Sunday, December 31, 2006

Prokofiev: "Diabolic Suggestions"

Below is a really bad recording of me playing the piano. I'm playing Prokofiev's Diabolic Suggestions.

Okay, click here if you just want the dirty stuff and don't want to read my blog.

By the way, I'm still having an absolute ball over the fact that I've finally managed to get my PC to recognize all things analog, record them, and post audio recordings as MP3 files and post them online. I've been trying for over two weeks now to get this done. I can't believe it's finally happening, so please, kindly bear with me if I go nuts with my new ability for awhile.


Back in 1994 when I was in a cloistered monastery and didn't have anything else to do, I spent a lot of time practicing the piano. We weren't allowed to watch TV, read newspapers, make telephone calls and/or masturbate, but I was allowed to hone my pianistic skills unabatedly.

Since I didn't have much else to do, except look forward to a haircut, I tried to learn the horribly difficult piano works during then. I was never that great of a pianist, certainly not one to perform Beethoven's "Appassionata" in public, but spending hours mastering Beethoven's huge works kept me from going insane.

So, out of frustration, not only did I master the "Appassionata", but I tackled an even more huge piece. It's Prokofiev's last movement of his "Opus Four, No. 3" which he entitled Diabolical Suggestions.


It's such an outrageously difficult piece that it's seldom performed and I've only heard one recording of it. But during my Novitiate year of time-on-my-hands, I thought I'd attempt the bloody thing.

I practiced and practiced and finally learned the damn thing. Here it is, if you want to just bale out now and not read anymore of my blog. That's okay.

I have to admit, though, while I'd be playing it at the monastery, I would imagine myself as a Miss America contestant in the talent portion of the competition. (No! not because they get to make football players look more stupid than usual) but because the Miss America contestants who play the piano always play some huge, loud piece, and as well they should. But I'd be thinking that none of them could even come close to playing Prokofiev's Diabolic Suggestions.

The piece is absolutely nuts!

It's all over the place. If any Miss America contestant would play this piece, she'd win, hands down. Can you just imagine Miss Big Texas just barreling down on a big 'ol 9-ft Steinway piano? ; lots of sprayed hair and arms flying all over the place?

That's how I imagined myself in the monastery when I was trying to learn this piece. . . .

There's even a musicology urban-legend that claims Prokofiev wrote the piece just to show off that he could write a piano work that would utilize all 88 keys of the piano.

I don't know if that's true. I do know this piece backward and forward and, come to think of it, I can't think of any note on the piano that this piece doesn't use. . . . hmmm. . .

My recording is horrible. Even though Prokofiev's works are known to be loud and bombastic, this piece is supposed to be subtle and "devilish", thus the name of Diabolic Suggestions.

I just couldn't play it that way. It's a "Miss America" piece, all the way.

There are a couple of recordings out there where the performer plays it very quick, creepy and subtle, but I think there are just too many notes on the score to be played that way. Maybe Prokofiev could do it, but I just couldn't.

The recording is on a cheap recorder full of hisses and pops. However, I don't think you'll ever hear any other interpretation of this piece as aggressive as this one, certainly not with the loud ending like I did, as it's supposed to just fade away into a quiet scampering of notes.

This was recorded in November of 1997.

Click Here and brace yourself. I had a ball doing it!

Of course, I'd love to know what you think. . . .

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At 3:16 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jon Darlin', that was truly amazin! You are a real talent. Thank you Darlin' for sharin'...

Huggs, etc...

At 3:26 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jon Darlin', I just listened to your "U-Haul" truck song. I have to say it brought a tear to my eye an' a smile to my hart. What a delightful ballad! I ain't never relized how much a U-Haul truck is like a trailer. I guess you learn somthin' new every day...

Huggs, etc..

At 1:26 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

There she is, Miss America...


At 11:03 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very Nice. You shourld try the Rach Second (which is pianist slang for Rachmaninoff Second Concerto) as well. It doesn't beat Prokofiev for range and insane jumps, but it's certainly more difficult to play. Well, just in case you can change the Blog, I'd like to give you a few tips. First, Beethoven wrote no Ampassionata Sonata. It's the Appassionata. Also, play the Chopin Ballades and Etudes and then come back and work wonders on the Prokofiev. Lastly, be careful with Prokofiev. My teacher, a hardened pianist, got the worst case of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome ever in her left wrist from playing the concertos in a Europe tour. Have Fun!

At 2:32 PM , Blogger Br. Jonathan said...

Thanks. Duly noted and edited.

The Chopin Etudes make me insane with frustration. I did manage to do the first one in C Major, though.

At 12:08 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Contrary to your previous explanation, I personally found your interpretation to be too obnoxiously bland; it was too "bombastic".

I suggest a much larger contrast in dynamics and a much faster tempo for the effect of the piece.

The piano has to be real soft and the forte has to be real loud. Not "banging" loud, but a "wham".

But good practicing. :)


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