Diary of a Return week 7, day 1


Editor’s Note:  This diary entry is the twenty-ninth 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 27:  goals for the home stretch


I have now purchased milk whose sell-by date is AFTER my recital date!  That’s a sign.  I have to move all-out into the end-stage preparation.


Last week, I hauled myself kicking and screaming to the piano to run through my program.  Now it already feels like running the program is just what I do to start my practice day.

Today, I go so far as to record my run-through.  I was easy on myself the first few days of run-throughs – it was hard enough to get myself to run through the program as it was – but today, I want myself to be responsible to a record of my efforts.


I am surprised, and pleased, to note that the recording tells me I need to focus on goals I already focus on when I am nearing a recital date:

  1. Show the character of the piece
  2. Create a clear pulse
  3. Show the listeners what to listen to (voicing and phrasing)


I figure that as we near a recital date, it is unlikely that we will be able to significantly improve any technically challenging spot.  What we can do is clarify our performance, so we give the music to listeners on a silver platter.  We have lived with the music on our program for a long time, but they will have only one chance to take it in.  We need to make it as clear as possible for them, to allow them to have the richest experience possible listening to this music that we love so much that we have dedicated months to getting to know it.


My recording device tells me a few places where my pulse is not always clear.  To me, the pulse is clear if a listener would sway to it.  I would like them to be able to sway from downbeat to downbeat.  The wobbly pulse in the last movement of the Beethoven Pastorale even gets in the way of bringing out the character of the piece.  That won’t do!  Fortunately, the fix is easy and pleasant.


Listening intently, I realize there are a couple of places where my voicing or sound quality isn’t consistent.  To my surprise, I haven’t decided what sound I want in the opening of Les sons et parfums.  Talk about a pleasant fix!  I experiment for a while, and settle on a kind of all-vowel sound, that sound like the edges are a little blurred.  I love spending this kind of time with the music!  I realize that I almost create a hypnotic quality in Voiles.  A slightly inconsistent pulse, combined with slightly inconsistent voicing, bring it up short.  Again, what a pleasant fix!  I luxuriate in the sound and pulse for a while, and then I like it so much better.


There are also a few technical challenges to tweak, and a few places where my hands do not automatically move ahead to the next moment in the music.  I touch those up – for quite a while!  And then I call it a day.


One of my students played a recital yesterday.  It was far away, so sadly I couldn’t be there – but she called to say it went well!  In a recent email, she commented on how mentally and physically exhausting it is to prepare a recital.  To which I can say only, oh baby!  Preparing a recital is not for the faint of heart, or for the low of stamina.  But what a privilege to live with these great works of art, and then share them with others.


Teresa Dybvig is founder and director of The Well-Balanced Pianist, an organization which presents programs across North America based on an integrated approach to teaching, learning, and performing. Previously on the faculty of the Taubman and Golandsky Institutes, Dr. Dybvig now teaches privately in Long Island, Manhattan, Chicago, and Denver. She specializes in helping pianists with playing-related injuries.

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