Number Nine Number Nine

On Sunday before last, having learnt that my neighbour at the SSO concert the Thursday before that had been suffering from covid, I was not optimistic about my own prospects.

On Monday I took a PCR test for which on Tuesday I received a positive result.  A mandated 7 days’ isolation at home ensued.

But how to isolate from D?

As it happened, uncharacteristically sunny weather allowed us to keep the house open and well ventilated.  I kept to my bedroom or the “study room” (this is D’s term: a translation from the Chinese: 书房; the piano is also there) and kept excursions to common areas to a minimum.  We ate apart.  D reverted to sleeping in his own bedroom rather than (as is his wont) the living room.  I used the outside facilities.  We no longer shared the bathwater.  (Usually I go first because I am fatter and like hotter water; D goes second because he likes a much longer bath.)  TMI?

Cut off from the world and each other, it was a strange time.

The seven days (now more) up, D seems to have survived unscathed.

Meanwhile, left to my own devices, I had a breakthrough playing Brahms’ Variations Op 9 on a theme by [Robert] Schumann.  The Variations are part of a famous story. In June 1853, Clara presented Robert with her own set of variations (op 20) on the same theme, No 4 from Schumann’s Bunte Blätter Op. 99 .  When Brahms sent his set of variations to Clara next June, Robert was already in Endenich.

Brahms’ variation 9 adopts the key and figuration of another work in Bunte Blätter, Albumblätter II.

The edition I play from suggests by fingering indications that the moto perpetuo semiquaver triplets be redistributed between the hands so that sometimes (not always – the suggestion is not maintained for the middle section) the first note of the bar is played in the left hand. After the first bar this is done by playing the first note of the bar as the last of a descending group of 4 notes.

I’ve been playing this piece, on and off, for more than twenty years.  My breakthrough was to realise that I could practise the triplets in three different ways, with the accent falling on the first (the normal way), second or third triplet.  I also rethought the fingering of the third last bar which has its own moment of cross-rhythm over a contrary motion broken arpeggio.

It didn’t have to be fast to be quite engrossing.  And soon it was even quite fast, at least compared to what it was.

There’s still one other passage in these variations which I expect always to need to work on.

2 Responses to “Number Nine Number Nine”

  1. Andrew Says:

    Well, I am pleased at least to hear you survived Covid unscathed? and D did not contract it from you.

    There was once a time when I could visualise music from fairly basic written notes, but like playing a piano, it is a lost skill and not at all like riding a bike.

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