Soaking up music like a sponge

12th June 2013 | Concerts, Daily Life, Musings | 2 comments

I’m almost at the end of a longish period of learning the notes of a batch of works I’ll be playing over the summer in different concerts and festivals. The large pile of music on the side of my piano has loomed fearsomely over me for a while, but is now starting to look bounteous rather than oppressive. I like to ‘book in’ repertoire for practice in advance, so that I don’t get nasty surprises when things are really busy. Over the last weeks I have learned things like the Zemlinsky Trio for clarinet, cello and piano; the sextet for piano and wind by Ludwig Thuille; a Mendelssohn Konzertstueck for clarinets and piano; and I have re-acquainted myself with a range of old favourites from the Brahms horn trio to Debussy’s Images for piano, from piano rags to Mahler’s piano quartet, and lots and lots of sonatas by Mozart. My head feels as if it’s bursting with music, though in a good way.

Next week brings the first of my summer performances, with several concerts for invited audiences and a Wigmore Hall date with Erich Höbarth on Sunday 23 June. Please come!

It’s always an interesting feeling, learning or practising a lot of pieces at the same time. You feel a bit like a sponge soaking up more and more music, getting heavier and heavier as it does so. If you time it right, you reach saturation point just before you have to start performing those works, and then you turn into a sponge being gently wrung out in front of the audience. Shall I proceed with this imagery? Probably not.


  1. James B

    You’re always so humble in your approach, Susan, belying the fact that pieces like the Brahms Horn Trio whip along at about the same rate as a Rachmaninov concerto! What I would like to know, however, is how many hours per day you generally practice when you have concerts coming up. I can only admire teachers who continue to refine their craft and I imagine that I would feel very nervous indeed were I to come to a lesson given by you if I was unprepared!

    • Susan Tomes

      The amount of practice time varies hugely, James, according to how much there is to learn, how much of it is new, etc. Can be a couple of hours, could be more. That’s practice on my own. Rehearsals can be and often are all day, of course.


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