Back to Beethoven

Today I start my third week of sheltering at home and working from home. Also my first week in that scenario of on call rotation. Thankfully, the weekend was quiet, and the weather improved to the point where both Terry and I got out of the house and worked in the yard Sunday afternoon. I needed the exercise to counteract the back and neck pain I’ve been suffering from in my non-ergonomic home office.

Terry also accompanied me to pickup our second order from Dillons (local Kroger affiliate) and we decided to run the van through the car wash. For Terry, it’s been weeks since he has let the house. He’s at increased risk for the coronavirus and it would likely prove fatal for him. He self-isolates during flu season, and the coronavirus pandemic meant he’s had to extend an already months-long isolation. The sunshine and brief excursion did both of us good.

I work up Sunday knowing I needed to make a fresh loaf of the Oatmeal Sandwich bread to go with the sourdough stuffing, boneless chicken thighs and corn I’d made the day before as a ‘care package’ from my father and uncle. I’m still tweaking the recipe and Ron, my uncle, had expressed interest in trying the ‘original’ version which uses three tablespoons of molasses. I had just popped that loaf in the oven when he messaged me to state he and Dad were going on a road trip to Cottonwood Falls. I was a bit confused as I though they were going to meet us at Dillons when we picked up our order and I would transfer the care package to them. Since it was going to be a gorgeous perfect spring day in Kansas, my only warning was the Flint Hills ranchers would probably be burning their fields this time of year (they were) and a request for a sketch of the oldest still in use county courthouse in Kansas. Now I wish I’d let the bread rise just a tad longer since I didn’t need to have it finished by noon and cool by one o’clock.

Once back from our pickup, Terry and I worked in the yard for a couple of hours. I received a call from Ron as we were wrapping up that they were on the way back and had just reach Olathe (about a half hour south of Lansing). Dad and Ron had a good road trip and returned home with dinner ready to reheat in the oven.

At five o’clock, we had our second weekly video chat with our offspring and one very sleepy grandson. Everyone is staying healthy and coping. It’s good to see them if only briefly.

As six o’clock approached, and the weather was still pleasant outside, we decided to grill chicken thighs with a slightly tweaked standard rub, a pot of baked beans and an attempt to grill cauliflower which was not totally successful. While everything was cooking on the pellet smoker, I went searching for my Beethoven piano book that I had from late high school and early college. Since my daughter has been serenading her neighbors (and Facebook live streaming it) every day at five o’clock Pacific, I thought I should start playing piano again. I couldn’t find my music book so I asked her for a link to the site she mentioned that had public domain music scores available to download to a PDF.

The site is called IMSLP Petrucci Music Library. I did a search for Beethoven. A very long time ago, in grade school, I performed Fur Elise and the first movement of the Moonlight Sonata (Op. 27, No. 2). I got distracted searching for the correct Sonata (Beethoven composed so many of them!). I found a score I thought would work and downloaded the PDF to my tablet (because we need ink in our printer and I just thought it would be cool to read a piano score from my tablet).

I had conveniently forgotten that the first movement is in a key I despise! I hate sharps and C sharp minor has four of them. Ugh! And my husband, the guitarist and jazz trumpeter, laughs at me about as much as my daughter, who minored or double majored (depends on how you look at it?) in music theory. I learned to read music and play piano a year or two after I learned to read English. None of my local home-grown piano teachers in rural Kansas were much interested in disseminating music theory to a five-year-old.

After a half hour of torture for my pre-arthritic and clumsy fingers, I whined at my daughter over our Hangout chat about double sharps and natural plus sharp in the music score, even going so far as to send her a screenshot with red markings for emphasis. Her response was “it’s a music theory thing” and I just wanted to bang my head on the keyboard.

Me: Double sharp!! Just put G !!
Daughter:It’s a theory thing
Me: And natural plus sharp!, ugh! Crazy theory
Daughter: The natural plus sharp is unnecessary
Me: Completely!!
Daughter: They could’ve put nothing
Me: Exactly

When I was ten or twelve, I could play this entire first movement from memory. I’ve probably played it hundreds of times. Now, however, my muscle memory has gone missing and my ability to transpose on-the-fly (basically sight reading) is using parts of my brain clogged with cob webs and dust.

So, my personal music challenge this week is to relearn (I do NOT say re-master as I was never that good) the first movement of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata. I also want to learn the second movement, which at only one page should be doable. I will however, not ever attempt the third movement, which the Wikipedia article states is “The stormy final movement (C♯ minor), in sonata form, is the weightiest of the three . . . demands lively and skillful playing, great stamina, and is significantly more demanding technically than the 1st and 2nd movements.”

3rd Movement (Presto agitato) Performed by Paul Pitman

If my fingers recover from yesterday, I may attempt Für Elise over lunch. I found a score from a 1918 publication that looks playable. Don’t expect any live Facebook streaming from me but I may provide audio updates at a later time.

One thought on “Back to Beethoven”

  1. I agree. Some music keys just show off the composer/artist’s ability.
    The first I heard about the supposed meeting at Dillons was on our return.
    Remember: my memory isn’t much better than your father’s. 😉

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