Monday, November 1, 2010

Speed, speed, and more speed

I went looking for something to play with my wife at her piano club. After a number of false starts (no orchestral reductions, nothing that was "bassoon solo and accompaniment", nothing where all the notes were locked down so that there was nothing for her to improvise on) I found the Telemann bassoon sonata, TWV 41:f3, which I discovered perusing the repertoire reviews on Thom Zantow's site. It's baroque, so more-or-less straightforward musically, a fairly good piece (based on Thom's review and the number of transcriptions), and the piano part is just a figured bass, the 18c equivalent of a lead sheet, so she can do whatever she wants, just like the jazz stuff she mostly works on. We picked the last movement to do, a 3/8 Vivace. I was a little intimidated by the 32nd notes at first, but we can do whatever tempo we want, and I could play them reasonably cleanly at eighth=65 or so, about where I'm playing my scales. I made her a recording to practice against a little quicker than that, but I had endurance problems, so I did the repeats digitally. She complained that it was too fast, but she slowed it down with software to practice against. When we started trying to put it together a few days ago, I played it in a stately three, and eventually she decided that it had to be much faster, definitely in one. And, it almost worked for me, except the tricky bits, and the 32nd note sprung rhythms sounded very different fast, more percussive and less melodic. I wrote eighth=117 on my music, and practiced it once or twice. I thought I was ready today, and started out at a brisk tempo, but she complained about speed again. Based on her preferred speeds during her solo verses, I think we're now at about eighth=145+, or about 50 bpm for the bar. We're now about twice as fast as the recording I made that was too quick. Faster is nice in one respect: it's no longer a challenge to find a spot to breathe, since the whole verse can be done in one breath without trouble. The 32nd notes turn into something that would sound good played on a snare drum, like some kind of drum rudiment. It'd be no technical problem for a percussion player, who would just need to decide whether to play alternating hands or just let the stick bounce. And yeah, it's fast, and no, it's not clean, but it's far better than I think I would have expected, given how fast it is compared to how fast I usually take things. I think it'll be good enough, given the low standards of this recreational pianist club, and kind of exciting just due to the speed.


  1. I think we've passed peak speed now, and it's going to settle at something a little slower.

  2. If "a little slower" means 172!