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Playing piano concertos — why or why not? (Read 1380 times)

Offline pianowhisper

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Playing piano concertos — why or why not?
« on: December 15, 2020, 08:46:31 PM »
Hello to all,

Recently I've been wondering about a subject that, actually, has come to my mind multiple times in the past and I'd love to hear some opinions and maybe experiences shared! :)

As a "personal background" to this question: I am merely a piano and music lover and I've never had piano lessons. Although I had electronic keyboard (those with 61 keys) lessons when I was a kid, I'd say I am pretty much self-taught on piano, especially from the time I got myself my first upright after years of saving for it. (With all this babbling, my point is I am not a music student or a professional pianist.)

So, is it worth it to study and practice piano concertos if one has no access whatsoever to an orchestra? I've never fully considered the idea of practicing any because, all this time, I'd ask myself "why for?".
I expect people could argue that no one learns concertos expecting orchestras to be playing with them whenever they want, but then again, I imagine that probably most of these people are students or professional musicians that eventually will have that opportunity.

I'm not familiar with the matter, but is there such a thing as archives, videos, or audios of orchestra parts without the piano? I can imagine it being roughly a solution for practicing, learning, and playing a piece in a way that doesn't feel "incomplete" — although that solution may be a bit unpractical and not too feasible. I'm aware that nothing is a waste and we can always learn something with whatever piece of music, either musically or technically. I guess I'm leaning more towards the "performance" practicality of these pieces (like I said, in a way it doesn't feel incomplete).

With all that being said, I'd just like to hear some opinions on the subject. Do you play any piano concertos? How was your experience with them?
I'm not sure if I got my point across, but I'd love to further discuss these ideas in the forum. :)

Thanks for reading!
Best,
pw

Offline thalbergmad

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Re: Playing piano concertos — why or why not?
«Reply #1 on: December 15, 2020, 09:04:51 PM »
Even going back 40 years, one could purchase 33rpm records that were just the orchestral part of a piano Concerto. They were called Music Minus One and I think I still have a couple of them.
Technology has improved somewhat to say the least and I recall someone in a showroom in Soho playing the piano part to the Grieg Concerto whilst the piano itself was playing the orchestral part.
Even without this, many classical concertos can be played as solos some romantic concertos have been transcribed as solos and an even larger number for 2 pianos, so I wouldn't let the absence of an orchestra put you off exploring the genre.

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Offline volcanoadam

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Re: Playing piano concertos — why or why not?
«Reply #2 on: December 15, 2020, 09:45:07 PM »
There's plenty of piano concertos minus one on YouTube, you'll have no problem finding any of the more popular ones. I recently watched a review of one of Casio's hybrid pianos and it has orchestral accompaniments for few most popular ones recorded.
Is it worth it? Sure it is. If there were any at my level I would've jump into it without any hesitation, just for the pleasure of it.
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Offline pianowhisper

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Re: Playing piano concertos — why or why not?
«Reply #3 on: December 15, 2020, 10:04:38 PM »
Thank you for reading and replying!

That is very interesting! With regards to transcriptions, I have considered the idea and still want to further explore it and see how it goes, but since I have a soft spot for the sound of the orchestra, I'd probably lean more towards those orchestra-only type of recordings. And I must admit I didn't know much about them: I had searched for options in the past, including on YouTube, but I wondered if there were other possible solutions.

Is it worth it? Sure it is. If there were any at my level I would've jump into it without any hesitation, just for the pleasure of it.
I'm not completely familiar with concertos so it'd be a learning experience for me, and I'm not sure myself if I'd be ready (definitely not any Rach for me for that matter... ;D), but I was thinking of exploring some Mozart, maybe Beethoven, in the future (kinda distant future, since I've been away from a piano for 10 months now due to the pandemic :'( haha).

