November 2010


November 16, 2010 04:06

I haven't written much about what I've been up to lately. That's basically because I've been preparing for a recital on December 3rd, in which I will perform Sarasate's Caprice Basque, as well as Beethoven's Spring Sonata and the Brahms G Major Sonata. Those of you who have undertaken a similar task won't need to read further, because that in itself explains everything.

I don't think I had a true grasp of the magnitude of this project until I settled into polishing each of the seven movements of the two sonatas (and of course, the blasted pyrotechnics of Sarasate). Suddenly, the hours and days began to slip by, and I found myself completely overwhelmed. If I spent an hour on a movement, and if I practiced the usual three hours a day, I would only get to each chunk of repertoire once every three days or so. That's about twice a week. By the time I got back to a particular part, I'd forgotten what I did with it the last time I practiced. There was no way around it: I needed to step up the hours. But did I have enough time to commit?

Ha, luckily, there's not much else going on in my not-so-exciting life in Alaska, so time was not too difficult to find. If a student canceled his lesson, I headed back to the studio. If it was still an hour before lunch, I stalled my hunger in the studio. Even my computer time whittled away, but I barely noticed. Before I knew it, I was practicing five hours a day, completely obsessed and withdrawn into this monstrous task of knowing Beethoven and Brahms. Each rehearsal with Maria went a little better than the last, but I couldn't get rid of the sensation that my music was over top of me like a tidal wave, and I was being sucked into its undertow. Was it ever going to come together? I worried.

There's this certain particular hump in the learning of a piece that, once you crest it, you know it. Usually at that point, the memorization begins to happen all on its own. But, until you've taken the music to this point, you really can't say you know it. Apparently, getting well over an hour's worth of new (and admittedly challenging) repertoire to this point would be an unending task. I faced each rehearsal apologetically; with great anxiety I stumbled. None of it was there yet, and I knew it.

Then, on Thursday evening, all at once, Brahms and Beethoven finally came around and let me have them. Up until then, I had been sure it would never happen at all, and the despair of performing in that state of unpreparedness filled me with dread. But once my head popped back up and I gasped for air, I knew this was going to be a recital worth attending.

Now, if I could train my mind to believe. Then, we can make it beautiful.

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