Sunday, October 07, 2018

Playing Schubert Schlowly

I actually said that as I started to type the title to this post: "Schlowly." I'm not good at tongue-twisters.

Tonight I worked on some of the Schubert. I've completed the coda section (meaning I've learned the notes and can play it through at a relatively slow pace), and I've moved on to the dozen (or two?) measures prior to that, starting at measure 212. Here are measures 212 and 213, for reference:

I am playing this section sooooo s-l-o-w-l-y. I was lucky to have a good hour for practicing tonight, and I spent the entire hour on measure 212 to right before the coda. I don't even know how to explain how slowly I played it. Basically, each note of each triplet was played on a beat of the metronome, starting at something like 52.

Here's how it sounded by the time I'd notched it up to 72: Click here for slow Schubert. Note that that little section is a minute and 22 seconds.

In this recording from Horowitz, the same short passage takes about 10 seconds, starting at 3:36 (this video starts right before that):

Do I really need to play it that slowly?

Yes. I think I do. I need to be able to think and plan. Playing that slowly helps me internalize the fingering, and it helps confirm that the fingering is right (or not). It helps me to see where I hesitate, where I'm not sure about things. It give me time to think through things, so that I can play the passage perfectly even though my brain may have felt like it almost "missed" something. And when I play it at a particular tempo three or four times in a row, the brain stops "almost missing." And then I notch it up, and play it a few more times.

By the time I finished practicing tonight, I was playing at something like ♩=60, which is still glacial but a lot faster than what I linked above. I'm finding that, when I've played something that slowly for several dozen times, everything starts to fall into place when the tempo increases. I'm still not there yet, but my fingers now know what to do. A few more sessions of this ultra-focused practice, and I think this piece is going to start sounding quite nice.

I've also begun thinking about dynamics, which I'm (obviously) not doing in my recording. I'm also focusing on keeping my hands light and nearly weightless in the "scaly" sections, since this is another piece that can't "plod."

I think this piece is the most difficult one I'm currently working on. Just getting the notes is a challenge sometimes. But with the slow approach I'm taking, I think I'll have those notes under my belt before too much longer if I can continue to put some time into the piece every day. (I know. That is a gargantuan "if.")

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