Posts Tagged ‘chopin’

I have spent two weeks after the departure of Commando and Catholic Girl went on Call Break doing 2 persons’ work.

Then I spent one week thereafter doing 3 persons’ work because Champagne Truffle went on holiday, a holiday he had booked because he thought that Commando would cover his work but then Commando left so tough luck.

So I haven’t done any of my own work for 3 weeks now. It is making my scalp itch and setting my teeth on edge. I am in perpetual high alert to duck in case anything explodes. I have spent many days laughing too much (because laughing is my coping mechanism) and many nights at home playing sad Chopin Nocturnes till midnight to wind down. It is not pretty.

Then on Monday, all the people on leave came back, much to my relief.

But The Buddha decided to have a protracted thermonuclear meltdown for an entire week, culminating in me spending two hours this morning just counselling people.

I thought that I could come into work today and look at my own files and answer my mail and feel better about life in general. But the morning is over, all I have done is to draft one overdue application and I have to scoot off to Court in the afternoon. This is just not happening for me.

I think I need a holiday from these people except that I have a new paralegal coming in on Monday and I have to reorganise the work to fit her into the team. So I am just going to down a shot of vodka (!!) and head out to Court to get on with the program.

Have I ever mentioned how much I hate being middle management?

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I’ve been listening to this a lot since I got the Vladimir Ashkenazy Chopin Nocturnes CD.

I first heard this piece at the end of a Naxos Chopin Waltzes CD I bought from a CD shop at the basement of Ngee Ann City Shopping Centre. I was 14 years old. The tragedy and emotional depth caught me. I opened my Henle edition of Chopin Nocturnes to try to play it but realised that my hand-span was not wide enough for the second half of the song. Also that at 14, I did not have enough emotional depth to see it through.

Fast forward to 2009. The piece was listed as an LTCL exam piece. Mr. Ong made a lot of his students play it, including me though I wasn’t scheduled to take the exam. He made me play it because he claimed it sounded like my kind of song. [There were a lot of these over the years and I gradually started thinking of them as my songs too.] I think this was also around the time he told me that to play this music well, you must fall in love and have your heart broken to get the correct amount of longing, contemplation, and hope. I must have heard more than 20 different renditions of it during that period of time, usually from the students before me or during masterclass weekends, from 10-year-old prodigies to 25-year-old piano teachers.

I started reading it again 3 nights ago, after two weeks of listening to Vladimir spread the chords of the middle section to make up for lack of hand span. As a result, in these last 3 days, I’ve been feeling the absence of Mr. Ong very keenly.

On Tuesday afternoon, I was chatting with my duet partner on Facebook while queuing up in court and in the middle of the conversation, he referred to me as “my dear.” I read the message and for some reason, it registered in my head in Mr. Ong’s soft and musical voice saying it with that usual drawl. Immediately, I felt warm tears start to pool behind my eyes, just as I feel them now typing this.


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Peanut trying to catch the rotating seafood on the mobile

Peanut trying to catch the rotating seafood on the mobile

I recently purchased a copy of the complete Chopin Nocturnes as played by Vladimir Ashkenazy from Amazon and it arrived in the mail yesterday afternoon.

I haven’t had time to listen to it till this morning [after both Trainee J and Champagne Truffle had both had a go at it] and I was a little surprised to find that the tune which the baby mobile we hung over our baby cot played is the opening bars of Nocturne in F# minor!

I used to put on the mobile for Peanut after her showers in the mornings while I was still alone at home before my parents came over to cook lunch for me in that first month after the birth. Then later on, I put the mobile on at night for fussy Lion for the night light and hoping that the music will soothe him [this was before I found out that he could only fall asleep on his tummy].

The song brought back really great memories of the kids, how they have grown, and oh how I miss them as babies!


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I’ve been thinking a lot about this particular relationship I was in from age 16 to 17-ish since I returned to my primary school 2 weekends ago to attend a talk about registering Peanut for Primary 1 next year.

The reason why I have been thinking about it is because the boy whom I went out with was my classmate in Primary 6. Also because I was sitting at the piano on Sunday while waiting for my tomatoes to roast and my bacon to render for my pasta sauce reading Chopin Nocturnes when I remembered a certain incident involving said boy.

