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Bar 34. Trills

January 27th

It’s hard to believe ten days have passed. In my state of manic determination [how long will this last?] I have memorised the fingering for the Bach and now, for the first time, I can really hear the fabulous sound of this Bechstein. I am playing more smoothly, the stumbles are disappearing and I can hear the music too. The breath of sound in this small Victorian room is astonishing. Low January sunlight shows the dust motes on the lid.

My last Bechstein was an upright, its sound haunting and melodious. Many years before, my aunt, briefly a concert pianist before personal tragedy stopped her in her tracks, had owned a Bechstein grand. I remember it; shiny black with a lid that flew up like a giant bat’s wing. I had loved listening to her play it. I was three years old and had just started piano lessons. Music flowed through my grandmother’s house. Forever after the sound of that particular piano, velvet and beautiful, stayed with me. A childhood image tangled up with my aunt’s sorrowful widowhood. A piece of music she often played became lodged in my memory. As yet that piece had no name.

So now as I pick up from where I left of, I want to play that Mozart sonata again.

It isn't easy.

I can’t do it, I tell M who replies encouragingly that of course I can.

She has on her no nonsense voice which is comforting.

I write the date on the corner of the first page and go on to mess up the trills.

M had told me that the trills were meant to be glittering embellishments.

The way I am playing them they sound more like an ambulance siren.

Did they have those in Mozart’s time?

Three days pass. The family’s collective nerves are wearing a bit thin, my wrist is going into a lockdown all on its own, my shoulder is beginning to change shape and I seem to be developing a Quasimodo hump on my back.

I drink my morning coffee and drum my fingers on the table while my husband watches me silently.

‘Do they have pianos in the Warnford?’ he inquires.

The Warnford is the local hospital for people with mental health issues.

‘I could bring you an octave of grapes,’ he suggests. ‘Black and green. You can practice squashing them.’

On the fourth day I watch a Youtube video on trills. Everything you need to know about them. This should do the trick, I think.

It seems the problem is with my shoulder. No, it’s with my wrist. Then again maybe…I give up and go for a distanced walk in the park.

It has been snowing and there is a deformed snowman sitting on a park bench. It reminds me of my piano-playing Quasimodo hump.

Why can’t I make my trills glitter?

In the distance I hear an ambulance. It sounds familiar, somehow.

On day six the neighbour bangs on the window. Clearly the trills disturb him too.

I am about to give up when something rather magical happens. Perhaps it was the neighbour’s fury that did it but just for a moment, a fraction of a second. my trill glitters.

‘Did you hear that?’ I shout excitedly. ‘I’m getting there!’

And suddenly, I am no longer being an ambulance driver with a siren but playing, albeit slowly, something that sounds vaguely like a Mozart sonata.

There are six pages of this first movement…perhaps I’ll just go lie down for a moment….

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Jan 28, 2021

My mother had a Bechstein baby grand. My brother was the one who played though he's mainly a cellist, and since he already had pianos coming out of his ears he gave it away to a piano specialist when our mother died, who said he'd take it and be doing him a favour as £1000's of work needed doing to it... and that was the last we heard of it! Can't wait to hear you play!!

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