Writer’s Block Once More

The title says it all.

In the meantime, I offer this humble photograph of London Green Belt, converted to black and white.

Back soon.


Beethoven, The Penultimate Sonata, And Alfred Brendel

I particulary like the piano sonata op 110 by Beethoven, having studied it myself during my two years on a piano scholarship.

The sonata belongs to a group of works dubbed “Late Beethoven”, and these contain substantial differences to works often described as “Early Beethoven” or “Mid Beethoven”, most notably:

  • prolonged reflective passages, somewhat spiritual, or even eerie, at times;
  • vast virtuoso prowess (for instance in the first movement of op 111);
  • use of fugues (e.g. in the final movements of the ninth symphony and the op 110 sonata).

The op 110, though not as technically difficult as the op 111, poses many challenges to the performer, especially in keeping the audience’s attention during the long reflective passages in the opening and final movements. Beethoven wrote this sonata when he was deaf.

I like Alfred Brendel’s performance of the opening bars of the sonata, reminiscent of a hymn, and I notice that he maintains a strict Classical approach, as opposed to Romantic, throughout the sonata.

I feel the Classical approach (precision, holding back on emotion), has the opposite effect, lending greater authentic emotional depth to the performance and enabling listeners to fully appreciate the lengthy lamentoso arias and the alternating fugues.

The light finger work is impressive and his choice of a slighter quicker speed for the second movement keeps the sonata moving and adds a degree of contrast.

I think that Brendel has an excellent technique and would rank him as one of the world’s greatest pianists.

I include the link to Brendel’s performance below:

Happy listening!

“Hello World”, Blogging With WordPress – Ten Years On

Time flies, as they say, and this applies to the blogging world as well.

Ten years ago, I weighed up the pros and cons, and decided to start a blog.

At the time, I had no Internet access at home. Every Sunday morning, I would visit an Internet Cafe and post blog articles as I devoured several cups of sweetened black coffee.

Additionally, I’d taken countless scenic photos on my phone but could not upload them, as I had no way of getting online with the phone and my computer was pre-historic (almost). I used to get despondent.

The same applies to music. I’d trained as a concert pianist but hadn’t released a recording.

And the writing, of course. I’d written a couple of novels.

I want to excel in the performing and creative arts, but didn’t know how. I started researching self-publishing and approached it with caution.

The last ten years has contained many highs and lows. A couple of my books almost got accepted for mainstream publication but didn’t make it in the end.

I despaired but continued searching the options.

Using WordPress and other online tools, I managed to create a CD of my piano playing, self-publish two novels and an autobiography, release mp3s of my piano playing, share photography, start a second blog devoted to the piano, and more recently a poetry blog.

I’ve communicated online with lots of interesting people.

Crucially, I was able to fulfil another cherished dream: learning a number of foreign language through online resources.

Not bad for ten years.

I’m deeply grateful to WordPress for their blogging services, and to all my readers and followers. And yes, I gave up the sugar eventually and avoid it completely now. But not the black coffee.

My first post from ten years ago, Hello World:

Lancashire born and bred. I moved to Devon to study piano at Dartington College of Arts, Totnes, and then to London where I have performed in the City of London lunchtime concert events. I also write and am working on two psychological thrillers set in the countryside.

I grew up with classical and rock music, but I particularly enjoy playing piano works by Chopin, Liszt, Mozart and Beethoven. I’m currently working on the 5th and 12th Hungarian Rhapsodies by Liszt, along with some of the early Chopin preludes, Mozart’s “Simple sonata” in C and a Beethoven Rondo (in C). I also enjoy playing the Chopin studies, especially the C minor arpeggio study from the second set, along with Beethoven sonatas (“Moonlight”, “Appassionata,” “Waldstein”).

I suffer from RSI in the shoulders, but the playing really helps (even those mad Lisztian sections)!

Why Write Poetry?

Describe a scenario or explore a theme, and paint pictures with words.

I’ve always enjoyed letting the pen slip (figuratively, of course) and allowing words and sentences to flourish.

Since publishing my third book (an autobiography), I’ve spent a lot of time writing poetry and posting it online. After working on the book, I needed the time to unwind and I value the opportunity to pursue new literary interests.

I like to focus on one sense (for example, sight, touch, taste) and to develop an idea through that sense in the form of a poem.

I listen to the rhythm of the syllables, and adjust phrases where necessary. Strong, weak, and so forth.