Thank you again for taking the time to reply! I appreciate it very much.
Best,
pw

Online j_tour

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Re: Playing piano concertos — why or why not?
«Reply #4 on: December 16, 2020, 12:45:20 AM »
With all that being said, I'd just like to hear some opinions on the subject. Do you play any piano concertos? How was your experience with them?
I'm not sure if I got my point across, but I'd love to further discuss these ideas in the forum. :)

I haven't messed around with orchestral accompaniments (and I don't really know anybody in town who would just feel like "jamming" by playing the orchestral parts in piano reduction, although I'm sure I could pay someone to do it).

I do read through from time to time some of the Mozart concertos:  I think the Jenamy ("Jeunehomme") isn't too lacking without an accompaniment, and you can fill in quite a bit in, especially the first movement, where the orchestra is very involved.  The final movement and the second I don't find need the orchestral accompaniment, really.  Not as much, anyway.

While it's not technically too difficult, it is very light and charming:  not the more typically "heavy" of the last concerti of Mozart. 

Specifically, it relates to me wanting to acquire a more light, improvisational feel at the keyboard, so I couldn't necessarily recommend it to you personally, it's just what I like.  Also, there are some little "tricks" in the keyboard writing you can steal and use for your own purposes, if you want.

Oh, and from Bach the D minor keyboard concerto (it was originally for violin or something, I think, but it's probably equally well known if not moreso in the keyboard version), I don't find it missing too much just played solo.  And, there too, you have a few moments where you can push some of the (small) orchestra parts onto the keyboard.  It's a little darkly devious piece, but it's a lot of fun to play, just messing around with it.  More difficult than the Jenamy Mozart concerto, probably, at least in a few spots, but certainly reasonable for about an intermediate-ish player.

Anyway, the upshot is that at least in my experience, you don't necessarily need a full orchestral accompaniment, even if it is a small orchestra like in the case of Bach. 

Everything can be adapted to your tastes, especially if you're just looking to play some good music and don't need to sell a few thousand tickets to begin to break even just paying the musicians. 

Unless, you know, if you enjoy playing with the technology behind some of the play-along records, in which case, then you can do that as well.

But there's no shortage of things you can play, solo, even if intended originally as concerti for keyboard and orchestra. 

Of course, you won't have the sound of, at least the strings and a few horns, but for me I just like to play the keyboard parts and try to integrate some of the orchestral parts as well at the keyboard, so we have different goals.
My name is Nellie, and I take pride in helping protect the children of my community through active leadership roles in my local church and in the Boy Scouts of America.  Bad word make me sad.

Offline lostinidlewonder

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Re: Playing piano concertos — why or why not?
«Reply #5 on: December 16, 2020, 01:48:08 AM »
A large number of concertos have the orchestra written as a 2nd piano so those who practice them can coordinate with others. So find a duet partner and the experience will be a lot better, or record both parts and layer them together :).
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Offline pianowhisper

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Re: Playing piano concertos — why or why not?
«Reply #6 on: December 16, 2020, 03:44:05 PM »
Thank you very much for the replies and insight! I'm excited to try these options out whenever possible. :)

I do read through from time to time some of the Mozart concertos:  I think the Jenamy ("Jeunehomme") isn't too lacking without an accompaniment, and you can fill in quite a bit in, especially the first movement, where the orchestra is very involved.  The final movement and the second I don't find need the orchestral accompaniment, really.  Not as much, anyway.

While it's not technically too difficult, it is very light and charming:  not the more typically "heavy" of the last concerti of Mozart.

Specifically, it relates to me wanting to acquire a more light, improvisational feel at the keyboard, so I couldn't necessarily recommend it to you personally, it's just what I like.  Also, there are some little "tricks" in the keyboard writing you can steal and use for your own purposes, if you want.

