The American piano teacher says, “Eat. Sleep. Practice. Eat. Practice. Sleep,” my professor states. “What about the Viennese teacher?” I ask. He replies, “I played Schubert for my teacher, and he said, ‘You practice too much. Go to a heuriger [vineyard restaurant typical on the outskirts of Vienna] and drink a glass of wine and think about Schubert.'” I laugh. “You have to practice, too,” he adds.
Today was my second piano lesson at the music university. Despite gnawing apprehension both weeks, lessons so far have been great. Dr. K (for short) is a rather rotund man in his mid-60’s — both a bit intimidating as the head of the university conducting department and a successful musician in Vienna and very likeable for his sense of humor and affirming style of teaching.
For those of you interested in repertoire, last week I played “Ondine” (Ravel) and we talked about repertoire ideas (Schubert, Schumann, Ravel, Strauss, Rachmaninoff, Beethoven…) A trip to the university library gave me more than enough to tackle! Today’s lesson was all Schubert — together we enjoyed working through Schubert’s “Fantasie for Four Hands,” and he gave me lots of good feedback on the first movement of Schubert’s Bb Sonata. This coming week, hopefully a vocal song cycle and some chamber music will be added to the list. Eeks!
As to practicing, I’m dividing my time between three locations for now — church, where there’s a decent piano; home, where there is a new piano (but a disagreeable neighbor); and uni, where studios with lovely pianos are available after the school day.
A New Routine
I crave routine as much as I relish adventure. While it’s still a work in progress, here’s an idea of a typical teaching morning: the alarm intrudes at 6:00; I rush out the door at 7:00 for the 7:04 train (a double-decker fast train that takes only 24 minutes to Mödling; I like sitting upstairs reading or contrasting the busy streets, scrap metal yard, and construction with the glimpse of the cathedral spire, vineyards tinged with fall, and a castle on a distant hillside; the coolest thing [for a music nerd] about these double-decker trains is that when they pick up speed leaving a station, the friction between train and track produces an ascending major scale, which goes slightly out-of-tune before turning into an industrial whine); school starts at 8:00, and I traipse off to my first class with the teacher to be greeted by students (who are supposed to stand when the teacher enters) and to dive into the day’s topic; lately, all we seem to talk about is the U.S. elections (and, although I’m a bit tired of the topic, it has stimulated more discussion and debate than I would get at home; photo: voting this year was a bit different — absentee ballot delivered to the U.S. embassy); after between 3 and 5 classes, interspersed with chatting with teachers or whatnot, I’m free to go home, usually around noon. (And, I work just 4 days a week.) Hopefully, afternoons will be mostly practicing, with a church event one evening a week and maybe a weekly community choir rehearsal starting in December.
New City Wien
Sundays are good days. It’s been a privilege and challenge to dive into the music team, both with piano and synthesizer (if you can believe it!). Our music leader is really creative, making the most of the instruments available. This past week was an Open House; it felt good to see new faces helping fill the space, and there was lots of visiting before and after the service. With the addition of a professional harmonica player (!), our music team consisted of guitar, piano, synthesizer, banjo, harmonica, and percussion. Aside from music, right now we’re in the midst of a sermon series about the city and God’s redemptive work throughout Scripture and history.
Observing people in the city — on the train, along the sidewalk, in the hallway — gives an ever-expanding view of the city and its diversity. …The old man on the tram writing in a notebook with a meticulous right-to-left Arabic script, his bookmark a Burger King business card announcing, “Have it your way.” The beggar on the train, whose joints are so obviously misshapen that I remember seeing her last summer when I was in Vienna. The young children waiving goodbyes to middle-aged parents outside a Catholic elementary school. The drawn features of the neighbor complaining that the piano music is too loud. (Maybe next time I’ll be able to really see her, rather than being absorbed with my own frustration.) The familiar feature of acquaintances of who are becoming friends….
…Next time, how the fall holidays happily interrupted the new routine, and an apartment tour.