Editor’s Note: This diary entry is the nineteenth in a series of entries describing Teresa Dybvig’s strategies for preparing for an upcoming recital after a long break from performing. Keep posted for further installments. For more about The Well-Balanced Pianist, click on this link: http://www.wellbalancedpianist.com/
Monday, October 13: yesterday’s half-recital run-through, pajama run-through, playing for a friend
Having taught out of town on Friday, followed by a day and a half of mini-vacation visiting friends in Connecticut, I felt that I should practice a bit yesterday. It was hard! It was a beautiful day, and what I really wanted to do was sit on the deck and later go for a walk on the beach. I eventually did both sit and walk, but also I did some looking/listening/planning-ahead practice on the three Debussy preludes I will play on Wednesday for the Performers Club. Having done that, I think about how I would like to start playing through my recital every couple of days. I like to know I can play through the whole recital without embarrassing myself I am month before the recital date. I don’t know why I think it will jinx the recital if I tell you the date, but I do! So let me just say we are in the environs of that one-month mark…
So I decide that I could play through at least half the recital. I choose the first half, which consists of Debussy preludes and the whole Janáček On an Overgrown Path. It’s about 41 minutes of music. I can handle that.
And, what do you know? I really am able to do it without embarrassing myself. Most of the time it is even a pleasant experience, no scrambling or sense that there’s a lot of work I need to do. Not that there is no work to do! It just seems manageable. My concentration flags a bit in the last ten minutes or so. Maybe I need more time with those pieces, but may be it’s just that I need to keep playing through. I earned my time on the deck!
But that was yesterday, and this is today. I start the day with a pajama run-through – the activity suggested by Dr. Don Greene in Performance Success, wherein we start the day by playing through some music, without coffee or warm up. This is so empowering that I intend to do it with every piece on my recital by the time the date arrives. Today I play through the three Debussy preludes I will play for the Performers Club on Wednesday. After breakfast I listen to the recording, and, it’s not bad! I’m still giving in to some stretching in Le vent, and the opening of Bruyères is clunky, so I work on those things. Then I hop into my car and drive to my friend Kathy’s and play them through for her. They sound okay, but I wish I felt more settled – something to aim for next time. Also, I really give in to stretching in Le vent. Darn darn darn. If I had only realized from the first that I needed that little secret staccato, I wouldn’t have a habit I have to change. But I really do need to change it, so I (slightly resentfully) spend a lot of time later in the day on this one technical challenge.
In the meantime, Kathy gave me several suggestions, all excellent! Her ears are so focused. She doesn’t give me a ton of feedback, just precise ideas like places where pulling back a little more will help me to arrive at a new section more securely. She also mentions one place in which I may have to start with a higher dynamic than written in order to make the indicated diminuendo. I love her reaction to Debussy’s dynamics: “This is not reasonable.” It’s true! He wants you to play several chords plus tremolos, starting pp, and then getting softer… Who is he kidding? Actually, her comments made me realize that my problem probably starts with the previous chord, which I need to play more robustly.
I’m so grateful that Kathy’s comments are specific and musical, and give me fun things to play with that get me closer to the music.