January 2nd, 2021
So there it was. After an agonising debate [for it was not cheap], and in spite of all the preparation, the template making [look it isn’t that big], the rearranging of furniture, the fretting over how much light would be lost by its presence in the room, still, nothing had prepared me for the sheer bulk of it. Had it been this large in the showroom?
‘Mind the chandelier,’ I said weakly as they wheeled it in.
And now, in the middle of the night, unable to sleep, I crept downstairs to stare at my folly.
It was still there.
And I swear it was grinning at me.
I ran my hand across the high gloss surface, black as an unresponsive cat. I opened the lid and the notes sneered threateningly up.
‘Shut up,’ I muttered.
It was twenty years since I had touched a piano and I had probably forgotten how to read music. I closed my eyes. The shop had given me two weeks to make up my mind; keep it or send it back.
Two weeks in which to play again.
Two weeks in which to justify this wonderful, melodious, beautiful thing.
Bechstein. Grand. Model K. 1933. Berlin.
All right, all right so I’ve made a mistake. So? I would phone the shop in the morning, get rid of it, put the old music back in the loft, listen to Spotify instead. Think of all the space that would return to the room. Think of all the money I would save.
Playing the piano was for serious musicians, people who have always played, sight-reading geniuses.
Is that the time? Really? Three a.m?
‘Start with the Bach you used to play,’ the friend advised.
The friend, it’s worth noting here, was also The Music Teacher, not just any old music teacher, but the best one in town. When she changed from friend into teacher it was a terrifying experience.
Her face changed.
Her voice changed too.
‘I can see exactly what the problem is,’ she said with an air of having found dinner in the deep.
‘Fourth finger on the D!’
D? I thought that was a B?
‘Practice that today and we’ll see how you’re doing tomorrow.’
She waved. And became the familiar old friend again, purring happily. Amazing.
In the days before I’d embarked on what seemed now to be a foolish adventure I had been reading a book in the hope of… I’m not sure what. The book was called Piano Notes and was by Charles Rosen.
‘A proof of how purely physical the process of learning music can be is the fact that if one practices a passage steadily for a quarter of an hour, an immediate improvement does not always appear.’
No help there, then.
I worked out that I had approximately 14 hours before my teacher [let’s just call her M for the purpose of this blog] would pop up again on a zoom call. That is to say 14 hours without sleep or food.
I decided to give the first ten bars of the Bach my best shot.
There were just 14 days in which to decide either to keep the piano or send it back.