Rocky and Bach . . .
If someone were to ask me which composer’s music I would listen to on a desert island, I’d have to demur and say that my two favorite composers are Bach and Rachmaninoff. In a way, they’re the two most romantic composers I can think of . . . but that would depend upon whether you feel like I do that Bach’s music is deeply romantic or not. In any case, imagine my excitement when I discovered earlier this summer that Rachmaninoff had composed a piece for the piano transcribed from Bach’s Partita in B-flat for violin! Immediately, I wanted to learn how to play it myself and vowed to learn it after finding the piano score.
But, truth be told, I’ve been pretty lazy this summer. I meant to start practicing it when the summer began but outside of reading the first page, haven’t done much more than that. Today, with the weather cooling off finally and the air conditioning getting a much-deserved rest, I’m going to sit myself down at the piano and try to figure out how to play this piece.
A long time ago, I was taught to learn a new piece by playing a few measures of new music one hand at a time and repeating each hand separately a few times. Then slowly play both hands together. Then repeat a few times until the notes are in your head tonally and in the muscles of your hands kinesthetically. At least that’s what I think is going on.
This piece is so much fun because of its repeating leitmotif (B to E) that sounds like a horn calling us to the Hunt. It’s also very playful with that leitmotif crisscrossing through the whole piece, sometimes with the left hand and then with the right hand while the toccata-like melody skips relentlessly all the way to the end. Toccata means once the piece starts, it retains the same rhythm all the way to the end without breaking it up.
Here are some fun examples of this piece played by two women pianists from Eastern Europe.
Hope you will enjoy this glorious music on this bright, beautiful summer’s day!