2013 Spring Recital

May 17, 2013

Tomorrow morning I have my spring recital performance. Since the beginning of the semester in January I have been mentally preparing for this date, and every day since then some portion of my practice has been devoted to the piece I'll be performing, Tchaikovsky's Chanson Triste.

I feel better prepared for this recital than any performance I've given. The piece is memorized; I can even play it through with my eyes closed. I've played it way too fast and way too slow. My wife will be accompanying me on an electric piano tomorrow, so we've been practicing at home, both with the acoustic piano and with an electric one. One evening we practiced immediately after I completed a 45-minute treadmill workout. I was sweaty and slightly out of breath, with an elevated heartbeat. Sort of like how I've felt at the start of every other performance I've given. I played it as well that night as I ever have, rich and full and with confidence.

In short, and not trying to jinx it, I think tomorrow's performance is going to be superb.

In addition to preparing for the recital, my spring has been good cello-wise. I'm continuing to work my way through the G Major Bach suite. I have a good start on the Prelude, Minuet 1 & 2, and Gigue. I need to speed up the Gigue a bit, and I am still mastering the ending of the Prelude; otherwise the four pieces are coming along nicely.

In the last couple of weeks David has add the Sarabande and Courante to my plate. I started the Sarabande and have carefully worked through the first line. David requested that I begin by listening to it, and listen to it with a metronome set. Next I set the metronome to 80 for the eighth note, and read the piece visually — no cello in hand — to see how the rhythm lays out. He explained that the pace is deliberate enough that players often lose the pulse. This very measured approach is paying off as I can play the first line reasonably well after just a few practices.

The Courante has had less practice time. I hope to delve into it more over the next couple of weeks.

In about four weeks is my teacher's annual cello camp. He has already sent out an email saying that we'll be working on 4 études from the Schröder book, and so I've been working on those as well.

My personal goal for the summer is to work on speed. I need to be able to play faster. Toward that end I think working on vibrato will help. In order to create a good vibrato you have to let go of the cello neck (somewhat) and that requires relaxing. I still tend to grip the cello like someone is trying to steal it. And I want to complete my circuit around the circle of fifths, memorizing all the major scales so that I can play at least their two-octave version. So far I have C, G, D, A, E, B, and F memorized.

I am having as much, if not more fun, than ever with cello. I am learning new pieces faster and more completely, and I am far less frustrated with the gap between my mental understanding of technique and my physical ability to perform.

It's going to be a good cello summer.

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Mark H. Nichols

I am a husband, cellist, code prole, nerd, technologist, and all around good guy living and working in fly-over country. You should follow me on Twitter.