London Piano Meet Aug 10th 2013

11 Aug

At 12 midday this Saturday a small group of amateur pianists gathered outside Peregrine’s Pianos in London’s Grays Inn Road. They had arrived for the August session of the London Piano Meetup Group organised by Lorraine Liyanage and Fran Wilson-she of Cross-Eyed Pianist blogging fame.

At the appointed hour the doors opened and performers and listeners entered a downstairs rehearsal room furnished in one corner with an intriguing and attractive harpsichord and under the barred window, a small but rather magnificent Schimmel grand, the instrument upon which we would be playing.

I have written before about nerves and the manifold forms they may take. One manifestation is a heightened state of awareness of one’s mental processes. Thoughts become sharper and one’s inner conversation bubbles to the surface. You can hear yourself meditating on the likelihood of fluffing it, negative countered by positive affirmative. If the negative side reasserts itself and wins, the resulting short-circuit increases fear because weakness begets fear. Weird cogitations. My own defence against all this is just to accept the process, try to remain aloof from it and practice long and hard to gain confidence. In the end it is all about hard work: intelligent, efficient practice yes, but nonetheless work.

In Fran’s absence our mistress of ceremonies was Lorraine, who with charm and friendliness encouraged our first performer to step up. She played a series of Stephen Hough’s adaptations of something by Mozart. Attractive and beautifully played, the adaptation seeming to me to consist mostly of augmenting and diminishing the chords à la Nelson Riddle.

Next up was myself with a kind of car-crash rendering of the Capriccio from Bach’s Partita No 2. One thing I notice in performance to an audience as against practicing alone, is the sheer physical demand of playing a fast piece with repeats, when one is emotionally frazzled. It requires considerably bodily and mental fitness. These experiences are part of what makes the Meetups so valuable to amateurs.

Other performances included a ravishing Szymanowski Etude, No 3 I believe, that had real depth and meaning; a Spanish Dance of Granados executed with great polish and not a little panache, by José, and some delightfully crafted Grade 5 pieces.

Lorraine treated us to something by Bach, I can’t remember what but it was fiendishly dense and complex. I loved it and she conquered it, demonstrating in so doing her high level of pianistic accomplishment.

So that was it. I wanted to play again, but the hour was gone and we repaired to a nearby pub for socialising. I had to dash soon afterward to keep my appointment with a Yamaha grand at Chappell (annoyingly now referred to as ‘Yamaha Music London’-almost as naked a corporate name-grab as can be found), before heading back to the Isle of Wight infused with a renewed determination to improve my performance skills.

The highlights for me were the Szymanowski Etude and Lorraine’s Bach, followed by an interesting conversation with José about the Middle Eastern influences in Spanish music and the great age of Muslim/Christian cultural efflorescence in Andalusia and elsewhere.

Finally can I say that it was a pleasure and privilege for which I am profoundly grateful, to be able to attend these sessions and perform. Thank you Lorraine and Fran.


5 Responses to “London Piano Meet Aug 10th 2013”

  1. SE22 Piano School August 14, 2013 at 9:32 pm #

    Thanks for the lovely feedback.

    So how was your appointment with the grand piano at the annoyingly named Yamaha Music London?

    By the way – the Bach was a harpsichord solo from the 3rd Movt. of the Violin Concerto, BWV1019 – shoulda played it on the harpsichord!

    • isdigby August 14, 2013 at 9:46 pm #

      Thank you very much – it’s thrilling to get comments on one’s blog!
      The Yamaha at Chappell was I thought slightly out of tune! My experience there was a little tense at first after dashing through the mayhem of London . But after a while I began to revel in its full-throated tones, that I can’t experience at home. I had brought Debussy’s Prelude ‘La Cathedrale Engloutie’, which I am studying for Dip ABRSM. That was fun!
      I’ve also decided to do a Bach Toccata but can’t decide which one. Do you have a favourite?

      • SE22 Piano School August 14, 2013 at 9:48 pm #

        I have a Yamaha grand – I like it a lot! I imagine Cathedrale sounded good on it, especially in the large room at ChappellYamahawotsit. // Bach Toccata – have never played one – they always seem too long! I am fumbling my way through the Italian Concerto, I’ve been learning it on/off for 20 years so thought it was time I finished it off.

      • isdigby August 14, 2013 at 9:55 pm #

        I love La Cat. It totally thrills and inspires me out of my skin. Fumbling? Yet you played that piece on Saturday with an impressive grasp of its complex structures, or so it seemed to me. Are you conscious of that or is it intuitive? whenever I play Bach it reveals something new almost every time!

      • SE22 Piano School August 14, 2013 at 10:00 pm #

        The brevity of the Bach piece means I find it quite approachable. I also play the harpsichord more than the piano so Baroque music feels like my natural habitat.

        The last movt. of the Italian Concerto is Presto and quite lengthy – it’s like the last bit of a marathon where someone’s catching you up and you’re running on less than empty!

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