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Thu, Apr. 21st, 2005, 05:14 pm
Dead pianists--live!

As described in New Scientist: Ivory encore for dead piano greats

Mon, Apr. 18th, 2005, 02:12 pm
Concert: Daniel Barenboim, Barbican, 17th April 2005

Good trip down to London: if I'd realised, as I ought to have done, just how easy Cambridge to the Barbican is (Cambridge-Kings Cross, then Kings Cross to Barbican on the Circle line), I'd've looked at concerts there before. Sitting in the sunshine, occasional gusts of wind blowing water from the terrace fountains over the two of us, Mathilda said that this was the happiest day of her life. That's before the concert. Anything that followed would have a hard act to follow.

So, Barenboim playing Brahms. We poked our heads round the doors before "letting-in" time and saw the timps being tuned and got an idea as to how the venue looked. We were let in quite late--maybe a good thing if you're with a wriggly six-year old--and found our seats. We were in the circle, almost dead-centre and about halfway back. (I'd hoped to get tickets lower down and closer to the stage but these were the best available. As it is, the stalls would have meant a crick-inducing upward-looking view. Up in the circle, we weren't too far back, looked down over the entire orchestra and onto the piano too. Next time seats ten or so further along row f--say, 47-49--would give a complete view of the pianists hands: Daniel's were partially obscured by the piano.) Watching the orchestra tuning up was interesting for Mathilda although she didn't enjoy its slightly cacophonous noise, She was also rather concerned that there was, as yet, no pianist. She continued to be worried, despite having listened to the Brahm's Piano Concerto no 1 several times, that the piano didn't start playing straight away.

There are definite differences between listening to music live in a concert hall and recorded (whether a studio recording or from a live performance). It's much easier to hear the different instruments within the mix--the stereo is so much better! It's also fascinating to watch the interplay between orchestra and soloist, and soloist and conductor. (With the conductor obscured by the piano, it's harder to see the conductor's interaction with the orchestra). This was especially good for the echoing of snippets of the horns' parts in the piano part. Also the beautiful solo piano and 'cello sections.

Highlights: Mathilda, chatting to an elderly lady in the queues to leave the concert hall, telling her quite proudly about her piano playing. (She did the same thing talking to people of the train home.) For me, the first and third movements of the second piano concerto. For Mathilda, the final movement of the second piano concerto (and not just because it meant we could go home!) Seats with a good view--and comfortable and uncrowded too. We attended both halves and, I think, sticking out the wriggliness was worth it.

Gripes: queues in the loos. As ever. Volume: it's great hearing a concert well, but I hadn't expected to come out with my ears ringing and Mathilda, with her ears much less abused than mine, finds excessive noise painful--even when the noise is an orchestra! A wriggly six-year old on my lap.

Fri, Mar. 18th, 2005, 06:32 pm
More Good Practice

Everything ticked of the list--or picked out of the lucky dip box--no arguments, no stress, no fuss. A little reluctance to try French Children's Song which I think is the hardest thing we've learned. But that's it.

And Twinkle D, as ping pong, on her own: one pair of notes left hand, one pair of notes right...

It's sometimes great fun.

Tue, Mar. 8th, 2005, 01:00 pm
In Utero Performance?

Well, not quite. But an interesting profile of Jonathan Biss from the New York Times (free registration).

Mon, Mar. 7th, 2005, 10:37 am
Sometimes, it just slots together...

.... and just works.

Yesterday, Mathilda started by creating a rhyme, to which she put a tune, before performing it (singing her song to a set of two-handed random "chords"). We neatly moved into actual practice, by way of the pieces she likes to play--Mary Had A Little Lamb, Honeybee--into playing a twinkle. It wasn't our usual one: she started to play Twinkle A on C# and, with my help only to pick out the correct white note that she needed, played it through several times like that. Her Cuckoo, the piece for the duet concert at the weekend, was also improved and she resisted playing it over several times much less than she has over the last week.

It was great fun for both of us. This was a relief after a weeks of struggles.

Sun, Feb. 27th, 2005, 03:37 pm

Yesterday we got ready to practise and Mathilda sat at the piano with the lid down and played on top. When I asked her what she was practising, she said it was Mary Had a Little Lamb. We hadn't tried that before. After a quick check on where to start, I told her to try it roe real. With a few stutters--mainly repeating a note, instead of moving on to a different one--she worked it out. Not a long piece, admittedly, but another one to chalk up.

Tue, Feb. 22nd, 2005, 12:20 pm
A Corner Turned?

After a good, especially for after a break (we did an awful lot of listening which may have helped), lesson yesterday evening, we got home and Mathilda did a little practice before bed--voluntarily. I've not bothered attempting to practice on a Monday: by the time we've got home (at 5.30-ish), done homework, and eaten, it's too late and Mathilda's too tired.

We also did some practice--with the gloves off--this morning.

Two days like this does not exactly constitute a trend. But it feels like we've turned some sort of corner. Mathilda volunteers rather than being asked.

Mon, Feb. 21st, 2005, 09:52 am
Monday Morning Surprise

There we were, ready for school, down to hat, coat and gloves.

"Can I play a tune before we go, Mummy?"

"Yes. Okay. With your gloves on?"

So, standing up, with gloves, Mathilda played Honeybee. I'd expected an improvisation. Instead, unbidden, she played one of the pieces she's practising. Note perfect. With better tone that she sometimes produces without the encumbrance of gloves.

Still, it's a good thing she doesn't have mittens.

Tue, Feb. 8th, 2005, 12:32 pm
Workshop, 6th February 2005

A single day and the chance of some good stuff with two excellent teachers.

Her lesson with a teacher she'd encountered during last summer and who remembered her* was fine, especially as we'd not had a lesson for nearly three weeks due to various parties' illnesses, and we'd been practising to the almost deafening sound of demolition next door for most of the week, and contending with Mathilda's sore ear. She's no longer quite the wriggly child whose attention is hard to snag that she was then. She sat well, listened and responded much better. It's useful getting chances to compare like that.

Listening to some of the other childrens' lessons was also a joy. The room of watching adults (gathering for their pep talk) falling completely still (we'd been politely silent to start with. now we were really listening) after one girl's playing, where she'd improved from playing correctly to playing beautifully, was magical.

As ever I saw little of Mathilda's Dalcroze session: the adults get thrown out so we don't cause the kids to be embarrassed. But what I did see was lovely.

There was plenty of time for the children to run around, tie to chat with some of the other parents. I just hope we didn't disturb the concert in the concert hall with our crowds in the lobby and to-ing and fro-ing between lecture room and recital room.

* I'm not sure whether this is good or bad. She can be quite a memorably obstinate, self-opinionated child.

Sat, Nov. 20th, 2004, 10:46 am
Keeping Track

Mathilda has, so we can keep track, three compositions that she's been working on since the Summer:

  • Cat walk
  • Black notes piece
  • Jack and the Beanstalk

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