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Emily Grossman


November 16, 2010 at 11:06 AM

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 Before I knew it, I was practicing five hours a day, completely obsessed and withdrawn into this monstrous task of knowing Beethoven and Brahms.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.

From Christina C.
Posted on November 16, 2010 at 3:24 PM

Nice post Emily. It's always nice to see when faith in the practice process pays off. I'm sure your recital will be beautiful, just make sure you remember to enjoy yourself!

 Looking forward to a follow-up on this.

From Tom Holzman
Posted on November 16, 2010 at 4:30 PM

Emily - what a wonderful recital program.  I love and have played the Beethoven and the Brahms.  I am sure you will do an excellent job.  Good luck!  Once you got the groove, as you have, you are good to go.  My only suggestion would be to ditch the cap for the recital, unless you are playing in a hall as unheated as the one in which Beethoven gave the famous December 22, 1808 concert, where patrons froze for about four hours while he premiered some of the greatest music ever written. 

From Yixi Zhang
Posted on November 17, 2010 at 1:36 AM

Emily, you are a good player and you have a great program. Such beatiful music! Let the music play you and enjoy!

From Pierre Holstein
Posted on November 17, 2010 at 2:42 AM

 Remember to enjoy it. Personally, I like the cap ;-)

From Susan Jeter
Posted on November 17, 2010 at 7:19 PM

Emily, I played the Beethoven on my senior recital eons ago. I remember when I practiced with the accompanist for the first time, she was astonished at the pizzicato parts - her piano score didn't indicate those!

Good luck!

From Robert Keith
Posted on November 18, 2010 at 12:15 AM


You  post the nicest things.  You will do great.  You will have then eating out of your hand.  Oops, I have heard that before somewhere.  

Where the cap if you must.  I think it looks good on you.  I have been thinking about making you a little red cap for the scroll on your violin.(haha)  Keep us up-to-date.

From Emily Grossman
Posted on November 18, 2010 at 8:09 PM

You know, I thought  "the Cap"  was short for Caprice Basque.  Needless to say, I was a little confused.

From Tom Holzman
Posted on November 18, 2010 at 9:54 PM

Sorry about the ambiguity. 

From Emily Grossman
Posted on November 19, 2010 at 10:43 AM

Caps are for staying warm.  Caprice Basque needs to be sizzling hot.  It only makes sense to wear the cap for the Cap.  Otherwise, it's just plain cold here in this frozen wasteland.

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