Oh, and from Bach the D minor keyboard concerto (it was originally for violin or something, I think, but it's probably equally well known if not moreso in the keyboard version), I don't find it missing too much just played solo.  And, there too, you have a few moments where you can push some of the (small) orchestra parts onto the keyboard.  It's a little darkly devious piece, but it's a lot of fun to play, just messing around with it.  More difficult than the Jenamy Mozart concerto, probably, at least in a few spots, but certainly reasonable for about an intermediate-ish player.
Thank you for the suggestions j_tour! I'd say I'm leaning more towards concertos from the classical era, but I might try the Bach in the future too.
I have not listened to all of Mozart concerti, although so far I really like #12 K414 in A major, #25 K503 in C major, and the D minor and C minor ones, so quite a handful from his late era. ;D But my "favourites" change all the time lol. I'm definitely going to take a look at some of the others I haven't yet, including the Jeunehomme which is not completely unfamiliar to me. I'd guess the ones I first mentioned, especially the D minor, are more on the advanced side, so maybe not a good first pick, but when I have the opportunity I'll see if that can go somewhere.

Best,
pw

Offline arantanen

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Re: Playing piano concertos — why or why not?
«Reply #7 on: December 31, 2020, 07:06:34 AM »
I must recommend Tomplay. It provides orchestral accompaniment for some of the more popular piano concertos like Schumann's, Grieg's, some Mozart's, Chopin's and Tchaikovsky's piano concerto. I personally have used it for Rach2 and Mozart 23 and plan to use it with Grieg's or Schumann's piano concerto (still not sure, which one I'll chose). It's also quite cheap.

Offline pianowhisper

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Re: Playing piano concertos — why or why not?
«Reply #8 on: January 04, 2021, 10:48:44 AM »
Thank you arantanen,
I did come across Tomplay when I was looking into options. I also found others that seemed good quality and free which is also nice. In any case, I posted this thread more out of curiosity because currently I can't play or practice, unfortunately. So, I'm holding on to the idea for the future. :)

Offline timothy42b

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Re: Playing piano concertos — why or why not?
«Reply #9 on: January 04, 2021, 01:23:56 PM »
I think you should give it a try and put the results up on youtube.  You can always set it to "private" and share only with friends. 

I do feel the need to point out something.  This may not apply to you, hopefully doesn't, but it should be noted.

A significant number of students (and some church organists - but I digress) can't play with a metronome to save their lives.  If you can't play with a metronome providing external time, you will face a significant challenge playing along with a recording that essentially does the same thing. 
Tim

Offline pianowhisper

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Re: Playing piano concertos — why or why not?
«Reply #10 on: January 04, 2021, 02:05:50 PM »
I definitely want to give it a try whenever possible! I might share the results on the Audition Room in the future if I see it could work out for me.
I can see why playing along with a recording could be challenging when it comes to controlling tempo, and I can't say if I would have an easy or hard time since I've never tried it before (recordings/concertos, I mean. Of course I've played with a metronome in the past, although one could say not as much as I should). By all means I'd be willing to try it out and work on it regardless.

Offline aaron_banks

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Re: Playing piano concertos — why or why not?
«Reply #11 on: February 04, 2021, 10:16:10 AM »
Maybe you should try the Music Minus One series. TomPlay has limited repertory. It's easier to play classical concertos with MMO as the beat is steady which corresponds more with the style of that music. Which works are you interested in?

Offline pianowhisper

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Re: Playing piano concertos — why or why not?
«Reply #12 on: February 05, 2021, 01:08:02 PM »
Maybe you should try the Music Minus One series. TomPlay has limited repertory. It's easier to play classical concertos with MMO as the beat is steady which corresponds more with the style of that music. Which works are you interested in?
Thank you @aaron_banks,

Yes, I did come across Music Minus One on YouTube I believe. I was more interested in concertos from the classical era such as Mozart and maybe some Beethoven. In any case, as I mentioned above, I don't have access to a piano (as of today, for almost a year), so I am just keeping some ideas in mind for the future (whenever that might be...).

