Earlier this month, I was lamenting that the Chopin score above has SO. MANY. NOTES. For my taste, there is entirely too much black on those pages. Every dot is one more thing for which I’m responsible and quite frankly, I wonder whether I can handle it.
The score and I have a “special” relationship. Read: I’ve grown up hating it. That’s where the problems are! My strength as a musician has always been my ear; music reading has been a chore for me as long as I can remember. It is likely the greatest of my insecurities as a pianist. Seriously. Of musicians, we’re the brilliant ones. How can I not be a kickass sight-reader? Yeah, yeah, I’m still growing and improving, but I’m never going to catch up to where I feel I should be. Don’t ask me what that is.
However, as I’ve been preparing for my recital, I’ve heard the collective wisdom of my piano teachers bouncing back and forth between my stubborn ears. “Don’t be afraid of the score!” “Pay attention to detail!” “Put the notes where you want them!” Whatevs, guys. I guess I need to know where the notes are in order to do as I please with them.
And so, this summer I’ve arguably done more score study than I ever have. I think it has to do with playing on the other team (the teacher team) and asking my students to do the same. I hear them fight me like I’ve fought my teachers and I laugh, smile understandingly, then crack the whip. In this study, I’ve discovered something –
This is where the beauty is.
Not even necessarily in the score itself, although I believe that to be true as well. The beauty is in the process of the study.
I heard this particular Chopin piece at a high school piano camp and have been in love with it since. That was half my life ago. Actually getting to know the piece – digging in, closely studying – has been a struggle at times. However, I appreciate Chopin’s brilliance more than I ever could have as listener, or even casual player. My “in love” feeling was just that – an infatuation. Now, having really taken it apart, I feel I can say I truly love this piece.
There are few discussions of love that don’t remind me of the following verses from the New Testament:
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7 NIV)
In learning to love the score, I have had to be patient. I have had to be kind to myself. I have had to resist the temptation to compare my talent to that of others. I’m continually humbled as I discover new things each time I really focus. If I were to keep a record of my errors, I don’t know that I would have the will to continue playing. I trust in my ability to grow. I persevere, hoping that I will do justice to Chopin’s music.
In learning to love the score, I am learning to love myself.