I guess from age 10 onwards, the thing that defined me most as a person was my piano-playing. I was crazy about the piano. It was the one thing that I was really good at in life, something which no one could take away from me.

My piano teacher then wanted to arrange for an audition for me with [the late] Mr. Ong, in which I was to play Nocturne in C minor [with that haunting right hand cantabile and after five bars of which Mr. Ong told me to return to studio in two weeks with Chopin’s Barcarolle]. I was crazy excited and broke the news to the boy who was waiting for me after my piano class at the bottom of my piano teacher’s apartment block.

The boy flew into a rage. He claimed that he was uncomfortable with me attending class with a male person who will no doubt take advantage of me, in some misplaced sense of chivalry? Male chauvinism? I thought it was really ridiculous. We had a huge fight about it. We eventually made up but I still thought that he was being a complete ass about what was clearly very important to me.

I did the audition anyway. We broke up eventually due to some silly reason or other and I spent a while after that feeling quite resentful about a lot of things linked to and consequent to the fall out. One of the things that stuck with me was that maybe he didn’t want me to go to the audition because to him, my piano-playing was just some extended hobby with no relevance to real life. Maybe he just wanted me to be mediocre forever because what do I know, right? I am just this stupid naïve girl whom he thought was so easily taken advantage of.

The reality is that nothing eventually came out of my music education due to certain other circumstances but the fact that a boy tried to stop me from going after something I really wanted under the guise of “I love you and care about you” really stung. The lesson I learnt from that relationship was that I should never ever be with anyone who cannot support me in my endeavours or have any faith in me.


On a car ride one day, I turned to my husband and asked him whether he ever looked back on his past relationships and think: Hey, I was such a nasty piece of shit to her!

That’s a question that I really would like to ask the boy should I ever have the opportunity to in the future.

[Related post: the new year’s eve story]

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Text conversation between The Other Half and I while trying to decide on which CD to purchase

Me: Rubenstein or Ashkenazy for Chopin Nocturnes? Reviews are mixed online…

He: Ashkenazy from my youtube.

Me: I have been listening to the shorts on Amazon. Rubenstein’s version is more muffled. But slightly more sensitive than Ashkenazy.

He: Ashkenazy. Trust me I listen to them a lot while doing housework.

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I sat at the piano tonight with my signature Chopin Nocturne and Clair de Lune, with my mute pedal depressed, remembering another time, another piano, another house, and an undeterminable slush of music, a stack of scores, notes, meaningless notes, running across pages and pages of watermarked yellowed pages. I tried hard to hold on to them, but the more I tried, the more they ran, until they turned a dizzying blur of grey and I, none the wiser, frustrated, worn.

But tonight is different. Tonight I sat, calm and poised. My heart is full, so full it spills over into the music, the tragedy of my Chopin sadder and more tragic precisely because I had been in that blur of grey and have emerged, like those elegant, perfect pearls of moonlight in a stream, glistening, every single note of the arpeggios in the same size and colour.

It is now approaching midnight. I reluctantly stop, wondering how long I can keep up with this before my neighbours start plotting my demise, promising to return before too long has passed.

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It’s funny how when I was much younger, I had considered it oh such a chore to play this, that it was oh so boring and slow moving and nothing very much happens. I just wanted the storms in the first movement and the action in the third movement thank you very much.

[That’s why for many years, the Moonlight did it for me. It had enough angst and anger and the obligatory second movement was not as long or as involved as the Pathetique. But that’s another story for another day.]

Then I grew up.

And now I find myself gravitating towards this again, appreciating it for it’s contemplation, for it’s clean lines and simple variations, it’s very predictable return to the main theme. It is like that walk to the train station after all the rushing to get ready to leave the house and finally leaving, that quiet, contemplative walk alone wherein you collect your thoughts to start the day or just empty your mind and listen to your footsteps, that brief reprieve from my neverending and mostly futile fight against everything else in the world that I habitually fight against.

It is especially comforting playing it on a muted piano between closing one section of your submissions and starting another.

When I was fourteen, I wanted to be a Beethoven player. Then I was waylaid by Chopin, enamoured by Rachmaninov, distracted by Listz.

I have now begun my return to Beethoven again, true to the sonata form exposition-transition-return.

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