Before I Die…

I didn’t make many resolutions at the beginning of this year, because I knew it would be more of the same: keep a journal faithfully, exercise regularly, blah, blah, blah.  I’m tired of not fulfilling the same resolutions I’ve made year after year and feeling guilty about it.  So, that was the first resolution I did make this year: to be happy and content with who I am and not to work myself into a tizzy if I don’t meet my own lofty goals.

Besides my standing resolutions of “Go Five Places To Which You Have Never Been” and “Eat Five Foods You Have Never Eaten,” both of which I accomplished last year, one of my new resolutions this year is to make some sort of a dent in my “Before I Die” list.  This is a list of pieces I want to learn well, and hopefully perform, before I die.  Eventually, I’ll complete a draft of that list and post it here.  Since I’m still relatively young, I figure that I have plenty of time to accomplish most of the list.

One of the pieces on the “Before I Die” list is La Campanella, from Franz Liszt’s Grandes Etudes de Paganini, S. 141.  This piece is Liszt’s arrangement of the final movement of Niccolò Paganini’s Violin Concerto No. 2 in B minor.  The etude is a study in speed, large leaps, uncomfortable trills and psychological stability, for it takes someone not quite right in the head to possess the will to master such a beast.

I began studying La Campanella for a time in grad school, but realized that I just didn’t have the chops for it at the time.  If I were to have seriously pursued it, I would have had to ignore everything else on which I was working, and I wasn’t prepared to do that.  However, I am proud to say that I was able to play the first three pages at about an eighth of the final tempo.  That counts for something, right?

I love André Watts’ version of La Campanella.  The tempo is just right (I have heard it much to quickly and much too slowly – he satisfies the musical Goldilocks in me), and his technical prowess is incredible to behold.  There are a few moments when the camera captures him head-on, and one can only see him from the chest up; although there is so much happening below the viewer’s line of sight, he is completely still.  But you know that he is working damned hard; if you look carefully at about 2:50, you can see beads of sweat beginning to form on his brow.

But I post this video of Watts not just because I want you, gentle readers, to behold the terror that Liszt released upon the world, but because Watts makes the funniest faces during his performance.  Seriously.  Listen carefully, because he is a fantastic pianist and the piece really is gorgeous, but keep your eyes trained on his face when you can.  I promise you won’t be disappointed.


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. chadhend
    Jan 23, 2009 @ 06:31:13

    Haha, what a great post 🙂 I made the same non-resolution myself 😉 And that is some fantastic piano playing – it’s funny I, a non-player, can hear something like that on the radio and not thing at all about the work that goes into playing it.

    And thanks for your note – is it nice to be missed 🙂


  2. Alex
    Mar 27, 2009 @ 21:53:08

    That is freaking amazing. The video lived up to everything you made it out to be. I laughed, I WTFed… everything. Although I will be annoying and say that, at the end, he seriously seemed to be doing it crazy-fast *ONLY* because he knew he could, and he knew that he was a badass. I have a version done by Kazune Shimizu, which I like a bit better, tempo-wise. 🙂


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