Dec 17, 2008

About nerves and happiness

Last weekend my teacher had her yearly Christmas student recital. For me, this was the second time I participated in these recitals with this teacher. The first time, which was also the first time in four years that I performed in public, I was incredibly nervous to my own surprise. I wasn't really nervous before the recital, but once I started playing my hands started shaking, I had some memory lapses, and all together I made quite some mistakes that I hadn't expected to make. This was all the more surprising to me because I didn't expect to be so nervous for a relatively low-pressure event.

This second time was somewhat different. What may have helped a bit was that the atmosphere was more familiar this time, I knew most of the people that would be there, and I knew there would be good food afterwards :-). More importantly though, was that my preparation was better. One thing I did in the weeks before the recital was to check my memory by playing my recital pieces completely in my head. Any passage that I couldn't remember without being at the keyboard apparently hadn't been memorized well enough, so needed additional work. Also, any passage that I couldn't play a tempo mentally, still needed technical work.

During the recital, I still got a bit nervous in my first recital piece, and I made some mistakes that I never made before. Sure enough, this was the piece that I couldn't reliably play mentally. But during playing, I also found that the parts I had memorized and studied well, were solid enough to be able to continue playing without real blackouts. As a result, by the time I was through the first piece I was getting less and less nervous, and I could start my second piece (the first movement of Beethoven's Mondschein sonata) quite confidently.

Over the years I've been suffering from my nerves almost all the time, and sometimes it was really bad. At those points in time, I've been wondering why I kept putting myself through these ordeals. Get nervous, don't play as well as I'd like, and afterwards feel regrets about not performing up to my own standards. This time was the first time in years that I was able to feel again why I keep doing that. This time while I was playing, I was able to really listen to Beethoven's music, listen to how beautifully it was written, listen to myself creating a new performance of this sonata. I'm certainly not an exceptional pianist, far from it I would say, but I felt incredibly happy to just listen to myself recreating this music.

And that's why I keep doing it.

No comments: