Apr 22, 2008

gypsy airs

It's recital time again.

I'm playing Zigeunerweisen (Gypsy Airs) by Pablo de Sarasate. It's a fantastic little piece. The entire thing is designed to look impressive, as well as sound impressive - Sarasate was a virtuoso violinist, so he wrote in all the most difficult-sounding things he could think of. The audience is supposed to flutter their fans and say, "Oh, my, that certainly was quite something, wasn't it Georgina?" It's the icing on the cake.

It's not the deepest thing I've ever played. If the Beethoven concerto is a bottomless well, this is a very attractive puddle. It's all pomp and circumstance, but it's also damn tricky. It is composed entirely of phrases, which, if they were merely a little part of another piece, you might think to yourself, "I better watch out for this line. It's kind of tricky. If I get nervous, I might flub it". Practicing, therefore, mostly consists of playing the runs and flying spiccatos so many times that your hands do it even if your brain is busily thinking about how long it is until dinner time.

So, Beethoven it's not, but it's still a great piece, and it deserves more care than just technical precision. It's not a very personal piece, though. You can't really play it from the heart - to do that, you might as well stand up and explain that you've got an ego the size of the Pacific. It's way to blustery for sincerity. So the decision I've come to is that it must be played almost as a soundtrack for somebody else's life. I can use the grandeur and over-the-top glamor that way.

'Course, I can't tell you who it's for, because that would ruin the magic. But the piece does lend itself nicely to a story. It starts out in a rage, then lingers around some seductive business for a while, gets all mournful, and then goes absolutely nuts in the scramble to the finish. A very interesting life indeed.

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