I recently decided to try to build a repertoire of pieces I had once played, and I started with the Liszt Un Sospiro. I love learning new pieces but find it a chore to maintain repertoire, so I never have much in my repertoire at any one time.
When I first picked up the Liszt Un Sospiro again after having deserted it about 10 years ago, I was thrilled to hear the sound of it and could hardly wait to relearn those initially perplexing cross-overs. I wanted to make it flow under the fingers as I remembered doing when I first played it.
My teacher, Matt Harre, stressed counting and awareness of pulse for the Lizst Un Sospiro, so that rhythmic elements were clear. He also helped with balance in the agitated, fortissimo middle section of the piece. With my hearing loss, balance issues are sometimes difficult for me. I hear through digital devices (hearing aids) that alter the sound entering my ears, and I have a compressed dynamic range that makes it difficult for me to determine how loudly or softly I am playing and the balance between the two hands. Matt pointed out that in Un Sospiro’s fortissimo section, I needed to bring out the left hand bass melody so it could be more easily heard above the very busy right hand accompaniment.
The technical challenges are always my greatest challenges. I was almost 14 when I began studying piano, and I took lessons for just five years. When I resumed study as a middle-aged adult, I didn’t have years of scale, trill, and arpeggio practice to recall. As an adult student, my aim has been just to enjoy the music I learn and the process of learning, not to perfect my technical skills.
Now after relearning the Liszt Un Sospiro, I’m not sure it is a good repertoire piece because of the technical challenges. Yet I think I was able to understand more of the composer’s intent and to express that as I played. The physical sensation of playing it again was satisfying.