Saturday, October 26, 2013

Why Not to Practice the Good Stuff

This will sound paradoxical, but I learn more about Beethoven from my young adult computer-animator student than from listening to more polished pianists.  Today it was  the Minuet from Op. 10 #3.

Let's be honest about minuets: we don't get them, even when we do.  First of all, they involve overlays of rhythmic subtlety that we have no way of understanding because they rely on a cultural affinity for that dance that we will simply never have, the way there are certain jazz rhythms that I will never "get" no matter how hard I try or how loose I think I am.

Therefore we tend to dismiss these movements as "mere" minuets, though it is known that Haydn once said that if he had a good one he knew the symphony was good.   Because this young student who doesn't practice has a most remarkable ear, I must pay attention to his falterings and to his wrong notes.

Turns out the movement is undoubtedly the most densely composed of all the movements of the sonata.  I play it now with a completely different mindset.  Its opening indication dolce makes a lot more sense to me now that that quality is integral to the composition and not something pasted on after holding one's nose (or turning it up, take your pick) at the minuet idea.