A Musical Interlude
takes a break from puzzles to talk about music.
I also had dreams (delusions?) of becoming a concert pianist. My childhood piano teacher Joseph Kahn also taught Lorin Hollander as a kid (this fact later confirmed by Hollander himself when our paths crossed), and claimed I was his best student since then (this fact not confirmed; for all I know, he said this to all his students).
There comes a time when most budding pianists realize it's not going to happen. This was beautifully portrayed in the show http://www.2pianos4hands.com
. For me, besides not being good enough, I did not have the discipline to practice the same thorny passages countless times. Scales? Arpeggios? Bleh! Instead of going to Juilliard, I stopped taking lessons while in high school. There were just too many other demands on my time.
I also have an aversion to memorizing, and am incapable of improvising. I have to have music in front of me. Somehow I did memorize one piece: "Doctor Gradus ad Parnassum" from Debussy's "Children's Corner." The book had a yellow cover with a whimsical drawing. http://www.libraries.psu.edu/nabokov/dbjcho.jpg
(the proofreader in me just noticed one of the N's is italicized). My sister used to be "Nurse Gradus" and ping the high notes that would normally be crossed over with the left hand.
How many working concert pianists are there anyway? (Probably more than crossword editors, but still...) The normal alternative is teaching; even high-level pianists mentor students. Teaching was not an option for me, as I'm impatient and not good at explaining things. So the dream died early.
All these years later, I still play, though I seem to be perpetually "out of practice." I was probably better at age 12. I have lots of music: old favorites and pieces I haven't attempted, classical and popular, solo and chamber. My great aunt, a pianist who played with women's orchestras in the 1940s, left me her music. Actually, I asked my cousin for the music. I was impressed when a receipt fell out of an impossible-looking Rachmaninoff piece - dated well into my aunt's old age.
While waiting for them to set up at the Stamford talent show, I was seated behind the piano. I was tempted to dash off "Doctor Gradus" but decided one talent was enough, even though my piano playing is probably better than my baton twirling.