Repertoire Update, late November

Debussy – Voiles: This is one of the pieces for my students’ concert. It feels “concert-ready” to me – I hope my teacher will agree when I see her on Wednesday.

Debussy – Pour le Piano (Prelude & Sarabande): Both these pieces are at a fairly early stage, though I have made useful inroads in the last week or so. I am looking forward to having my teacher’s critical ear on them this week.

Chopin – Ballade in G Minor: I feel I’ve reached an impasse with this, partly because I over-practised it last month and ended up with a return of the tenosynovitis in my right hand. Some time away from it should renew my interest in it. It is not part of my Diploma repertoire.

Bach – Toccata from 6th Partita: It’s very satisfying to be playing Bach again after a long absence from his music. I hope my teacher will agree this piece will make a good opener for my Diploma recital. I love the intricacies of Bach – to me, playing it is like looking at the traceries of a Baroque church. I’ve only learnt two pages of this so far. Murray Perahia’s recording is a constant source of inspiration – he is so good at highlighting all the intricacies and nuances, interior architecture and harmonies, textures and ‘voices’ in the music (this is also true of his Chopin-playing).

Messiaen – Vingt regards sur l’enfant Jesus, no. 4: Hearing Messiaen’s ‘Quartet for the End of Time’ recently inspired me to learn some of his piano music – and this piece is on the Diploma repertoire list. It is a strange little lullaby, shot through with premonitions of Jesus’s fate. I have done little more than read through it. Not sure how it will fit into my Diploma programme….


  1. There will be one difference between my piano lessons of the past and my piano lessons of the future, if I manage to track down someone foolhardy enough to teach me, and that is that I will practise this time round! I’ve always loved playing the piano, but as a child, even when I was learning pieces I loved, it felt like a chore, especially as I taught myself to play quite well by ear before I started lessons and could waste lots of time doing that instead of playing whatever Bach or Beethoven had written down. But now I see that you tend to get rewarded for the time you put into doing anything, and so unlike before, I really want to learn the piano. I’ve spent years thinking, if only I could play the Vingt Regards or the Liszt B minor sonata, and I still think these are well beyond my capabilities, but I should at any rate be able to manage some less difficult things that I’ve previously found daunting. I’ve just been browsing the Chopin nocturnes, some of which look almost playable…

    The poem grew out of this thread (hope link works) on the now defunct but happily preserved BBC Books message board. Not sure if my entry ever made it to the judges, but I distinctly remember not receiving a large cheque from anyone.

    It’s interesting to see what my blog’s turning into. When I first thought of having one it was going to be a record of my reading, but it’s turning out to be mainly music with various other things thrown in. I have a feeling the most visited blogs tend to be those which focus on one area to the exclusion of many others, but I don’t intend to make mine conform to that model, even if that means it doesn’t get as many hits as it might. I suppose I write it as much for myself as for others, though it’s nice to know there’s a small core of regular readers and that occasionally it picks up new ones along the way.

  2. Reading posts like this makes me feel excited at the prospect of learning new pieces myself. I’ve just about promised myself to find a piano teacher next year and start getting back into practice. Haven’t had one since I did Grade 8, which was about ten years ago. And there are pieces I’m not sure I can learn on my own – I’d love to be able to play some Brahms well, or Messiaen. (My brother’s learning one of the Messiaen preludes as his C piece for Grade 8 at the moment, which makes me feel something like envy.) I love the Sarabande from Pour le Piano. May dig it out and see if I can pick my way through it. I seem to remember lots of tricky accidentals.

    • Hi Gareth,
      Many thanks for your comments. Yes, you should start playing seriously again!! I stopped for 15 years after I got married, and then woke up one morning and thought “why am I wasting this (small) talent?”. It doesn’t take that long to get back into the habit of practising and studying and, at the risk of sounding a tad sanctimonious, it’s very rewarding. I also realised that if you keep telling yourself that a certain piece is “difficult” or saying “oh, I’ll never be able to play that”, you’ll never do it. A lot of the time, it’s just a matter of sitting down with the music and working through it carefully: I taught myself the opening movement of Schubert’s last sonata a couple of years ago, before I met my teacher. I know the Messiaen prelude (Plainte Calme, I think?), and may learn it when I’ve got some more Diploma repertoire in the fingers. Debussy is a composer who forces one to consider the way the piano works in a totally new way – indeed, he often asks one to forgot one is playing a piano! As does Messiaen…. Wonderful stuff!!!

      I do enjoy your blog – it’s very quirky and personal, which is what a blog should be, in my view. A friend, who clearly lacks imagination about such things, recently asked me why I wrote a blog if I didn’t know if anyone read it, completely missing the point of why one does anything! I do it because it interests me – as I am sure you do. I thought The Owl & The Pussycat reworking was inspired. Did you do that yourself?? FRAN 🙂

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