Easy To Get Discouraged

The title states it well.

The world faces much uncertainty. COVID lingers. The years pass swiftly – too quickly at times. There is so much to do, a great deal more I want to achieve.

I used to give piano recitals and accompany dancers once the concerts tapered off – but neither of those activities are possible at the moment, especially with economic uncertainty and the virus.

Still, I practise the piano at home and enjoy posting recordings of mp3s to music sharing sites.

To cheer myself up this week, I sifted through earlier writings from a sister blog (no longer developed) and found the following account from the heady concert training days:

A friend introduced me to a man who ran a piano shop and we became good friends. The owner of the shop gave me work and recommended my services to others. Sometimes, I would arrive at the shop first thing in the morning, open up and remain on the premises alone till closing time at five or five thirty, when I’d lock up and set the alarm, making a quick dash out of the door before the alarm activated. At other times, I dealt with the paper work and typed letters. Of course, whenever I could, I would select a piano – preferably, a Seiler, known for its rich deep sound – and play for an hour, or longer, if possible.

One of the sales assistants at the shop had trained as a concert pianist. Her playing was phenomenal, rivalling that of the highly experienced tutors I’d already studied with since coming to London, and soon after we met, this sales assistant agreed to take me on and train me at advanced performance level.

The transformation she brought about just in a couple of years. The relaxation of my shoulders and arm. The ability to throw off octave sections and passages of bravura. During a lesson at her house, I played the arpeggio study in C minor by Chopin, an unrelenting and potentially exhausting etude that lasts for about five minutes. She talked me through the piece while I played, enabling me to pay attention to the cantabile element of the etude while remaining completely relax – not an easy task to accomplish.

Under her supervision, I tackled a number of advanced works to the point where the technical challenges became almost effortless. Chopin’s F minor fantasie. Chopin’s third scherzo. The Eroica from the Liszt Transcendental etudes. Waldesrauschen and Gnomenreigen from the Liszt Concert etudes. The Liszt etude Un Sospiro in D-flat. The Waldstein sonata by Beethoven. The etude in D-sharp minor by Scriabin. Schubert’s second impromptu from the opus 90 set.

The new tutor organised several students concerts, where I performed Liszt etudes and the Schubert impromptu no 2. Meanwhile, I continued performing in the lunchtime recital circuit in central London, throwing off an array of impressive works – the second and third scherzos by Chopin, the first waltz in B-flat by Chopin, the Scriabin etude in D-sharp minor and preludes by Rachmaninoff.

This period in my musical journey culminated in a concert for the International Recital Series at Bloomsbury Central Baptist Church, a nerve wracking experience that concluded with a performance of the Scriabin etude in D-sharp minor.

Other repertoire during this time:

Beethoven – piano sonata in C no 3
Grieg – Piano Sonata

Chopin – Waltz in B Minor op 69

Tonight, England beat Germany.

I was busy doing something else, though. Making another piano recording from my flat using a Zoom Handy Recorder and various online apps designed to covert MP3s to videos.

After a busy week of piano practise and recordings, I offer you the Waltz in B Minor by Chopin.

I hope to resume recording projects in a week or so – but until then, happy listening!

The Magic Of Music

Uncertainty rules at the moment. Delta strain. Delta Plus. The economy. Job losses. Mental health.

Life has returned to a degree of normality, but no one really knows whether Covid will spiral out of control again. I had both doses of the vaccine, yet remain uneasy. Viruses are more powerful than politicians, especially in the UK.

I stay busy, of course. Piano practice occupies my thoughts. Languages, too.

This morning, I recorded a couple of Chopin works – the Waltz in A-flat, op 69 and the Prelude no 13 in F-Sharp. I attach the video link below:

Happy listening, and stay safe!

Piece Of The Day – Appassionata by Beethoven

I’m one of those people fortunate enough to have the ability to play works featured on Classic FM or Radio Three.

This morning, I enjoyed sitting at the piano and playing the Appassionata by Beethoven, the Second Ballade by Chopin, Hungarian Dances nos 1, 2 and 5 by Brahms, and the Nineteenth Hungarian Rhapsody by Liszt.

The Appassionata breaks the traditional boundaries of the Sonata, developing First Movement Sonata Form and introducing the abridged second and third movements. Despite the heights of emotion present in the writing, the work remains firmly in the Classical tradition, and not Romantic.

A fulfilling morning. Tired arms and wrists. Afterwards, I headed to Coffee Republic to practise my German with a friend from Germany.

An Artist’s Life

An Artist’s Life by Strauss.  My blog post isn’t so grand as the famous Viennese waltz, bur rather a brief recap of the life of an artist during the last couple of weeks.  I finished one writing project the other day and have sent out another to an editor, so it’s back to waiting.  I’m also working towards a piano recording of works by Brahms and Chopin and am enjoying learning four languages.  Four may sound a lot, but I have a particular study method involving listening and repetition as opposed to attempting to memorise long lists of vocabulary and complex grammatical rules.  On top of everything else, I’ve thought a lot about photography recently, aware that I haven’t taken any serious shots for a while.  I need to buy a new camera.

A Change of Scenery….

I’ve spent several years blogging about my writing, but little on my music.

Recently, I did a recording of piano works by Brahms and Chopin, and am waiting for the digital files to come back to me.

Here is a still image video I created several years ago using an audio of a recording of Schubert’s 4th impromptu in a-flat, op 90 no 4.


My New Year Resolutions…

  • Do a professional recording (or near enough) of my piano playing. Works under consideration include:  the 2 Brahms Rhapsodies op 79, Liszt’s 12th Hungarian Rhapsody, Chopin’s 4th Ballade, and any four of the Chopin Etudes, including the final arpeggio study in C minor. In the past, I’ve done several online recordings and released the tracks on last.fm, but I would like to try a recording studio this time.

  • Seek editorial advice regarding my third novel, YA/teen fiction.

  • Continue my three language studies: French, German, Russian.

  • Exercise daily by brisk walking and/or hill walking.  (North London is built on steep hills!)

Just a few of my thoughts.

Music Videos by Lawrence Estrey

Most of the time, I blog about creative writing or black and white photography, but I’m also a professional musician, a classical pianist.  I got my main music degree from Dartington College of Arts in Totnes, Devon, and did piano performance studies in London.  As you will probably guess from the link, I prefer romantic composers like Chopin to classical, although I’ve performed the major Beethoven piano sonata.

Check out my videos on youtube: