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February 2009


February 22, 2009 13:45

Today was a wonderful day. I played the nursing home this afternoon, and it was easily my best performance yet. I played Hayn's Serenade, Saint-Saens' The Swan, Handel's Largo, and the Handel Sonata in D Major. The first three were pretty easy; the sonata was more difficult, and my accompanist and I had not had an opportunity to rehearse it.  We played the entire sonata, even though I've only just learned the third and fourth movements, and David was literally sight-reading the piano part, but it went very well. I don't know how much was the Inderal, and how much was following my teacher's advice, but it was wonderful to play well today and know that I have found a solution to the problem of tremors in my right hand. It gives me hope that I will be able to continue to play for a long time to come.

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Playing the Violin: An Exercise in Masochism?

February 21, 2009 08:24

Sometimes, I think a violinist is a glutton for punishment. I mean, who else would attempt to learn to play an instrument so difficult, loaded with so many variables with regard to dynamics, tone color, variation and interpretation, an instrument that my daughter swears sounds like a dying cat if it's played badly? Why would anyone want to learn to play an instrument that makes you have to contort your hands into awkward positions (like when you play double stops or chords, or shift into really high position)? Why would anyone try to play an instrument that is so unforgiving regarding intonation and tone quality? I think most of us here would agree that for us, at least, not playing is not something we would seriously consider. It's in our blood. And let's face it: when you've worked your fingers to the bone learning to play a difficult piece well, there's a wonderful sense of satisfaction and accomplishment that is not provided for us doing anything else. I don't know about anyone else, but as frustrated as I get (there are times when I feel I could cheerfully smash my fiddle into kindling) there's a part of me that is driven to play, and to get better.

Then there's the question of why anyone would take on all those challenges when he or she already has enough, as I do with MS.

My doctor has had to double the dose of Inderal (propranolol) to 120 mg a day. After a brief period of no tremors, they came back again, though not as badly. So far doubling the dose hasn't helped a lot, but it's been only a week or so. (Just as an aside, given my last blog entry, would I still recommend the use of Inderal if it helps? Yes, for all the reasons I listed, and for all the reasons given by those who replied. If it helps, then I say go for it). That being said, my teacher observed that since these tremors are "intention tremors" which occur as the muscles in question are being used (while I'm bowing up-bow), I should work on relaxing my bow hand more, lightening up the pressure my hand and arm put on the string. Now so far, that's worked fairly well, although I sacrifice something of sound and tone color by easing up on the bow, especially when playing in high position. But having to work on letting gravity do more of the work, instead of my hand and arm doing it, should be beneficial to my playing. I hope that having to correct this problem at this point will improve my playing, because I really don't want to give it up (and I have a wedding to play this summer). In any case, taking Inderal has had the added benefit of keeping me from freaking out during a performance: this past week I had to sing a difficult piece for my music club, one that I hadn't had a lot of time to prepare (and neither had my accompanist, and it had 6 sharps!), but it was arguably the best performance I have given to date. But I digress.

I'm going to continue working to improve my technique (couldn't we all benefit from that?) and to resolve these challenges with which I have been faced, because darn it, we violinists are just like that, aren't we? I love this instrument; a well-played violin is one of the sweetest sounds on earth.


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