Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Un mouvement perpétuel

Blogging continues to proceed at a slogging pace as the semester plods along, but here's my first example of piano-blogging. I've been plotting a little project based on the first of Poulenc's Trois mouvements perpétuels; the project (yeah, looping is involved) hasn't really gotten off the ground, except that I knew I'd want a recording of the piece with which to work. My first thought was to commission a recording from Joyce Hatto, but then I thought I might as well do it myself.

The Poulenc has been on my mind because one of my students is working on it, but it has personal significance for me that I hadn't thought about for awhile. This is the first music I chose for myself to play, which signalled the real beginning of my need to be a musician. The music was in my house (and mind) because my older brother had played all three. I had been taking piano lessons for a few years already, but without being all that serious. Thus, these pieces were maybe a bit over my head, but I remember telling my teacher I wanted to play them, and . . . well, here I am today. So, today I clicked record and tossed off the following on my slightly noisy studio Kawai. (I prefer the Steinway at home, but it needs tuning.)

{Listen here or in the new MMmusic jukebox.}

Such charming music. I guess Poulenc got tired of how popular these pieces became, but the first, especially, is so wonderfully nonchalant. It's also a joy to play - each of the idiosyncratic little right hand gestures is as appealing tactilely as it is aurally, and the left hand settles into a groove that I think my fingers still remember from many years ago. It's so satisfying to get lost in the sheer physical sensation of piano playing, which I'm sure is part of what drew me to this music years ago.

Recently, I've been seeing this in my oldest daughter. Whereas she's studied violin formally for five years, her piano training with me has been intentionally informal and spontaneous, and thus irregular. Still, she's managed to learn a couple of Bach inventions. What's fun to watch right now is that the keyboard has been like a magnet for her the past few months; she ends up at the piano many times a day, half-consciously tooling through Bach. While I don't doubt that the music appeals to her, it's obvious that the tactile satisfaction is what draws her to the keyboard over and over. Years of serious training can make one forget just how primitively appealing the piano can be, but Poulenc certainly knew.

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