About learning the Italian Concerto (1)

Before summer I made a plan to learn the Italian Concerto in France by heart. I wanted to practise every day for an hour. It didn’t work. Why not?

Handwriting Bach
Handwriting Bach

1. I felt not like practising, but playing through
2. Because I could already play it (not yet at the right speed, but anyway ..) it just didn’t feel like a challenge
3. I wanted to play other pieces I felt more like playing
4. It is so long! (17 pages)
5. I felt resistance doing it

I even wrote a poem about it (sorry, in Dutch!)

Italiaanse Concert

Dit was de zomer van het
Italiaanse Concert:
ik zou elke dag oefenen
maar dit idee was snert!

Het is zo’n lap
er komt geen eind
aan, ‘t is een stuk
waar je in verdwijnt

en nooit meer uitkomt,
’t zwarte gat
dat geeft wel aan
dat ik’t heb gehad.

Dus zet ik maar eerst
een kopje thee
dan toch de timer op 30
en hupsakee.

Zo. Al dat gemopper
Sneed geen hout!
Al 30 minuten om:
de thee is koud.

From: ‘Menu du Jour’ poems Heleen Verleur Book ‘Menu du Jour’

After about two weeks I gave up. Also, in my mind I almost gave up doing Suzuki level 5 (the Italian Concerto by heart is one of the mandatory pieces). Because: what’s the point practising a piece you don’t want to practise?
But: I felt a vague regret about this. Maybe take a lesson with a good teacher? Could this increase my motivation?

But then, suddenly I got an idea. The point is, I don’t want to spend all my time to it. Because I want to compose and I also want to practise other pieces, and write poems, and a lot of other things to give way to my creativity. Practising the Italian Concerto felt too much
like a duty. What if I restrict myself to just ONE page a week?
So this week I started with the first page of the 3rd movement.

Italian Concerto 3rd part 1st page
Italian Concerto 3rd part 1st page

I’m going to write a blog about how this works, because I know more people are struggling with the Italian Concerto. Maybe my method can inspire people to do the same. Or use the same approach with other ‘stumbling block’ pieces. I’m just in the beginning of my selfinvented method, but I already can say this about it:

1. I can already play the first page by heart after one day. But it feels SO good not to go on! It feels so relaxed that I don’t have to do more.
2. Because I only have one page, I start to experiment more with: different tempi, hands seperate etc. Because if you stick to one piece, you are going to play “with” it, instead of enjoying the music while playing through.
3. I imagine myself being on stage. Where are the spots I feel 99 percent secure instead of 100? Even at the slightest hesitation, I put my hands apart again to investigate what didn’t work .. not the right fingering, hand position .. try to understand.
4. I really stop exactly at the first note of the second page, although this becomes harder to do as I know it quite well already. So I feel an exciting urge to go on, not because I ‘have to’.
5. It feels more like meditation than like practising
6. I don’t have this haunting feeling: how about the rest?
7. The funny thing I notice, is that the thought that I am not allowed to go further than one page, gives me energy and joy to focus on the first page. It doesn’t bother me to do it again and again, everytime in a different way.

I will keep you informed about the progress! If it works, and I do another page every week, then I will be finished before Christmas! Even when I keep up doing all the other things in life that I want to do. 🙂

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