Where are my hands?

The last piece that I played decently just before abandoning the piano was the first movement of Beethoven’s piano sonata Op. 81a, ‘Les Adieux’. I’d even won the intermediate section of the piano competition that was part of the local Eisteddford in the Australian city where I was living at the time. I didn’t need anybody to tell me that the road back to being able to play this again would be long and hard.

I bought Hanon, and started work on the first five exercises. And that’s pretty much what I played for the first two months, with the occasional dabble with Op. 81a, and some other miscellaneous simple pieces. Well, they would have been simple if I still had my ‘hands’. My fingers and forearms had become weak, I couldn’t stretch comfortably beyond an octave, and I’d lost my mental keyboard map.

Slowly, slowly. Build up strength, even tone, even rhythm. Surprisingly, I found that the business travel was helpful. Being away from the keyboard for a few days after a week or so of practice allowed my muscle memory to improve and my muscle fatigue to dissipate. I would come back from a trip, warm up a little, and find that there’d be some improvement. Sometimes more, sometimes less. But there was always improvement. Very encouraging. And I was able to play more and more of Op. 81a’s first movement.


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