I believe that the subconscious plays a major role in all writing, and so I try to listen to what my subconscious is prompting me to write about.

I think that writers should always keep going, no matter how discouraged they may become.

To conclude, I include one of my recent poems:

The Sleeping Village by Lawrence Estrey

Night time.

The moon appears, faint in the distance.

Darkness has settled,

Heavy like a blanket.

It is cold outside, a sliver of winter.

Warm inside. Heat comes from a sturdy stove,

A fragrance of home,

A reassuring lull,

The promise of morning.

The village sleeps.

FSI French Basic – A Powerful Language Resource

In the past five and a half years, I’ve developed a keen interest in foreign language study.

In the early days, I managed to add a new language every six months, working on three or four languages at once.

The studies deteriorated when I added Italian to my already busy schedule of French, German and Russian.

Eventually, I decided to give up Italian, as the similarities to French were causing problems for the two languages.

Recently, I discovered the livelingua website.

The website contains links to courses in many languages, all free of charge, as most (if not all) were designed for American ambassadors abroad and the course creators could not copyright the work for certain legal reasons.

Hence, the courses fall under a Creative Commons license.

FSI French Basic contains two PDF manuals and over a hundred audio files. The course focuses on listening and speaking, and each file lasts about half an hour.

Some people who’ve tried the course object to the constant drills and repetitions, but these exercises develop speaking skills and the course is excellent for anyone wishing to become fluent in French.

The material covers all grammatical points in detail, including the subjunctive.

The course creators suggest spending six hours a day on the material, but I believe this is unrealistic.

I would suggest completing an audio file a day (about thirty minutes) or doing part of an audio file when possible. Enjoy it.

Admittedly, the downloads take up a lot of data and memory.

I bought a 32 GB SD Card when I upgraded my phone (ideal for multi media files) and I downloaded the files in coffee houses using Wi-Fi. Then, I created two folders on the SD Card and copied the files from Downloads.

Obviously, the course won’t benefit everyone.

I particularly like the emphasis on speaking and listening, the constant repetition and the juxtaposition between relatively easy speaking exercises and more difficult ones. Plus, the price of course. Free.

Till next time.

The Christmas Rush, And Staying Creative

This time of year again.

Commercial. I would admit that hearing the same Christmas music in the supermarket (a repetitive jingle) does little for me.

I regard Christmas as a time for catching up with friends and acquaintances, as well as an opportunity for pausing to dwell upon religious or spiritual themes.

I practise concert pieces on the piano and continue to study languages. I still write, but I haven’t got a current novel on the go. I’m not sure what I will write next. Only that I must.

In the meantime, I’ve posted a number of poems and semi-poems on a sister blog.

I include my favourite below

The Unseen Violinist

The unseen violinist plays late at night.

Long drawn out tones that tremble with emotion.

A haunting Czardas set in harmonic minor,

Flattened Sixths that speak of other worlds,

Of longing and beauty and despair.

The tempo quickens, the mood switches.

The violinist’s bow dances across the strings,

Like a wagon speeding across a country path,

The sounds of the wheels echoing as the night sky watches.

The violinist plays with ease.

A lively dance.

© Lawrence Estrey 2018

An Impressive Language Learning Tool For Russian

Today, many people know a little Russian.

The Russian language has grown in popularity. Schools and colleges in UK and the US offer courses in Russian.

One could stretch a point, perhaps, and suggest that Russian is the new Latin.

I certainly think there is some truth to that, and I have spent the last four years trying to master Russian, an exceptionally difficult language.

Recently, I discovered russianforfree, a website that offers online lessons, dialogue practise, explanations and points of grammar, free of charge, apart from the cost of the internet connection.

The dialogues, largely conversational, are good in terms of quality, covering all abilities, including advanced.

Elsewhere, various texts stretch the vocabulary to new levels, introducing ideas of greater complexity.

The lessons contain shorter dialogues dealing with grammatical points, such as masculine, feminine and plural past tense, and listeners can hear the correct pronunciations.

Today, I looked at reflexive verbs.

A great site. I’m using it in conjunction to the paperback copy of Teach Yourself Complete Russian by Daphne West.

Also learning and hoping to master:
French, German

Meanwhile, I’m polishing up some piano repertoire, with a view to performing the works whenever an opportunities arises:

Beethoven Pathetique Sonata, Brahms Ballade in G minor from op 118, Brahms Rhapsody in B minor from op79, and a number of Hungarian style works by Brahms and Liszt.

Till next time.