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July 9 Musicale - A Real Treat!

On July 9th we conducted another installment of our virtual Musicales via ZOOM. It was very heartwarming to see everyone again, even though we could not be present in person. Nevertheless our fellowship and feeling of being a "musical family" were very welcome in this time of isolation for most of us. We want to thank Utako for setting up these ZOOM sessions for us and for everyone's participation. This week's session opened up with getting updates on everyone's activities of late. Ed has been busy creating beautiful oil paintings (check out the Blog), several continue to give lessons either personally or on line, and everyone, of course, continues to practice, practice, practice towards our journey to a "Carnegie Hall" performance some day. Some of the topics of discussions included suggestions on improving our playing technique (overcoming difficult passages; stretching to reach those large chords and sustaining a note, etc.); the size of Rachmaninoff's hands compared to ours (he could reach a 13th) and how sometimes a smaller hand can actually have an advantage over a larger one; the construction of a piano - pros and cons of a full sized piano vs one that has been reduced in size (Josef Hoffmann's piano keys were constructed slightly shorter than standard to accommodate his smaller hands); the technical difficulties in achieving the highest notes on a violin; and a description of how Artur Rubinstein showed off his hands at a home "musicale" in Winnipeg, Canada in the 1940s where one could see his outstretched hand and thumb swooping downwards at an unusual angle (he, too, could reach a 13th). 

The highlights of the Musicale were the performances. Maggie impressively played several variations of Mendelssohn's Variations Serieuses. She will be performing the entire set of variations at her upcoming recital (along with Chopin's Ballade No. 4 and other pieces). Karen Lin impressed us with her performance of Fritz Kreisler's Tambourin Chinois, a virtuosic piece which was played with gusto and showcased the melodic line very nicely. And, lastly, Utako (who likes to call herself the 'guinea pig' at these Musicales) showed off her to-date progress of the Shubert Impromptu No. 3, a piece which she has just started to study just weeks ago. An interesting question was asked: How long does it take to get a piece ready for a formal performance? The answers varied from just several weeks (for the simpler ones, perhaps), to up to two years. Jimmy mentioned that although he may know a particular piece's technical notes and can play it in a 'mechanical' way there is always some nuance that is discovered with each playing, thus making that piece as one that is continually "in progress". 

Our future Musicales will, likely, engage us in discussing performance anxiety and how to overcome it (we can all blame Liszt who started this whole stage fright thing), and more on Chopin's music and life, as well as more performances.

Tom Slavicek

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James Baskerville
James Baskerville
Jul 12, 2020

Very well said Tom!!!


Dear Tom, Thanks much for this vivid recapitulation of the last musicale. Yes, we discuss different topics every week, which are not only informative but also inspiring!

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