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Fantasie = Impromptu Op. 66 by Frédéric Chopin

embers

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Undoubtedly the most challenging, difficult classical piece I've ever played. I believe, however, that many people appreciate the magnificent sounds in these notes, which Chopin penned.

Yesterday after I practiced, I dug into my music library and located the practice copy I used with the earliest lesson date of October 1962. Part of the enjoyment I have since joining this conversation is to look back at these musical experiences in my life.

My accordion teacher decided that when I entered high school, it was time to step up my participation in AAA classical competition. Both IAA and AAA competitions were often held in Chicago, and I lived only six miles from the city limits. So that part was easy.

My teacher and I talked for several lesson times about this Chopin accordion arrangement. Although he suggested it, I would be the one to give the "go-ahead." With some butterflies already active, I decided "yes."

My recall is that the butterflies were caused by initially reading the tempo and mood indications. Let me build that here. Cut time told me to play twice as fast. Out of the five-page arrangement, there were four pages covered with 4 sixteenth notes beamed together, written in nearly every measure. What covered these components was the tempo of "allegro agitato." Over the months I practiced, I have no idea how many times my teacher wrote on the music, or "demanded" during a lesson: faster...Faster....FASTER! Whenever I reached the Largo tempo 4/5 of the way through the piece, I felt almost out of breath and enjoyed the musical calmness. Of course Chopin directed the musician to begin at the beginning and the coda would bring you to the last page with diminishing speed and volume. The triple ppp of the last two chords was the reward.

With so much on the internet today, I looked up perspectives on how long it might take to learn this exceptionally difficult classical selection. One person noted that three months is a long time to spend on one piece, and that it would take a lot longer to learn this one. I don't know if my time frame was excessive, but I spent almost 18 months in preparation for the AAA competition. My teacher, and the music studio owners/proprietors were pleased with my results.

So I started in the fall of my h.s. frosh year (October 1962) and completed it in spring of my sophomore year. I practiced at home in our kitchen, and Fantasie became probably the only song I ever played that my Mom learned not to like. And she loved music of many genres. Looking back to that experience, I can now more appreciate her hearing angst over those practice sessions.

How did the competition end? Well....I never got to perform the piece. I don't know if I or my Mom shed more tears at life getting in the way. In the spring of 1963, I was the softball pitcher for my h.s. intramural team. This was part of our physical education requirements. I pitched, and a line drive came like a rocket back to my mound. I reached to catch it with my right hand, bare-handed. The ball hit my ring finger head on, the rocket exploded the knuckle sideways, and also turned the pinky finger deep blue/black from the battering. Both fingers eventually healed well, and I still play the accordion. But I never recovered that level of dexterity in my right hand again.

Next time when I went to the music studio, there were a lot of unhappy faces I saw behind the display counters. Who knows? Maybe some of the other students put sports on the back burner when practicing for their competition.

I'm attaching two photos I just took of the sheet music. The cover and page one, showing all the publishing info and music score sample. Note some interesting trivia. This was the clean copy I bought to provide to the judges at the competition. My practice copy cost $0.60, and clean copy increased to $0.75 in 1-1/2 years! That happens, too. :*)

Appreciate your time to look back with me.


Fantasie cover.DSCN3687.jpg

Fantasie score page one.DSCN3689.jpg
 

debra

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Very sad that you got injured and never fully recovered. My wife had this happen to her (right) index finger, and later in another accident the (right) thumb as well. She still plays the accordion but never achieved the dexterity she had before. Even though she could never have performed this Chopin piece (way too difficult) it hurts to see her struggle where she didn't before. But she still enjoys playing and that's the most important thing. Enjoy what you can play. Forget about what you cannot play. There are many pieces I could never dream of playing (and I had no accident) but I enjoy the ones I can master, albeit with a lot of effort.
 

embers

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Very sad that you got injured and never fully recovered. My wife had this happen to her (right) index finger, and later in another accident the (right) thumb as well. She still plays the accordion but never achieved the dexterity she had before. Even though she could never have performed this Chopin piece (way too difficult) it hurts to see her struggle where she didn't before. But she still enjoys playing and that's the most important thing. Enjoy what you can play. Forget about what you cannot play. There are many pieces I could never dream of playing (and I had no accident) but I enjoy the ones I can master, albeit with a lot of effort.

Please tell your wife 2X from me that I know. Glad she continues to play. Yeah, the fun of playing is the best of it no matter how you get there.
 

Glenn

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A huge disappointment for you at that age. After you recovered, did you abandon your aspirations with the accordion or was it a case of setting your sights a little lower?

BTW, there is a nice performance of the Impromptu by John Letierri On YouTube somewhere. It’s a fiendish piece but quite mesmerising.
 

embers

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A huge disappointment for you at that age. After you recovered, did you abandon your aspirations with the accordion or was it a case of setting your sights a little lower?

BTW, there is a nice performance of the Impromptu by John Letierri On YouTube somewhere. It’s a fiendish piece but quite mesmerising.

Hi, Glenn,

First you asked, "Did you abandon your aspirations?" My aim always has been to play and enjoy the accordion. It remains that way, even after that bump in the road. Never considered any alternative.

Second you wanted to know about "...setting your sights a little lower." No, nothing changed for me. You see, even though I didn't have the opportunity to play it in the competition, I did learn it and knew how to play it. During those 18 months, I don't know at what point I had learned the song. It's a little hard to put into words. After the learning was done, I grew with it further by the feeling I expressed through the music. I remember how special that is when any song played shines in that way. A good goal for me to always keep in sight.

Thanks for the John A. Letierri, December 2017 performance. Yes, mesmerising. I watched it twice. I did enjoy his prodigious technical skill with the full keyboard runs, and especially the slower expressions played from 1:26 --> 2:59. A tremendously talented accordionist.
 
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