Hungarian Mouse Ballet

Last Saturday I spent an hour painting.  Today I just spent an hour playing piano. Auba sat on the bench next to me “reading” Nathan’s English-Italian dictionary and sipping the chai roibos tea we were sharing.  I’m pretty sure she had most of it thanks to all the milk and sugar.

This morning’s inspiration came from sitting in on a ballet class.  My friend Ami plays piano for it and is training me in to fill her shoes (….gloves…?)  when she moves away this summer.

I’ve never been to a ballet class, and, believe it or not, I never really gave thought to how music is presented for those types of classes.  Maybe I just thought it would be recorded or something.   I guess in a rosey collored world I would imagine this:

I would walk up the steps to the studio (because in my head dance studios are always upstairs, through tiny hallways, above some sort of shop) and into a giant room with [creaky] hardwood floors, high ceilings, beautiful chandeliers, large lacey-covered open windows along two walls (it has to be a corner room), large mirrors along the other two walls, and a dozen women with white tights, black leotards, and short wrap skirts – all gracefully poised with one hand on the barre. Oh, and there would definitely be a stage on one end with a beautiful concert grand piano.

Nice, huh? In my dreams.

And in reality. Yup – that’s the description of the place I was this morning. For 90 minutes I watched people move beautifully to beautiful music in a beautiful space. It was hard to just sit there and observe. Don’t get me wrong, the peacefulness of just taking it in was wonderful, but eventually I ached to be playing at the piano or dancing on the floor [in the invisible version of me where no one can actually see me until after I’ve been taking the classes for a while which I am totally wanting to do].  When I got home I HAD to play.

Fortunately, yesterday I completely reorganized the studio, which means (1) it is a very lovely place to spend time now, and (2) I discovered a bunch of music that I had lost track of. One of those pieces wasHungarian Rhapsodie No. 2 by Franz Liszt. Yum.

This was my dream piece when I was a little girl.  In high school I finally got to play it. Though I performed it on a few occasions, I really never mastered it.  Technicality is very advanced, but, more than that, I just didn’t have the emotional/musical maturity to present it as it deserves.

A lot has happened in the ten years since I graduated high school, and I know that I am a better musician now as far as expressiveness…..but my technique has been slowed down a bit.  You that phrase about “riding a bike” – regarding returning to formerly familiar skills? My bike is usually a bit wobbly when I try to play really advanced music.  It’s scary, and often discouraging, to revisit my old music that was practically second nature in the past.

Nonetheless, I was determined to give this a shot. Tempo was slower in parts – many parts – but overall I was very pleased to discover that this piece is not nearly as far away from my grasp as I had anticipated.  Yeah!  It is such a fun piece of music. So fun, in fact, that this following clip is pretty much exactly what I think of when I play it… 🙂

I love the fact that there is no way to prove that Liszt wasn’t thinking about something just like that when he wrote it.

Happy Arting!

By Naomi Bird

Wife of tenor Nathan Bird, pianist, organist, former music therapist, writer, tea-drinker, mom of two mini-sopranos and two mini-tenors, and learner of loving the arts.

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