I stopped in Sam Ash in suburban Jersey last week to buy a couple of books of sheet music that had been tempting me for some time. The first is the great college music student standard, J.S. Bach's Two and Three Part Inventions.
This series of exercises is the standard text for learning correct piano fingering techniques. In my summer school sessions at the University of Illinois while I was still in high school, my piano teacher drilled me relentlessly on these pieces.
Completely different melodic lines in left and right hands. Fingering must be precise or these very short pieces fall apart. I have a classical compilation book that contains a few of these pieces. After six months of hacking away at three of these pieces, I have almost mastered one.
Mastering the entire collection of inventions will keep me busy for the rest of my days.
Here's Bach's own description of the purposes of these two and three part inventions:
Honest method, by which the amateurs of the keyboard – especially, however, those desirous of learning – are shown a clear way not only (1) to learn to play cleanly in two parts, but also, after further progress, (2) to handle three obligate parts correctly and well; and along with this not only to obtain good inventions (ideas) but to develop the same well; above all, however, to achieve a cantabile style in playing and at the same time acquire a strong foretaste of composition.
This book served as a nice little present for a retired grandpa. Don't we all like to buy something on Friday? At only seven bucks, it was a bargain.
I tend to get up at 3 or 4 a.m. One of the oddities of retirement. This is several hours before the political controversy starts for the day on the internet. So, I'm looking for positive things to do with my time. I feel like I've accomplished something when I start out my day with my classical practice.
My other little present to myself, also purchased at Sam Ash, is this book of many of Chopin's Favorite Piano Works.
Chopin is my favorite classical piano composer. I wanted a big book of his standard pieces that included the Military Polonaise.
These pieces stretch my technique to the breaking point... which is my intention. I've been playing Chopin's Waltz in C Sharp Minor in my classical compilation. Here's a YouTube of a pretty Chinese girl, Yuja Wang, playing that piece:
Now, I have a ton of new pieces to explore, sight read (even if only one hand at a time) and think about adding to my tiny classical repertoire. A bargain at 17 bucks for the book!
I'll probably never play one of these classical pieces in public. (Well, I do play Chopin's Prelude in E Minor as a little mood setter before Mass.) That's not really the point.
I play classical piano for mental clarity, to promote a sense of peace and well-being, and for the simple satisfaction of conquering difficult pieces. My goals are entirely self defined.
And, I enjoy hearing my own interpretations of some of my favorite classical pieces.