Monday, June 13, 2011

The Search for a Sonata

The past year or so I've played/learned/revisited/picked up the following pieces:

- Chopin Piano Trio
- Chopin Polonaise Op. 53
- Beethoven WoO 32 Variations
- Mozart Sonata K 330
- Bach Toccata in D minor (BWV 911)
- a Scarlatti sonata
- Shostakovich 2nd concerto
- Rachmaninoff Etude 39/6
- Paganini Liszt Etude #3, #4

So I'm missing a sonata that qualifies as a relatively big work.  I'm planning on at some time down the road taking one of those ABRSM exams, and I'm thinking I might as well use this sonata to fulfill one of those requirements.  So technically, it has to be a piece that is relatively advanced.

I've had my mind se ton Prokofiev #7 for a while now, but tonight I wavered a little; and listened to a few other sonatas:

- Shostakovich #1 and #2.
    I like #2 better, and I'm sure I'll grow to love both of these sonatas, at this moment I can't say I love them.  There also don't have a clear melody or motif that an audience can readily identify.
- Barber Sonata
   I thought I liked this, but I guess I didn't like the 1st movement.  The 2nd movement is awesome.  Anyway, since learning any one of these big sonatas takes a lot of effort, I don't want to play something that has an entire movement that I might struggle to fall in love with.
- Alkan Sonata, Solo Piano Concerto
  Great works--but too difficult.  I really like them, just that they're take too long to learn.  Especially the solo piano concerto--outstanding.  Also, I'll probably injure myself before I learn these pieces.

So Prokofiev #7 it is!  I like #6 quite a bit too, especially the last movement.  But while I love "bangy" music, #6 is a little too bangy for me at the moment--I want to develop my musicianship some more, and I feel #7 has more room for me to shape and phrase musical ideas and lines in the context of atonal and slightly bangy music, whereas #6 has more of a bangy element (at least the 1st movement).

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Left Hand 4th Finger

Most of us don't have strong 4th fingers.  That's natural.  Hanon exercises purport to train strength in all fingers.  But since most repertoire don't require a particularly strong 4th finger, your 4th finger simply isn't gonna be as strong as the others, weaker than perhaps even your 5th finger, which you can leverage for more strength by lifting your arm or twisting your wrist a little.

So, many pianist train to strengthen their 4th finger.  Schumann is reputed to have done this--and end up injuring himself in the process.  At the end of the day, the 4th finger does get involved a lot in the right hand, but not so in the left hand.  And I have realized in the last little while that my LH 4th finger is almost unacceptably weak.  I haven't practiced scales in a long time, and I noticed that I frequently miss notes when my LH 4th finger is involved.  So lately I've been playing B major scale to get it back to shape a little.

I'm not worry about 4th finger playing scales--I used to able to do it well, so after some practice I'm sure it'll be back.  But playing double 3rds isn't something I've ever been very good at, and the 4th finger prominently figures in that.  I don't think I practiced many double 3rd scales--mostly chromatic 3rds for some reason.  So that's probably another reason why my 4th finger in both hands aren't as adroit as they can be.

So maybe I should practice some double 3rd scales.  To drive this point home, Chopin's 25/6 is an etude I have such trouble with.

If I have trouble in my RH, it goes without saying my LH double 3rds are pretty much hopeless.  The good news is that they truly rarely come up, and when they do, it's only usually for a stretch of 3 double thirds, which I can deal with.

The bad news is... I'm learning Stravinsky's own transcription of Petrushka, and in the third movement (Shrovetide), there is the horror of measures upon measure of double thirds, the LH:

Petrushka, Shrovetide Fair, Measures 43-44
Oh, that is not something my LH can do.

Lots and lots of practicing will be required to get this up to speed.  Both in my right hand and my left hand.

A Note on my Viola practicing:

Not as much progress as I would have liked.  But since this is a post about my LH 4th finger, I'll just say that I am also having trouble with playing a full tone apart on the viola, when it's a 2-3 fingering (i.e. 3-4 finger).  It's an almost analogous situation on the piano--weak 4th finger.  So in a way, it's good that I'm doing these 4th finger exercises in different ways, because it's useful both on the piano and the viola.