Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Easy Does It

I know I shouldn't resort to writing about my kids too much - they deserve their privacy (especially given the scope of my enormous reading audience), and I should come up with my own material. But, I've got a long post in process that doesn't seem near completion yet, so here we go with a short and easy one - that happens to mention one of my children.

Daughter #1 of MMmusing, whose main instrument is violin, has been taking piano this year and showing a real affinity for it, even though her practice sessions are pretty free form. She'd been sort of "studying" with me for several years, but I wasn't the most dependable teacher, so it's been a good thing that I've handed over the reins to someone who, you know, actually gives her regular lessons.

Anyway, for some reason (in spite of Piano Hero!), I hadn't even thought about the possibility of playing four-hand repertoire with her until I happened to read (on a comment to this Mark Swed blog post) that Martha Argerich had followed a performance of the Ravel concerto by coming out on stage with conductor Michael Tilson Thomas and playing the finale of Ravel's Mother Goose Suite. I love that piece!* Thinking about that later today, I suddenly remembered that Ravel had written this music for young children; all of the five movements are pretty simple technically, but especially the first one.

I own a couple of editions of the score, but they're at school and I wanted to jump right in tonight. So, it was the indispensable to the rescue. After about 30 minutes of after-dinner rehearsing, we had the first piece down pretty well, with DoMM even taking the slightly more complicated secondo part. Her piano sightreading isn't quite up to the level of her playing, so this was a good exercise in pushing her abilities in that area - and a reminder that very simple music can be uncompromising musically. It makes me wish more great composers had taken on the challenge of constraining themselves to write great music that doesn't require tremendous technique. Part of the beauty of this little pavane is its pure simplicity.

Anyway, this is, as they say, what it's all about - more than playing for audiences, perfecting sonatas, mastering interpretive challenges - playing Ravel with your daughter after dinner on a Wednesday night during a snowy Spring Break.
* Ironically, given how I've recently been singing the praises of piano transcriptions of orchestral works, I really much prefer Ravel's orchestration (which is, after all, the transcription in this case) of the Mother Goose Suite - and that's coming from someone who prefers even the sumptuous La valse in its stripped down two-piano version. Still, for tonight at least, the four-hand version was as good as it gets.

1 comment:

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