THE HARDEST PIECE I HAVE EVER PLAYED
Schubert’s Impromptu No. 4 was the hardest piece I had ever played when I was an aspiring pianist in my early teenage years. So it is with some trepidation that I now return to that Schubert composition.
My technical keyboard skills are now far from what they used to be when I would practice 6 hours a day or more. But my musical creative juices have advanced quite a bit since the time I attended the Music Conservatory at the age of 15. So this time, you will hear this piece as a “Concerto.” Meaning, on piano with the sounds of the full orchestra. Even the harp in the third movement.
Stand by for a post I will make when I finish editing the video.
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By the way, the image at the top of this post depicting a young man playing a Steinway piano is not me. It was taken from a video of a recital Elizabeth and I attended in England on Feb 5 of this year at Cambridge University College of Music. But I do have somewhere a black&white photo of me in a similar pose during a concert at which I played this Schubert Impromptu when I was about 13 or 14.
BOSENDORFER AND RACHMANINOFF CAUSED ME TO RETURN TO SCHUBERT NEARLY 4 YEARS AGO
“That’s Schubert’s Impromptu,” I exclaimed excitedly during a visit to the Bosendorfer dealer in Honolulu (Mozart House) on March 11, 2010.
“Rachmaninoff? It can’t be. I know that piece. I used to play it in my youth. It’s Schubert.”
Yoshi smiled. “That’s Rachmaninoff playing Schubert’s Impromptu.”
“Rachmaninoff playing the same piece I adored when I was an aspiring young pianist?” my jaw dropped. “I feel so humbled, so honored,” I whispered as my eyes teared up again (see The Day 9’s Trumped Aces).
Rachmaninoff is regarded by many as the greatest pianist of the 20th century. He actually died in 1943. But his playing was preserved using this special rotary drum mechanical recording technology.
Which has now been transferred to a Bosendorfer digital piano. Like the one below, to which I had Photoshopped Rachmaninoff’s image.
A Window in Time
Rachmaninoff performs classic piano works in a spectacular new recording made on Bosendorfer 290SE Reproducing Piano. This remarkable listening experience brings Rachmaninoff’s phenomenal pianistic talent to life in today’s world. By using unprecedented new techniques of transfer and reproduction, the mechanical aspects of music roll performances have been eliminated. More astonishingly, these advances reveal the subtleties and fine details of Rachmaninoffs playing with startling clarity, showing us why he was regarded as perhaps the greatest pianist of his time: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8ZbRxcsqcKs
LIKE RUNNING A 100-YARD DASH FOR A MILE
You can read more about this remarkable day in Honolulu, Mar 11, 2010, which signaled the beginning of my return to Schubert’s Impromptu (The Day 9’s Trumped Aces). When I started playing it again on my new Steinway, I was not sure that I would be able to do it anymore. I was very rusty after a 50-year hiatus. And playing this piece, especially the first and the third movements, is like running a 100-yard dash for a mile.
In the months that followed, I would perspire so much by the end that I had to towel off. So I kept a towel next to my piano bench. Now, I don’t perspire anymore. But I am having to lift light weights before I play because of my right shoulder rotator cuff injury. Oh well, when there is a will, there is a way… 🙂 Enjoy!
Schubert Impromptu No. 4 performed as Piano Concerto
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ABOUT SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
In a short lifespan of just 31 years, Schubert was a prolific composer, writing some 600 songs, ten complete or nearly complete symphonies (including the most famous of the incomplete ones, the “Unfinished Symphony“), liturgical music, operas, incidental music and a large body of chamber and solo piano music. Appreciation of his music while he was alive was limited to a relatively small circle of admirers in Vienna, but interest in his work increased significantly in the decades immediately after his death. Felix Mendelssohn, Robert Schumann, Franz Liszt and Johannes Brahms, along with other lesser lights, discovered and championed his works through the remainder of the century. Today, Schubert is ranked among the greatest composers of the early Romantic era (click here to read more).