Best,
pw

Offline anacrusis

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Re: Playing piano concertos — why or why not?
«Reply #13 on: February 05, 2021, 04:20:16 PM »
I only played a handful of concertos during my studies because I generally did not like practise parts of things, I liked to have the full musical "product" all under my own two hands ;D

As a general answer to this type of question I would say - if you want to practise some concertos, practise some concertos! If you don't want to practise some concertos, don't practise some concertos!

And do post a recording in the Audition Room if you feel that could be a motivating factor! I will make sure to listen and drop a comment if I see it :)

Offline pianowhisper

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Re: Playing piano concertos — why or why not?
«Reply #14 on: February 05, 2021, 10:19:54 PM »
Thank you very much, @anacrusis

And do post a recording in the Audition Room if you feel that could be a motivating factor! I will make sure to listen and drop a comment if I see it :)
I think I will eventually!
Forums like Pianostreet are pretty much the only place I have for feedback since I have no teacher, and none of my family or friends has learned / is learning an instrument or music in general (as shocking as that might sound for some). I've always played mostly for myself I guess, but sometimes I miss some feedback and opinions. From having gotten so many encouraging comments on playing concertos, I am most likely going to drop a recording in the Audition Room at some point; it only depends on whether I will be able to play something or not, of course ;D , and on how long it will take until I can go back to practicing the piano (a month ago I was even "playing" some passages from Mozart concertos on my table, for lack of better... lol).

Offline timothy42b

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Re: Playing piano concertos — why or why not?
«Reply #15 on: February 06, 2021, 03:51:51 PM »
I can see why playing along with a recording could be challenging when it comes to controlling tempo, and I can't say if I would have an easy or hard time since I've never tried it before (recordings/concertos, I mean.

Let me go a different direction here. 

No, you shouldn't do it, and yes you should.

Well, you could practice playing concertos with a recorded accompaniment as a method of increasing skill through a different challenge, and because it can be kind of fun and help with your motivation.  It's a good diagnostic for how well you handle internal and external time, for example.

But here's the downside.  You are continuing to train yourself to be a solitary player.  I typed musician and then changed it, not to be critical but to exaggerate to make a point.

Music is communication and communication requires other people.  Concertos are designed to be played with other people.  (and none of us are rich enough to hire an orchestra nor good enough to be paid to play with one) 

However there are other ways to play piano with other people, and the rewards are tremendous.  Practicing concertos WITH THE GOAL of playing better with other people is a great goal.  Practicing concertos without intending to be part of an ensemble of some size is limiting. 
Tim

Offline dogperson

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Re: Playing piano concertos — why or why not?
«Reply #16 on: February 06, 2021, 06:59:35 PM »
@Timothy
My experience as an adult amateur who plays classical piano:
The opportunity to play with an ensemble is about zero.  If you want to play other genres, sure, you can find opportunities; but Im not finding classical ensembles nor have I seen any adult amateur mention playing in one.  It’s too bad.

If you dream of playing a piano concerto with an orchestra, but recognize you never will (which is most adults), play with a recording and ENJOY

Offline pianowhisper

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Re: Playing piano concertos — why or why not?
«Reply #17 on: February 06, 2021, 09:11:03 PM »
Thank you very much for the replies.

But here's the downside.  You are continuing to train yourself to be a solitary player.  I typed musician and then changed it, not to be critical but to exaggerate to make a point.

Music is communication and communication requires other people.  Concertos are designed to be played with other people.  (and none of us are rich enough to hire an orchestra nor good enough to be paid to play with one) 

However there are other ways to play piano with other people, and the rewards are tremendous.  Practicing concertos WITH THE GOAL of playing better with other people is a great goal.  Practicing concertos without intending to be part of an ensemble of some size is limiting. 
I partially agree with you here. Of course, concertos are designed to be played with an ensemble, and I bet the rewards are tremendous. However, I tend to share @dogperson 's opinion that playing pieces of music of such magnitude (like piano concertos) with an ensemble, although ideal, is realistically not feasible to most people, whichever "ensemble" you might consider.

Nowadays, classical music is unfortunately not as popular among people as it should be. I say this from my own experience, but, throughout my life, I have hardly ever come across people who play classical music or even know much of it (other than the "mainstream" pieces everyone knows). With this, all I mean is that you don't stumble across people who enjoy classical music, let alone play it, on a regular basis. I feel you meet them in very specific circumstances most of the time. It is much easier to know people with whom you could form an "ensemble" to play a pop/rock song than it is to play a concerto or other chamber or orchestral music, like it was mentioned above.

I guess we all would always practice a piano concerto with the idea (or maybe rather a "fantasy" in our minds) of playing with an ensemble. I started this thread because I didn't know much about orchestra parts recordings, but now I do see how meaningful they can be for amateur pianists and music lovers like myself. So in the lack of all the odds to have such an opportunity, being a solitary player can be better than being no player. As we say in my home country, "he who owns no dog hunts with a cat" ;D

Offline timothy42b

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Re: Playing piano concertos — why or why not?
«Reply #18 on: February 07, 2021, 02:43:15 PM »
Thank you very much for the replies.
I partially agree with you here. Of course, concertos are designed to be played with an ensemble, and I bet the rewards are tremendous. However, I tend to share @dogperson 's opinion that playing pieces of music of such magnitude (like piano concertos) with an ensemble, although ideal, is realistically not feasible to most people, whichever "ensemble" you might consider.


Playing music with others is a totally different experience.  It transforms a speech into a conversation.

Piano is not ideal for that, and classical piano even less so.  There is something called chamber music, but the entry level skill required is high.  There is also four hand piano, but that may also be true for that, I'm not sure. 

What I'm suggesting is not so much that playing concertos is a bad idea, but that we clearly differentiate between the concepts of playing a concerto as solo skill development, and playing a concerto as an interaction between musicians (and maybe an audience.) 

And there's another path, multitracking.  Christopher Bill is a performance artist who produces arrangements where he plays all the parts, and gets paid out of youtube hits.  I've met him and even played one of his arrangements (I only played one of the 12 parts!
 It was extremely challenging, he's a pro and I'm not).  In this one he adds a couple other performers but most of his videos are just him.  This is an international list and you may not all be familiar with the Addams Family TV series from 1964 but that's what he's playing.

&feature=youtu.be
Tim

Offline dogperson

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Re: Playing piano concertos — why or why not?
«Reply #19 on: February 07, 2021, 02:56:32 PM »
Timothy
Where can an adult amateur pianist with good skills find a chamber music group?  I’ve not found any opportunities for classical music,  but I assume you have found some. 

Offline timothy42b

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Re: Playing piano concertos — why or why not?
«Reply #20 on: February 08, 2021, 01:18:47 PM »
Timothy
Where can an adult amateur pianist with good skills find a chamber music group?  I’ve not found any opportunities for classical music,  but I assume you have found some.

Sorry, I'm not going to be any help here.  I have very little interest in classical music. 

I do (or did before COVID) a lot of ensemble music but mostly on brass instruments.  About the only piano ensemble music I've done has been with Praise and Worship bands in church settings, playing off lead sheets or sometimes just the words with the chords penciled in above the verses.  That doesn't require high levels of skill, because you can make that as easy or hard as you want.  But you do have to have very good time or you get behind the singers and guitars.

The most fun I've had has been playing in the pit for musicals.  The main keyboard part required a higher level of skill than I have, but probably you could do okay.  They also used additional keyboards to cover string parts and those were pads and fills, not too bad.   
Tim

Online j_tour

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Re: Playing piano concertos — why or why not?
«Reply #21 on: February 09, 2021, 05:52:29 AM »
Sorry, I'm not going to be any help here.  I have very little interest in classical music. 

I do (or did before COVID) a lot of ensemble music but mostly on brass instruments.  About the only piano ensemble music I've done has been with Praise and Worship bands in church settings, playing off lead sheets or sometimes just the words with the chords penciled in above the verses.  That doesn't require high levels of skill, because you can make that as easy or hard as you want.  But you do have to have very good time or you get behind the singers and guitars.

