Diary of a Pianist’s Day

Beth Levin

[April 2016.]



The morning went quickly
starting with unidentified birds
hidden in the trees
cooing, preaching, asking questions
wondering about the indoors as much as I
wondered about the wild world.

The coffee came out well – not burnt or weak.

I went to the dentist and listened to talk of Mexico,
sidewalk bargains, learning to play the bandoneon
while I gave over to spotless apparatus, the tin ceiling, the water, the
I have always liked to be taken over – by an ocean, music, big plans and
I love to lie down in the grass and let the sun and earth rule.

Later I read through the Schubert a minor sonata for violin and piano-
the violin only in my mind’s ear.
I got an impression of the work and saw how unpredictably
Schubert juxtaposed moods and major with minor – but all inside of a
tight structure.
Many colors came to me coupled with ideas for a performance-to-be.

Mastery doesn’t interest me except that it allows one finally to be
taken over by the music – to be free enough to sing.
To be free.

I ate olives and had more coffee and decided to nap until noon.


The afternoon brought winds and rain and scattered bird’s wings at my
The clouds fit my mood,
the winds were like my own breath, the sky singing my particular tune;
The trees bending as if they were my own limbs as I walked the streets.
Some days.

More Schubert this time in A major – the middle movement of D 959.
The trick was not to lose myself in the melody and sublime harmony, the
rocking motion of it… to keep some distance though it hurt to do it.
Such a piece is too close to the edge of all things human, beautiful,
painful, sad and wondrous… and all at once.
The slurs tie you to the notes in a way that you experience the legato
as a human bond. The repetitions sacred. Such music was Schubert’s to
write. And so near to death.

I listened to my student at four o’clock and suggested the impossible.


And then night came and I dreamt of a recent concert – of Lasser, Barber
and Beach; Harberg and Dello Joio. And the times in rehearsal with
Lucian and Sam – counting, listening, reacting and breathing – laughing
and fretting.
Night – that gray cover that brings on wild thoughts and transforms the
When again I touch the Schubert sonata it may be changed by night
sprites, distilled by night dreams and by night magic.


[Study in Provence by Augustus John, 1926.]

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