Recordings, Transcriptions, and Arrangements from Previous Years

Sally’s Song (The Nightmare Before Christmas)

Last updated December 21, 2022

2022 was a very special year with some delightful surprises. To celebrate, here is an old holiday favourite. Merry Christmas!

Fugue 2 in C Minor (The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book I)

Last updated November 18, 2022

One of the things I appreciate about playing music is that performances are direct proof of how much effort was put in—shortcuts are possible elsewhere, but not with real-time demonstrations of skill. The works of Bach represent some of the greatest human achievements in art, and I would like to be able to play a significant number of these in my lifetime (he composed more than 1000 works in total, but only about 200 are for keyboard or lute). On a related note, TwoSet Violin recently celebrated their upcoming “4 Million Subscribers” milestone by performing as soloists with the Singapore Symphony Orchestra, including a rendition of the exquisite Bach Double. I discovered their YouTube channel during a particularly bleak time in my life, and it is partly through their videos that I found solace and love for classical music again.
Harpsichord version, in Baroque tuning and Werckmeister temperament:

Allemande from French Suite No. 2 in C Minor (French Suites)

Last updated October 16, 2022

I am sure many people will agree: one’s appreciation for music comes in tiers. Many pieces are pleasant, but only a few can spark an obsession. I have been listening to Allemande from French Suite No. 2 on repeat. There is something about it that speaks to me emotionally, perhaps a hint of longing. I do not do the piece nearly enough justice compared to Murray Perahia, but here is my attempt to capture its beauty anyway.
Harpsichord version, in Baroque tuning and Werckmeister temperament:

Piano Sonata No. 11 in A Major, Third Movement (19 Sonatas for the Piano)

Last updated September 9, 2022

The Third Movement from Mozart’s Piano Sonata No. 11 in A Major, more famously known as the Rondo Alla Turca or “Turkish March”, is the first real mainstream piece I have played so far, I do not think there are too many people who have not heard it before. Actually, this piece brings back memories of my youthful folly, when I attempted to learn it much before I was technically ready. Suffice to say, I have learned my lesson since then, and am glad to rectify this mistake some twenty years later.

Prélude in E Minor (24 Préludes)

Last updated August 14, 2022

This is one of Chopin’s more famous Préludes, and generally acknowledged to be one of the saddest, too. Apparently, this was played at Chopin’s own funeral by his request, along with Mozart’s Requiem. I only ran through the piece a few times before recording, as it is not technically challenging. I also did not listen to other performances extensively because I would like to understand what makes a performance musical on a fundamental level rather than just copying someone else’s interpretation. I think I did a decent job here, but I will have to come back once I acquire more knowledge and judge the performance again.

Gigue from French Suite 5 in G Major (French Suites)

Last updated July 20, 2022

This Gigue truly deserves its spot in the RCM Level 10 Syllabus, it was not easy for me to get it to a performance-ready level. But, all things considered, it turned out pretty well in the end. I remember watching an interview with the French classical pianist Hélène Grimaud, who commented something along the lines of no matter how much one practices, one is always taking a chance with performances and hoping for the best. I suppose everyone experiences anxiety, and performing under the influence of adrenaline is simply part of the equation. I was not able to do this for all the pieces I have played, but at least for this Gigue, I eventually got to a level of proficiency where I could focus on the music rather than worry about making mistakes. In general, I have to get more comfortable with the idea of possibly making mistakes but giving a passionate performance, rather than playing too safely and not at all bringing out the spirit of the piece.
Harpsichord version, in Baroque tuning and Werckmeister temperament:

Practice Session Recordings, Part II

Last updated June 11, 2022

Approximately 15 months after I resumed practicing, I am finally approaching the technical requirements of the RCM Level 10 Exam, again. One of the good things about playing as an adult is that I am no longer so impatient about getting a certain result. Or perhaps more accurately, I still get impatient at times, but am able to convince myself otherwise rationally. Piano being a hobby rather than my profession means that I have at most about an hour per day to practice (unsurprisingly, during teaching semesters, this number drops to zero hours per day...), yet looking back at my videos, I am making steady progress in terms of my technique, interpretation, and repertoire. I believe it would be fair to consider my tone to have improved significantly. I used to have the problem of not always playing to the bottom of the key. Now, my notes sound much more clear than they used to, although I still need to bring up the tempo of my scales from 100 bpm to 120 bpm. The more serious problem at the moment is my wrist movement. I need to work on the way I transfer weight during passagework to achieve a higher limit of tempo, another long-term goal.

Allemande from French Suite 5 in G Major (French Suites)

Last updated June 2, 2022

The Allemande and Gigue movements from this French Suite were included in my RCM Repertoire book, which I used to sight-read for fun (not entirely accurately and definitely with the wrong fingerings, I might add). I decided to polish up the Allemande for a recording and will probably work on the Gigue next, if I do not get distracted in the meantime by a Prelude and Fugue (different keys) from the WTC I.
Harpsichord version, in Baroque tuning and Werckmeister temperament:

Allemande from French Suite 3 in B Minor (French Suites)

Last updated March 25, 2022

I have noticed myself getting better with technique over the past few weeks, especially in the evenness of my notes, however I am still struggling with musicality and phrasing. I need to develop a deeper understanding of phrasing before I can take the Allemande from French Suite 3 to the next level.
Harpsichord version, in Baroque tuning and Werckmeister temperament:

Bagatelle in G Minor (Eleven Bagatelles)

Last updated February 25, 2022

Beethoven may have been generally known for his dark, brooding, furious symphonies, but he also wrote some quintessentially delicate short pieces such as this Bagatelle.

Little Prelude in C Minor (Little Preludes and Fughettas)

Last updated February 12, 2022

I first learned this Little Prelude around age 9—not that I played it perfectly back then—and am revisiting it now to work on my phrasing. Fun fact: both original and techno versions of the piece are featured in the video game Portal 2 (transposed to F Minor) with the title “Now He’s Playing Classical Music”.

Mazurka in A Minor

Last updated January 31, 2022

I cannot believe it has already been a year since I resumed playing piano seriously. I have learned a total of 10 pieces (including the current posting) in the past year, probably with an average difficulty of RCM Level 8. (The Two-Part Inventions are rated Level 8, while the WTC Preludes are mostly rated Level 9 and Level 10, and I also played a couple of easier pieces in between.) Moreover, there is a not insignificant difference in the quality of my sound between when I recorded WTC I Prelude 3 on February 3, 2021 and today. I am happy with my progress, and delighted that music is a part of my life again. So, here is a Chopin Mazurka to finish the first year, which I am finally quite pleased with after spending some time getting the rubato right.

Allemande from Lute Suite in E Minor

Last updated January 22, 2022

The Allemande is probably my favourite Baroque dance: often I prefer listening to the Allemande, Menuet, and sometimes Gavotte movements from a Suite or Partita. Recently I was reminded of the Lute Suite in E Minor, which has a very famous Bourée, but the Allemande is less well-known. Some sources posit that this piece was originally composed for the lute-harpsichord or Lautenwerck, which might be the reason the notes do not feel awkward on a keyboard instrument. On the other hand, the sparse distribution of notes and passing of the melody between the LH and RH without additional accompaniment serve as evidence for the opposing argument. I find that Bach’s Dance Suites tend to be more melodic than his other works, and was much inspired by this Allemande, so I just had to learn it in one day. I keep thinking about the right interpretation, however. I have always been taught to play the Baroque style as dryly as possible, but I wonder whether adding expression such as dynamics and rubato is in fact better, if it can capture and enhance the meaning of the music in the right way. Something to try for the next iteration, I suppose.

Piano version, transposed up an octave for better resonance:
Harpsichord version, in Baroque tuning and Werckmeister temperament as usual: