Saturday, March 28, 2009

Repertoire and the After-Work Musician (II)

Back in November I wrote about trying to build repertoire on a shoestring practice budget. At the time I was holding 13 pieces at performance level. Keeping a daily practice log allowed me to concentrate on squeaky wheels without letting the more settled pieces go too long without attention. But I was already feeling a little stretched; I wrote:
I'm curious to see how far this routine will take me. Will it continue to work with 20 pieces? 25? Or am I already at the limit for the number of hours I put in?

Here is my four-month update.

I've managed to bring up three more pieces. So I have 16 that I would feel comfortable playing from memory in public. As expected, the practice gaps for most pieces have gotten longer. I may go a week or even two without playing Puerto or Sonetto 104, etc. But they don't seem to be suffering much. When I come back to them, the memory is fine and there's even a freshness to the interpretation that I'm really enjoying. I'd probably want to work them hard for a week if I had a serious performance, but I'd have no qualms about whipping them out for something more casual.

As for new pieces... I'm working on two big ones and three little (tiny) ones. The big ones are a Rachmaninoff prelude and a Mozart concerto. I played the Mozart a hundred years ago, so the learning curve isn't too steep. It's longer than the solo pieces, so that takes time. I've never played the Rachmaninoff before (or any Rachmaninoff). It's a challenging piece and requires daily attention. But I'm definitely over the hump and it's getting close (mostly memorized, almost to speed).

The three tiny pieces are from Schumann's Scenes from Childhood. Mom sent me the music and I chose three of the more popular ones to learn. It's good to have some short, popular tunes in the bag.


  1. It sounds like your practice routine is working well. Amazing that you are able to go 2 weeks and still come back to a piece without too much trouble.
    Are you going to try the Mozart by memory? It is a lot of work for not having an orchestra to play it with. Maybe you will sometime have an opportunity to do it with a chamber orchestra. Does the head of the music school know of one? By the way, have you moved your piano?

  2. Well done, Kenneth! Sounds like a rather hectic schedule. Mom's Mozart orchestra seems to be coming along fine as well.

  3. Well, not all the pieces could survive two weeks. Maiden can barely go two days. But they tell me when they're not getting enough love.

    Some of the Mozart needs to be memorized; some of it memorizes itself. I'm not putting in a lot of effort, though. It would probably be possible to find an orchestra around here. There are lots of student orchestras and community orchestras.

  4. Kenneth,
    The picture at the end of this posting is a wonderful combination of light, shadow, reflection and focus. I love it. Your repertoire and practice schedule can only be fully appreciated by those who know what goes into playing well. I'm just lucky to know that I like what I hear.