As I'm feeling more and more confident on the 1st movement, my focus has now moved to the 2nd movement. I had begun my overview of the piece in the order Mvt 1, Mvt 4 and a bit of Mvt 3, but had really not done anything with Movement 2 until this week. As I take note of my process on this Hindemith Sonata, I am hoping that I can continue to learn it much faster than the Tuba Sonata I learned last year. The fact that I feel this accompaniment is overall easier than the Tuba Sonata helps a lot. That said, "easier" for Hindemith isn't necessarily saying a lot. As with all the Hindemith accompaniments, there is no predictability or intuition that can help. Success will come with careful reading and somehow developing at least some sort of memory of the patterns, and harmonies.
I started serious work on this on Monday. The movement is short--only 5 and 1/2 pages, so my goal for the day was to tackle two pages. The first page came together relatively quick. While the unpredictable nature is there, one can find distinct melodies and patterns that help a lot. I was able to move from very slow to almost performance tempo in a reasonable amount of time, so I moved on to page two.
Page two was a very different story. The tempo of this movement is slow--half the tempo of the first movement. Despite this, the second page had many 16th note passages (or licks) and several of these were very difficult to determine fingering. Hindemith has a way of writing patterns that throw out all traditional fingering patterns. Scale and arpeggio fingerings simply won't work--its as if you need an extra finger. To make matters worse, this movement is very delicate and expressive. I needed to determine fingering compromises, but compromises that would not sacrifice the legato and staccato expressive phrasing. There are still a few spots I may need to change, but overall, I determined my fingering and then it was back to the slow repetitions. For this page, I stayed very slow until I was quite confident with the material. Speeding up went easy, but I'm still holding it back to about 2/3's tempo to ensure accuracy.
I had time to continue on to page three and thankfully, it was more like page one. With only two and one-half pages left, I was able to finish the movement at 2/3's tempo on Tuesday. The fourth page was much like the second with many more tricky fingering challenges. I ran the entire movement at 75 to the quarter a few times, but the bulk of my time was spent very slowly. My routine for the 2nd and 4th page went something like this on Tuesday:
This movement has some very intricate and trickiness for the pianist. Fun note--it is mostly piano with little trombone--so it isn't something to take lightly. I expect to take several steps backwards tomorrow and probably redo much of the "ramp up" again, but I feel that in one more day, I'll be able to confidently say I have the 2nd movement just under tempo.
Why am I sharing all this? I hope it helps a pianist reading to see some of the steps that might work to learn a difficult piece. There is a lot of similarity in learning any piece, but a piece like Hindemith brings out many troubles that a piece like Beethoven wouldn't. My hope is to keep varying the practice and keeping things interesting for me rather than getting bogged down or perhaps rushing the process--something that is oh so simple for me to do. (I love to be impatient.)
For all pieces, a simple careful process will really speed up the learning time. I learned this the hard way last time around with the Hindemith Tuba Sonata and am hoping to reap the benefits of experience on this Trombone Sonata.
As a side note, my practice usually involves working on several other pieces as well. I am practicing three other pieces for the recital the Hindemith will be played. One is another challenging piece that will need ample time, but the others are readily accessible. I'm also working on pieces for a Gospel recording that will be recorded in the Twin Cities in the next month. All-in-all, I have a lot on my "musical plate" but keeping the process organized and purposeful will make it all happen. Enjoy your practice!