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Pieces we struggled with


MusingMuso
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Listening yet again to the remarkable Finotti performance of the 2nd Schumann B-A-C-H Fugue ("Lebhaft"),reminded me of the struggles I had in learning that particular work, and it had me wondering what works have caused problems, and more importantly, why did they cause problems?

 

I don't think we're looking for works which are beyond our respective and various talents and abilities, but works which are now, (or at least were), part of our own repertoire, at whatever level of difficulty.

 

Sometimes the notes are just difficult to read. Sometimes the problem is one of registration. At other times, it may be due to errors of technique or even a lack of technique as we travel the journey from John Stanley to the Durufle Toccata.

 

We've all had to make at least some of that journey at various points in our lives, and it is a part of the fun as well as part of the torment of being a musician.

 

So irrespective of where we are technically, the interest lies in those works which we have stumbled over and then mastered, as a part of the learning curve, which of course includes absolutely everyone, from village organist to cathedral organist to top flight recitalist.

 

I'll kick this off by describing my journey to hell and back with the no.2 Schumann Fugue, because having heard Finotti's astounding performance, I just had to get the music and learn it.....no compromises...."Lebhaft" AND "Furioso" AND "Detachee" in equal measure.

 

It seemed like an entirely possible task when I looked at the notes, but the more I tried, the worse it got, until I realised two problems.

 

The first was the amount of rapid finger-substitution required, and the second was the sheer lack of strength in my hands. The first proved fiendishly difficult to master at the sort of speed I wanted to play it; especially since finger-substitution and a detached style are very difficult to combine. To make all this possible, I really had to enter into a hard, physical training routine. Only when finger strength was at its peak was it possible to interpret the music and keep it in control.

 

Well I'm glad to say that I did master it, and played it in a few recitals; the most satifying one being on an electronic-organ curiously enough, which had the right level of tonal aggression. I recall that people were visibly shaken by what they heard, perhaps knowing that I had done something similar to what Blondini did when he walked the tight-rope across the Niagra Falls....a real knife edge performance with disaster only a tiny slip away.

 

How long did it take me to learn it? It was probably the best part of 6 months, but included other pieces as well.

 

What I can say with certainty, is that this Fugue was another plateau on the eternal learning-curve, and learning it taught me more than I could ever have anticipated.

 

I suppose we all know we're better than before, when the pieces which once troubled us are played with comfortable ease.

 

So what have YOU struggled with?

 

MM

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So what have YOU struggled with?

 

MM

 

Dupre Cortege et Litanie. Fine until halfway down page 5 when the feet have to leap about in jumps of a fifth. But then most peoples' problems begin there so I am told by one who has recorded it (on YouTube). Even now I can only guarantee an accurate rendering of this passage about 7 times out of 10. This I put down partially to a mental block I seem to have acquired about this section of the piece. But that's probably a topic for another thread. The individual parts are not tricky (though the RH part seems to defy any attempt at anything like legato though my teacher told me that a detached affect is what the composer probably intended. The LH part is just a series of chords and the pedal part on its own is not difficult, but it's the playing of all three simultaneously. The bottom line of page 7 and the top of page 8 - those repeated top bs in the pedal rarely seem to come off totally error-free.

 

 

 

That'll do for now I'm sure. I look forward to reading other members' contributions to what looks like being an interesting thread and one in which we might not impossibly offer suggestions.

 

Peter

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  • 8 months later...

I'd agree with MM: The Schumann BACH Fugues present challenges at every level - technical, musical, compositional, interpretational, emotional. They are not pieces for an immature musician to take on - if you're one of those, stick to your flashy show-off toccatas. But if you want something to work at for months, that deepens your musicianship, these pieces more than repay the effort you put in.

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I'd agree with MM: The Schumann BACH Fugues present challenges at every level - technical, musical, compositional, interpretational, emotional. They are not pieces for an immature musician to take on - if you're one of those, stick to your flashy show-off toccatas. But if you want something to work at for months, that deepens your musicianship, these pieces more than repay the effort you put in.

 

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I'm glad Colin has responded; not because he agrees with me, but because it highlights the challenges certain pieces present.

 

Amusingly, I think it took me twice as long to learn the Schumman no.2 B-A-C-H fugue as it did the whole of the Reubke!!!!

 

MM

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I'm not that surprised to hear that - I know which one I think presents the bigger challenge! Not to say the Reubke doesn't have its own challenges - it's just that they're different challenges.

 

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Exactly so, and of course, the Reubke was written with the organ in mind, and therefore fits naturally under fingers and toes. The problems with the Reubke, I found, were those of absolute control and the dual means of his writing expression marks, which require an awful lot of real interpretation.

 

Broadening this slightly, another work which I learned for a recital, was the "Noel Variations" by Dupre, even though I don't generally play a lot of French music; preferring German romantic music instead.

 

I guess Dupre must have had very large hands, because it caused me a few sleepless episodes close to the date, and something of a frantic dash towards the end of the practice regime.

 

I think that anyone who can play a work by Dupre has potential, and anyone who can play two works deserves a French medallion of honour.

 

Those who play more are just showing off.

 

This reminds me of a German friend I had at university, who on hearing me play some music by Gigout, turned to me and said, "Zer is only one good zing to zay about zer French music, and zat is zat you know exactly where you stand, for you always know zat it wass written by a peasant!" :lol:

 

MM

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