitions. He provided many helpful comments about both musical and technical aspects that are summarized below:

Mendelssohn Rondo Capriccioso
  1. Page 1: Voice the bass octaves downwards. The bottom note is more interesting. 
  2. Be very precise on the articulation. Be faithful to the score as far as slurs and articulation go. e.g. Measure 6 - let go after playing B, lift your arm up to the upper octave. This also provides a visual cue for the audience about your articulation. 
  3. Measure 10 - p indicated. The thumb plays the first note, so be extra careful about starting it p. Also make that long line. 
  4. Measure 13 (and other places later) - practice the alternating L/R figure by playing it on your lap. Make sure full values of notes are played. Practicing on your lap also makes sure you get the rhythm right as well as teaches you the feeling of playing without tension.
  5. Measure 18 - don't speed up, take your time to establish the new/grand statement. 
  6. Measures 20-21 - Left hand, emphasize lower note in the bottom octave and upper note in the top octave (basically play around with these voicings and figure out interesting ways to make music). 
  7. Measures 22-24 - The left hand helps connect the melody notes in the right hand. So do not gloss over them. Shape the left hand. 
  8. Use pedal in the presto leggiero section! Accent/conducting pedals. Either one or two every measure (play around with the options).
  9. Measures 67 - con anima section - Articulation, staccatos, etc. Don't play with a feel of 2, make longer lines of 6 (time signature = 6/8!). 
  10. Measure 97-99 - again practice these alternating figures on your lap. Make crescendos on the lap. Another way to practice it is by playing in the air (same with the coda of the Ballade). The left and the right hand need to feel connected to each other in these alternating figures - so even playing + playing full values - will help if you can do it on your lap first.  

Chopin Ballade
  1. Happy with the Andantino section. Now try practicing all voices, for example the middle voice could be tried in some areas just to make things interesting. 
  2. The repeating notes in measure 45 - push and pull, and the last note is actually a pick up to the presto con fuoco and must feel like it (even with the fermata). 
  3. Be confident in the presto con fuoco section. Focus more on the decrescendo on the right + crescendo on the left. 
  4. Legato right hand measures 62 - 
  5. Measures 68-69 - find a way to breathe and establish that statement rather than rush through it. 
  6. Legato long line measures 70-82
  7. Measures 78-81 - be metrical, don't push and pull too much within each measure. Slow down across measures while keeping a steady triple count. 
  8. Measures 164-167 - left hand trill, use slight rotation. Trills are not just buzzes. Listen to each note, it has structure to it. 
  9. Agitato coda - Use all the rests to rest, you'll need it!! There are landing notes which you push off of. Those are points of rest as well. Practice this very slowly till your hand feels very relaxed. Play the entire section in the air too while making sure your shoulders and arms are relaxed. Then play on a hard surface and finally on the keys slowly and then fast only when you've trained your arms and shoulders to be relaxed. 
  10. Measures 196- Tempo I - make that a "sad" sound. 
  11. Last chord - make sure the bottom and top notes are heard.

Debussy Prelude

  1. Use pedal - no crisp notes.
  2. Breathe
  3. Execute all the <> markings.
  4. RH measures 9-10 - keep time, in the same tempo as earlier. Check notes! 
  5. < followed by p is common in Debussy. Honor those markings.
  6. Be confident and play f< then p in measures like 28. 

We ran out of time at this point. All of these pieces, he said, were very good for me and that I should bring these up to performance standards. He then told me I could start working on some other pieces too if I liked. He suggested Bach's Italian concerto or anything else that I wanted to learn. I also told him I had worked on Beethoven's Tempest previously. He said that was a great piece for me as well, so I might try and bring that back soon. 

Goals for the next lesson - explore musical ideas with voicing and sonorities in the Ballade and learn to be relaxed in the coda, finish learning Mendelssohn and practice those alternating figures as instructed, work on the Debussy prelude, prepare the Schubert impromptu as Prof Fitenko wanted to hear it, and also get the Tempest Mvt 1 and 3 ready (might only happen over the next couple of lessons). After a few more lessons, start learning a new piece. 

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