Last year I sold myself at the auction. Not just any auction, the MBAW auction and I sold my solo piano recital and was extremely excited about it. The upcoming performance got my creative juices going and gave me an opportunity to get back to the piano. I started with selecting a beautiful program consisting of contrasting romantic miniatures by my all times favorites: Schubert, Chopin, Liszt, and Rachmaninoff. It included many beautiful Musical Moments both literally and figuratively speaking. It was great to get back to an everyday practice routine that truly is a part of my biological being; it is healthy for the mind and the soul to spend many hours at the piano communicating with great creators, geniuses of the human race through their music. Things were looking up and I was putting some good 4 hours a day of practicing piano in anticipation of this project.
Every morning I started with the newest pieces in my repertory while my brain was still fresh and uncorrupted by a gazillion things to do. Musical Moment in E-minor by Rachmaninoff is a part of my morning routine, sort of my morning fitness workout for my fingers and brain. “Six Musical Moments” Op.16, is a set of solo piano pieces composed by Rachmaninoff in 1896. The individual pieces have been described as “true concert works, being best served on a stage and with a concert grand. “Although composed as part of a set, each piece stands on its own as a concert solo with individual themes and moods. In an interview in 1941, Rachmaninoff said, “What I try to do, is to make my music say that which is in my heart when I am composing”. And it was storming in Rachmaninoff’s heart when he wrote Musical Moment No.4 in E-minor… take my word for it!
Rachmaninoff was a fantastic pianist himself and he did not hold back when he wrote for other pianists; the texture of his piano pieces in general, and musical moments in particular, is incredibly complex and virtuosic which gives an equal challenge to the mind as well as to all 10 fingers. Sometimes it feels that he himself had a few more fingers than the average person … at least 7 on each hand. The piece begins with a fortissimo (very loud) introduction with a thick texture in the left hand consisting of chromatic swirls of storming wind. All this “joy” is happening in the left hand that is performing a sequence of acrobatically challenging passages on the joyful journey of seven pages. This was sort of his homage to the Revolutionary Etude by Chopin and just as challenging, if not more.
Rachmaninoff’s post-romantic musical language gets more complex. As you might have guessed, the most technically challenging part of this piece is the left hand throughout the entire piece. In order to maximize the effectiveness of my morning musical exercise I drill on the most difficult parts. So, one particular sunny morning I decided to waste no time and really thoroughly work on my left hand. My husband and our then new puppy Duke were minding their business politely coexisting with me in the living room for some time. And suddenly… Our three-month-old golden retriever mix puppy Duke, who never showed any musical inclination snatched his squawking toy skunk and took off running around the living room creating a lot of squeaking sounds.
It took me a while to figure out that he was filling the gap created by the absence of my right hand by giving his interpretation of the melody; a squeaking melody is better than none! It is so tempting to put your own spin on the loud fiery passages in the left hand that resembles the roaring thunder of a waterfall. It makes one’s blood boil and wakes up the artist in anyone! Duke felt the pressure to create! After all, it is too much to bear for any self-respected puppy to listen to the Rachmaninoff’s Musical Moment in E-minor without the melody and he did what he could to fill the void. In six musical moments, Rachmaninoff illustrates, “that which is in my heart.” Well… Duke did his best to do the same… This was his MUSICAL MOMENT; everyone deserves to have one once in a while.