Best Laid Plans

Take a look at the left side of my piano desk! These are my plans.
I have a Brahms 003_croprehearsal coming up with a violinist, violist and cellist, to play the great Piano Quartet in c minor in three weeks. The piano writing is as demanding as either of the Brahms piano concertos, or any solo piece. I want to play my best, and this is music I have yearned to play for years and years. So that is a high priority!

I have a talk-and-play book party coming up in the Fall to celebrate my new book on November 1st at Steinway, where I will play the Bach Prelude and Fugue in G major from Book One, that is excerpted on the cover. I had never studied that fugue,– quite a virtuoso piece of writing! So I have been learning it now…. one more in my pilgrimage through all 48.. both volumes of which are permanent fixtures on my piano.

Ideally I would like the program to include something, (however short), by every one of the eight composers discussed in my new book. So I am fishing around in my library for new ideas. I never want to fall back on pieces that happen to be under my fingers. If I have the time, I would always prefer to learn something new. The Schumann-Liszt Widmung is open on the piano at the moment.

Additionally, I have been working on the Brahms-Handel Variations, a hefty project, but too long for the party, so that has to be set aside; and I have the Mozart Concerto K. 488, which I am working on with a student. (In that toppling pile, I probably have a copy of anything a student is currently working on that I might want to demonstrate.)

My secret desert-isle music are both books of Debussy Preludes, which I NEVER seem to have enough time for in my “mainland” life. In that stack you would find both volumes; and somewhere there, are also the Gershwin arrangements of his songs, for possible party favors. On about the tenth layer down, is the Bartok Suite, opus 14, high on my must-play list, and the Mendelssohn Variations Serieuses which I am reviving.

It’s a juggling act to find the time , even a small piece of time, for even a fragment of this piece or that. I am not usually as disorganized, in my house, or my thinking, as this stack might imply. It’s more a matter of voraciousness; and even more a sense of racing time. So much to accomplish, and how fast the day, the weeks, the years, seem to fly by……….

As pianists

Carol 1 (2)I have written before about pianists as a species unto ourselves…advantaged with work that we love, which keeps restoring brain cells and keeping us on our toes, and therefore healthier than we would be otherwise; and being the sub-species of Musician with the widest range of repertoire: countless masterworks at our very fingertips to continually enrich our lives intellectually and emotionally.

One of the big disadvantages, however, is the fact that we are just about the only musicians who cannot approach our instrument daily and freshly tune it; a finely-tuned instrument of any genre, inspires and enables any musician to play better. If we are lucky to have a beautiful piano, or even luckier to have two beautiful pianos, the cost of tuning as often as we would wish can be daunting, and the fantasy of playing a freshly tuned piano wanes with each passing week, especially if we teach on our instruments.

I know pianists who have their pianos tuned every month, but live Spartan lives in other ways. For me, although the piano is a very high priority, I also enjoy my home and gardens with my husband, not to mention other simple pleasures alongside of music. Just like any other relationship in our lives–with people who help us in various ways–medical people with our health, carpenters and plumbers helping to maintain our home, technicians with our electronic equipment, and so on, we try to combine the two elements of expertise along with  good nature. And in most of my own experience, this has been possible. There is never one single person who can do a job well. There are many fine doctors, craftspeople, technicians and tuners.

We owe it to ourselves to minimize the stresses in our lives in any way we can, and that includes only dealing with folks with whom we can have a cordial friendly exchange, without enlarged egos, or  axes to grind getting in the way. I am remembering Wally Schreiber, many years ago, who became a true friend, and who was the best tuner I have ever had. And Alecs Markevich, whose magic touch on my pianos has made all the difference in the world, along with his funny tales at lunch. We treated each other with mutual respect and appreciation. The moment anyone in my life cannot act appropriately and kindly, they are out of my life, presto-chango–whatever the quality of the work they do.