“Music is a moral law. It gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, a charm to sadness, and life to everything. It is the essence of order, and leads to all that is good, just and beautiful, of which it is the invisible, but nevertheless dazzling, passionate, and eternal form.”
Plato

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Scary Starts

A student writes: "Some pieces have very difficult beginnings. Some of those are Ondine, Feux follets and just now, Mozart KV. 333. It seems so simple, [yet] I have never heard it done well. It's becoming something of a nightmare just to get it underway. I'm psyching it up, I know, but what a hard start."  
     Here's what I think: If a start seems scary, chances are there's something missing in the preparation, i.e., have all of the technical issues been worked in completely? But I know what this student means, I think, about getting started, as in getting the motor going. I think this is largely psychological and the way around it is to be able to "just play the notes in time," as a teacher once told me. In other words, don't focus on throwing yourself into the sublime musicality of the passage, just get the notes in the right tempo and chances are very good that the rest will be there.
     I think these ideas apply particularly well to the first two pieces. The Mozart, however, I think is more about tempo than notes. I always feel that the opening should be lyrical, perhaps slightly on the slow side of allegro. But then I feel stuck when the 16ths start. What to do? Well, I try to play lyrically a little faster from the start. I think of the piece as having started before I begin. The pulse is already going, as in a merry-go-round, and all I have to do is jump on. Also, I take care not to over-do the two note slurs so that I can make a longer line. By this I mean that it's important to show the long notes on the 2nd beats as real melody notes, as if a soprano were holding their full value, evening making a crescendo (wishful thinking, of course, on the piano). I don't play these long notes softer that the down beat.

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