Just a Usual Day in a Unusual Place

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One of the reasons (not the best reason – but may be the most important reason) that I am grateful for having a friend show me around the city of Vienna, is to help me navigate the signage for the washroom situation.  I have yet to come across the (what I thought was) international signs for the ladies or mens or trans welcome signs that we are accustomed in North America.  The photo above demonstrates the signage for the washrooms at the Cafe Korb.  Looking at them now, it seems a bit obvious. But when encountering them for the first time – I had no idea that what I was searching for was located behind the door on the right. It’s little things like this, where I am grateful that I have someone to explain these idiosyncrasies. By the way, the coffee is good here at Cafe Korb.  And despite the offbeat signage, I can see myself returning, as the patrons of this cafe look to be an interesting sort. And while I am not one for conversing with strangers, I can imagine having great discussions about art, philosophy, literature, and world events with these people.

Now that I have this out of the way, let me run down through the rest of my day.

An organ concert by Mario Eritreo at St Peters Church, where the program consisted of:

Canon in D -Dur – Johann Pachelbel
Sonata VI, op.65 Nr 6, in d-moll – Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy*
La Ballo dell’intorcia – Antonio Valente
Toccata in F-Dur, aus der Symphonie Op 47, Nr 21 – Charles-Marie Widor
Andante fur eine Walze in eine kleine Orgel KV 616 – WA Mozart
Toccata und Fugue in d-moll, BWV 565 -JS Bach

I don’t usually listen to organ concerts – but I won’t pass up a free concert. This concert reminded me that I usually feel awake and like my spirit is clean after such an experience.  So I will have to make an effort to spend a lot more time going to organ and choral concerts, when I get back home.

After the concert we went to the 12 Apostles Cellar, for a bite and a beer. My first taste of beer in Austria. The beer was flavourful, the goulash soup delicious and comforting, and the ambiance medieval and generally awesome. The surly waiter added to the charm.  I especially loved the apostle lamp posts, and the potatoes.

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Two saintly events in one day, is a bit much for me. We ended the day at the movies, where we saw the latest Matt Damon movie, “Downsizing”. I’m not going to say much about it since I am still processing.  I am not a movie reviewer by any stretch of the imagination, but I’d like to say that this movie is making me examine my role in the world.

Signing off from Vienna,
Laura

*I did take a video excerpt of the concert (and of the interior of the church) but I am unable to upload it right now, so it will have to wait until I get home.

The Practice

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Playing guitar doesn’t come easy to me these days. Almost all aspects of playing have become challenging – even areas where I once excelled at have become foreign and a bit enigmatic.  Which is why a daily practice has become more important than ever, to me.  I’m slowly adding my old pieces back into my repertoire, but am cautiously adding new to me composers as well.  For someone who has invested almost her entire life to the playing of classical guitar, there are some huge gaps in my knowledge of guitar music. For instance, almost the entire baroque repertoire, with the exception of the Bach cello suites.  So I have added this Weiss Fantasie into my practice.  And surprisingly, I am beginning to love it.

For those of you who are interested – this is what my rehab practice looks like.  I try to get in an hour a day. Sometimes I am unable to play that long – and sometimes I want to play more, but I know that if I push it too much, the pain that will occur will be too much for me to handle, and I will have to take several days off – and I cant afford that.

  • Arpeggio exercises – 10 minutes.  I do this instead of scales, because its easier on my hands, and it gives my brain a workout, when I progress past the standard PIMAMI
  • Sarabande by Francis Poulenc – its a simple piece, but its quite difficult to master.  Its meditative and somber.  It was my dog Charles favourite piece, and when I play it, I can feel him next to me, keeping time with his tail.  Its a great warm up. Usually I play this for 10 minutes.  Trying to get the tone as even as possible.
  • Suite no. 1 – Richard Rodney Bennett – A suite of Pieces for the early intermediate student. Structurally there isn’t much happening, but the soprano and bass voices are written in different keys, which makes playing a bit challenging.  But mostly its brain work. Usually by this point my fingers are warm and about as agile as Im going to get in the practice session.  So the set of pieces usually flows fairly well at this point. – 2 complete tun throughs- plus any extra practice where its needed.
  • I am now halfway through my practice session. At this point I choose a couple of pieces I have had in my repertoire for years, and I choose a passage or 2 in each to deconstruct and re-learn.  I usually do about 10-15 minutes on this.  Usually this is an older contemporary piece, it might go back as far as Mauel de Falla’s Homenaje, or some thing from the Four Pieces by Frank Martin, or probably one of the many pieces I have learned and loved by Leo Brouwer.  The only requirement here, is that it had to be something that was at one time, performance ready – and had to have been played in front of an audience.
  • The remainder of the hour is devoted to new work(s).  I have several in rotation.  Weiss, Bach, Stephen Dodgson, Richard Rodney Bennett, and Scarlatti.  I usually work on a phrase or 2.  Because I usually have between 15-20 minutes left in the session – learning new works is a slow business for me.

This time of regimen is new for me.  I used to be the type of musician who would skip warmups.  I hated scales and other technical exercises (I still do). I didn’t think technique was necessary.  Ah youth – so stubborn, so wrong!  In the past, I was the master mistress of thoughtless practice. I’d just play whatever was sitting on the music stand. I was a really good sight reader, so I didn’t have to think about what I was doing – I just did it, and I could get away with minimal amounts of practice.

Im in a very different situation now, I actually have to think about alternating my fingers. They don’t do it on their own anymore.  When you have to put that much thought into movement, playing becomes laboured, heavy, and clumsy. There really isn’t any way to make it sound good. So you have to look at your practice in a new way.  Instead of reclaiming a new skill. I have chosen to look at is as an adventure through history. Which is why I am trying to close the gaps. It’s going to take me a long time – since I am lucky if I can master 1 single measure of a new piece in one practice.  But if you aren’t aiming to get better, you are getting worse.

So I deem it to be worthwhile.