I continue in the Hindemith journey. Since my last post on this topic, I have spent considerable time working on the first three movements, each of which is now more-or-less at performance tempo. The slow and careful time has payed off greatly and the last rehearsal with the soloist was quite encouraging. Now it is on to next steps.
First off, I need to be patient and finish the fourth movement. I started this earlier and it is increasingly tempting to try to push it ahead quickly since I had this jump start, but the more I play it, the more I recognize that I really need to start this one from scratch. I'm working page by page as if I've never read it before. I really believe that this detailed practice is going to pay off in the long-run.
It would be easy to keep practicing the first three movement at performance tempo, but there are more and more places I discover that need detail work. There will always be some places that need extra attention in a piece like this, but I want to avoid letting things get careless just because I'm feeling confident.
One of the things I'm noticing as I learn this piece is the great challenge of balancing mechanical exactness in practice with expressive musicality. In the second movement, I particularly noticed that war inside where I simply want to repeat to get my "reps" in, but playing it musically and expressively helped me learn things faster.
Over the years I've had many students try to argue that it was so much easier to practice notes and rhythms first and then add the dynamics and musicality second. My experience has always been--and continues to be in this piece--that the musicality helps the brain learn. It removes the disconnect and lets the music "make sense" and when things make sense, they are much easier to learn. This was a good learning experience for me and reinforced some things that I already believed.