It has now been 5 days since that recording, and after spending that time working on nothing but that impossible etude I will allow myself to post an updated recording to show the progress I've made since then:
Op.10 No.1 - Take 2
(note: this recording was taken with a microphone live of me playing on a Bechstein grand piano)
Personally? I'm fairly happy with the progress. I think the playing is overall much cleaner than it was 5 days ago.
Of course, the speed is nowhere near the 176 bpm Chopin asks for. So far the highest I feel confident at is ~ 124bpm, so there's still a lot of work to be done!
I did notice one particular thing that I would like to share. I have been practising this piece with a metronome (something I've never done willingly by myself!), and I spent a lot of time playing the etude over and over again at 124bpm, trying to perfect my accuracy. However progress was painfully slow. Today, I tried playing over at a much slower tempo (106bpm) a few times, then I played again at 124bpm and...wow. There was certainly a difference! Not only in the accuracy but generally with confidence in playing. I think it goes to show that you must have patience when practising. Take it slow and get it right. Take it fast, get it wrong, and you'll end up nowhere!
The Importance of relaxation
This is another thing I think this etude tries to make you master. I have realised that you cannot play through this etude without a relaxed hand and not feel like your hand is about to fall off at the end. You cannot stress the hand in this etude. It is something I find quite difficult, especially because the action on my Kawai electric piano is pretty stiff compared to a grand piano. But, as I said in CEP #1, it seems like your hands can get used to it...as long as you put effort into consistently having a relaxed hand when practising.
And it's strange - you look at a pianist's hands and it doesn't occur to you that their hand is relaxed. You say to yourself "That hand is doing a lot of work!". But it's one of those pseudo-paradoxes in piano-playing, I guess. A relaxed hand reduces unnecessary strain (yes...it's unnecessary!) and prevents injuries. I had an injury in the left hand due to piano playing once...trust me, it doesn't feel good. At all!
So, what next? I think it's time to move on. I will be starting Op.10 No.2 tomorrow, but I will still be working on No.1, just not as often. I think I perhaps need a bit of time off to allow the music to 'bleed' into my hands.
Otherwise this etude will just become a study in masochism...and will get the better of me in the end.
Till next time!
<----- CEP #1
P.S. I present you another recording of Chopin's Op.10 No.1, this time from the indestructible and downright freaky Russian pianist Valentina Lisitsa: