Having tackled the first line yesterday, today’s task is the second line, which, due to a diminuendo in bars 7 and 8 is pretty much like tackling the first line, but in piano instead of forte. The same issues of string crossing, and playing in different parts of the bow, but a rather different attack. I find that in piano the difference in timbre between a stopped string and an open string is more marked, and I spend some time trying to balance the two.
Despite my success yesterday at playing at the point I find today that while I am concentrating on the softness, I am failing to remain at the tip. I need to be up there for longer in this line, more than three bars, and if I’m not strict with myself about it, I run into difficulties at the end of the line, where I need to be right up at the tip, to initiate a half bow, up bow, in the upper half. Being strict about it brings its own problems, as with the arm extended to the full, it is tiring, and then I am apt to get stiff. I must be engaging extra muscles unnecessarily.
Playing closer to the bridge in piano is also a challenge, although there’s a fantastic tone to be had there, if I can master it. I do find however that the increased tension in the bow, and therefore the string, tends to increase tension in me, empathetically, as it were. I need to watch out for this, and keep in touch with both emotional and physical sensations in the body, as I play.
In the early afternoon, a slim envelope slides through the door. The results from Trinity. When asked how my exam went, I have replied ‘Well enough, I will have passed. I am not particularly bothered about the result, because I know what went well, and what I wasn’t happy with’. This is true, actually. The point of this exam was to do it, and not to fall apart with tension, or slip back into bad habits, however, I admit to feeling a little edgy as I open the envelope…
94/100. Pretty good, actually. He has been kind and made a lot of positive comments, which is pleasing because they are mostly about things for which I’ve been working hard. He is also realistic. I think my favourite British understatement is about the Ravel Pavane, which was by far the hardest piece to pull off: ‘Tuning was mostly strong’, which is British for ‘Tuning was pretty dodgy in some passages’.
How does this happen, that I come out of an exam thinking that I’ve passed, or maybe scraped a merit, when in fact I have a fairly high distinction? I remember my pilot pal once setting me straight, when I questioned the intonation of a young Grade 8 student; I must have said something like ‘I would have expected better intonation from a Grade 8 student’, whereupon she pointed out that I was listening with the ears of a professional musician (I am a professional in other areas of music performance) and teacher with years of experience, and I am possibly a little out of touch with the required standard. That is certainly the case here. It is not surprising that my general level of musicianship and expression and of course skill, given my history with cello, compares fairly well to that of young students, on their first instruments, who tackled Grade 4 last year, and might tackle Grade 6 in a couple of years.
However, the fact that I am secretly a little pleased with this result does not mean that it shifts my own view of how it went. As Pete put it, ‘It went alright’. I know what I need to work on, and I have a plan as to how I will do so. So no champagne tonight, and back to work tomorrow…