My piano is situated in the midst of our living room. It has always been THE major piece of furniture in our home. It is a baby grand piano, with a character all its own, standing firmly in its place. Its permanence makes a statement that can not be ignored, ever.
I'll never forget the time my husband and I moved into our first apartment, a three flight walkup. There was me, my baby grand piano, the stairwell and two hefty movers. I can assure you, that was the last time I watched my piano in such a delicate predicament. The love of my life was taken apart, legs first, pedals, music stand, keyboard, whatever parts were detachable from the main body. My heartbeat was irregular by this point. I wondered how these two guys could possibly carry my piano up the staircase, maneuver it's magnificent body around narrow corners and deliver my baby grand in it's entirety to its destiny, unscratched and unmarred. My body actually ached as I watched this challenge in the works.
I used to wear wooden clogs years ago, probably in style at the time. In what I remember to be a traumatic moment, I managed to break a pedal off my piano. There are only three. It was an accident, but I was totally dismayed. How could I do such a thing, and so unintentionally?
Sitting down at the piano is not as simple as it seems. You might think this statement a bit strange. Most people would say playing the piano is not a simple matter. That too, is true, but it all starts from positioning. Positioning and approach directly affect one's technical ability to actually play the piano, and consequently determine the unique quality of the final performance. Sitting down on my piano bench involves moving an eighth of an inch back and a quarter forward, attempting to find the most comfortable position. Then there is height adjustment to be considered. That too has to be right on, and so I maneuver the piano bench up and down until I achieve the perfect altitude. Now that my piano bench is in place, my feet in perfect relation to the pedals, and my arms hovering just the right distance from the keyboard, I hope that the music will sound as it should, clear and clean – flowing… without any hitches.
The piano bench position is only part of the big picture. There's body relaxation. Shoulders and arms should be free of tension, as well as hands and fingers. The sound of the piano key, its tone, it's affect on the ear is determined by so many factors. I do not drop my finger on a key. It is prepared, and premeditated. When my finger is about to touch that ivory key, I hope my finger is appropriately placed in order to bring out the best sound. I want to be in control, but there are times when I am not. My finger may drop too quickly or linger too long. The sound may be too deafening or barely heard.
Preparing, arranging, all the effort made to guarantee the perfect performance but what is perfect? Do we really want a sterile performance? Life is not sterile, neither is music. I certainly do not want to play a Mozart Sonata in sterile form. I have to feel it. The music breathes. It lives through space and time.
As I have come to learn, all the preparation in the world does not guarantee an immaculate performance. There is always an element of surprise in the final performance. The performance never recreates the rehearsal, exactly. The intonation is different. The musical phrasing is different. The dynamics are different. We are hearing the same Mozart Sonata, but its components may differ with each performance, even to a fraction of a degree. The final performance is not good or bad. It is simply different. As am I.