Bach, 88 Keys to Joy and a Special Week Ahead!

I’m exhausted. Since my last blog only a week ago, I spent six full days listening to Bach. 6 days of recordings sessions of the complete 6 Sonatas and Partitas for solo violin, played by Mark Kaplan. This has been a completely overwhelming experience, both illuminating and draining. I’ve watched, listened and marked the score, amazed more and more with each moment at the incredible mastery of these compositions.

This kind of intensive recording project presents major challenges to the performer – maintaining inspired and creative playing through many hours and days, keeping the performances fresh, exciting and imaginative just as in a live concert, even when playing for just a set of mics and an empty hall. Doing all that while deciphering this incredibly rich, complex, varied and physically demanding score is a truly formidable task.

Recording large movements such as the C Major Fuga or the d minor Ciaccona, playing each movement through, listening, playing a few more performances of it, working in sections, still with great energy, mental focus and emotional involvement, and then, as an encore, playing through everything again…. That has been our life for the past 6 days!

And while I’m thinking of recordings, I wanted to tell you that I have the perfect CD for you for the holidays!!! Are you looking for something to bring you, your family or friends great joy?

I wasn’t really thinking about Christmas, Hanukah or New Year when I decided to make “88 Keys to Joy”, a festive recording of works having the do with the idea of JOY. I was looking to put out a collection of pieces that highlight different variations on the Joy theme, music that I personally find uplifting, and works where the composers themselves included the word “Joy” in the title.

“88 Keys to Joy” makes an absolutely fantastic holiday CD, with 17 tracks ranging from new works such as “Improvisations on Bach’s Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” by Sivan, to Chopin’s Barcarolle, Debussy’s L’isle joyeuse and Bach’s Italian Concerto (which is the opening music for this week’s podcasts!).

You can give someone you care about a specially inscribed copy by ordering here, or of course you can also find it on Amazon, or download it from iTunes.

And before signing off, let me mention our podcasts for the coming days: On Monday you’ll hear about practicing the art of performing, on Tuesday the question is “What Is Music All About” (OK, we’re not really going to completely answer that big one in just a minute or two. . .), Wednesday touches on the difficult question of presenting and listening to new music, you’ll hear what to do when you are feeling stuck on Thursday’s show, and Friday looks into the matter of the post-concert routine.

Oh, and one last update here – today is MY BIRTHDAY!

Second Week’s Shows Are Here! Monday 12/12 through Friday 12/16

What a fantastic week! Publishing the Classical Minutes podcasts on iTunes last weekend, I really didn’t know what to expect. I was just having fun coming up with thoughts and tips that listeners would find helpful and thinking how much I will enjoy giving people a new show every day. That made me happy in itself – and then, hearing from so many people with enthusiastic and positive feedback over the past week has been an excellent bonus!

I devoted this past week to continuing work on my cycle of performances of the complete 32 Beethoven Sonatas. The Sonata in E-flat major, Op. 31/3 has been on my practicing menu, getting ready for a performance in early January. Also, I began looking into a piano trio by Jennifer Higdon, an exciting work that my trio, Weiss-Kaplan-Newman Trio will be performing at the Kennedy Center next month. The titles of the movements are “Pale Yellow” and “Fiery Red” – fitting titles to the music, regardless of whether or not you have synesthesia – that blessing (or is it a curse?!) that makes you see specific colors in association with particular notes.

In between Beethoven and Higdon, I was on the phone yesterday with an interviewer for Strad Magazine, answering questions for their “Double Acts” feature. This is a monthly article studying two people who perform together over a long period of time, exploring their relationship both on and off stage… You can guess who my partner in this was… Mark Kaplan, violinist extraordinaire, member of our piano trio, husband, and – the first person who gets to listen to my new podcasts!

This week’s shows ask “How Well Do You Know Your Scores?”, “What Is the Best Time?” “Can You See the Big Picture?” and we also talk about the ability to measure your progress. My favorite is probably Thursday’s show, “Do You Really Love Music?”. This may seem like a surprising question – surely that is the one constant element that we all share?! However, we all do struggle sometimes, and discovering and reconnecting with our instinctive experience of music is often all that we need to get back on track. As always, you can find this and all other shows on iTunes, and please don’t forget to click the “Subscribe Free” button to download directly to your computer.

Looking forward to hearing from you here and at www.facebook.com/ClassicalMinutes!