I think you're absolutely right on:  even if just for the experience, it'd certainly be worth dipping one's toe into different styles of music.  I'm sure the OP can pick up reading from leadsheets in a few minutes, if hasn't done already.

There's nothing that can be compared to the kind of pleasures that can be had when having a successful, almost telepathic experience playing with others.  Some of the most fun you can have with your clothes on!  :)

Chamber music?  I would think the best places to find players is maybe a local school or university...or Craigslist/classified ads, I suppose, if you get lucky and can weed out the flakes.

I don't have an encyclopœdic memory of good works for small (classical) combos, but I think there are some that probably could be handled.

For example, just as a duo, Beethoven's variations on Mozart's Mädchen oder Weibchen (I think I got the title right...it's from The Magic Flute) for cello and piano is not too bad.  It's kind of weird music, in some ways, in the piano accompaniment, but not all that difficult.  The cello is really the "star" of the piece, although the piano has plenty to do, not just plunking down chords.

Or one might have an easier time finding a singer and playing some of the classic Lieder of Schubert, for example, which tend to not be very difficult.  OK, The Erlkönig could beat up your hands pretty good in terms of needed stamina for the very fast octaves, if you go for Mach 3 speed, but that's kind of an anomaly, and it's really not that bad.

So, obviously it's much easier find a single collaborator than deal with scheduling and all that with a larger group.  At least I would think so.

No clue about four-hands piano works:  I'm sure there is something there that can be played, I just wouldn't know what that would be.  There's the Bartók Sonata For Two Pianos and Percussion, but I don't know how you'd find a really great percussionist outside of a symphony orchestra, or convince him or her to pack up all his or her gear for rehearsals.  Plus, it's, I would say, extremely difficult!
My name is Nellie, and I take pride in helping protect the children of my community through active leadership roles in my local church and in the Boy Scouts of America.  Bad word make me sad.

Online j_tour

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Re: Playing piano concertos — why or why not?
«Reply #22 on: February 09, 2021, 06:31:43 AM »
dp
My name is Nellie, and I take pride in helping protect the children of my community through active leadership roles in my local church and in the Boy Scouts of America.  Bad word make me sad.

Offline dogperson

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Re: Playing piano concertos — why or why not?
«Reply #23 on: February 09, 2021, 04:17:06 PM »
Piano duets

Arrangements by Andersen and Roe— nice arrangements  and printing
https://www.andersonroe.com/

Faure dolly suite
Bach sheep may safely graze

There are lots more

Offline pianowhisper

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Re: Playing piano concertos — why or why not?
«Reply #24 on: February 11, 2021, 08:31:43 PM »
Thanks for all the comments!

I think you're absolutely right on:  even if just for the experience, it'd certainly be worth dipping one's toe into different styles of music.  I'm sure the OP can pick up reading from leadsheets in a few minutes, if hasn't done already.
I just thought of mentioning that yes, I have played a lot of music from different genres, from the time I used to play only the electronic keyboard. At that point, I did play songs and instrumental music multiple times with other people. It was nothing too professional, but it was fun for sure!
I still play other genres, like ragtime, and even one of my guilty pleasures which is movies/games soundtracks. ;D (Mostly just for fun or pure appreciation!)

Music has always been quite a solitary passion for me. Perhaps, in the future, that will change somehow, but, until then, even the solitary moments can be meaningful sometimes. :)

Best,
pw

Offline anacrusis

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Re: Playing piano concertos — why or why not?
«Reply #25 on: February 12, 2021, 06:08:40 PM »
Music has always been quite a solitary passion for me. Perhaps, in the future, that will change somehow, but, until then, even the solitary moments can be meaningful sometimes. :)


I think it certainly can! I went to music college so I performed regularly both solo and in groups, but now I only do piano as a solitary activity, and I certainly enjoy that a lot!