I wrote recently that “It’s strange how life’s roads diverge… yet, sometimes, then cross, run in parallel, until they meet again at some glistening, memorable moment…” – and mentioned, amongst others, Martin Roscoe, Peter Maxwell Davies, and a “Yamaha CFX concert grand”.
Well, in some kind of parallel crystallization (although partly inspired by the above convergence), yesterday I took delivery of a Yamaha Clavinova CLP-525R – which includes “Complex sample sets, painstakingly borrowed from Yamaha’s flagship CFX concert grand…” – and from a retailer who (being based, then, just around the corner from my second childhood home of Blackburn Cathedral) also played a large part in my formative musical years. In fact, the copy of Farewell to Stromness I chose to baptize the piano with actually bears a Reidy’s price sticker on it… – as does, unsurprisingly, a great deal of the sheet music I own (apart from the seventy-year-old collections of Brahms, Bridge, Chopin, Mozart, etc. that I have inherited from my mum: a much better pianist than I).
As much as I would have liked to have claimed back the family Bechstein Model 10 upright from my son: firstly, my ears and hands are no longer worthy of such a wonderful instrument (and, more importantly, he is so much more musical than I, and can therefore give it the justice it deserves); and, secondly, we really don’t have the room! Additionally, with the Clavinova, I can pipe the sound directly to my hearing aids: which not only saves the rest of the household from the caterwauling of my (current) incredible rustiness; but enables me to hear its output more clearly. In fact – being able only to recall the aural and physical aspects of the Bechstein: so embedded, after thirty years of playing it (although I did borrow my sister’s Blüthner for a while, when my hearing originally started to fade, but I wasn’t quite willing to let go completely of my favourite pieces) – one of the astounding features of an electronic keyboard is the ability to adjust the feel and sonority to my own satisfaction (even on what is a relatively basic model)!
I was also surprised by how easily (yet inaccurately) technique came back to me, the first time I sat down and played: musical muscle memory is a great thing – as, of course, is my recently improved hearing. However, my hands appear to have shrunk – or, at least, their span – in the last few years: and Max’s awkward major ninth semiquaver (from middle B to C#) at bar 20 caused me no end of problems!
Practice, of course, should restore some of this flexibility – although the piano will, primarily, be an aid to relaxation: in much the way that listening is. I also hope, however, that such immersion will prompt a return to composition. We shall see.
For the moment, it is just wonderful to be able to riffle through my large collection of music, plonk it on the stand, and restore – however clumsily – relationships with once-familiar friends. A few Chopin mazurkas, later, I think! (And maybe a little Mompou, too…?)