Playing the piano with Parkinson’s

I have played the piano for the past 60 years, but was probably at my best when I was 15 and passed the ABRSM grade VII exam with merit. I then switched to the organ, and although I achieved grade VIII merit playing both the organ and French horn, I did not apply myself sufficiently to progress any further with the piano.

One of the Grade VI set pieces for 2015/16 is the first movement of Mozart’s Piano Sonata in C, K545, which I learned when I was 13 or 14 – possibly for my own Grade VI exam. It is well known as one of Mozart’s easier compositions, at least from the perspective of technique. For some reason or other I was persuaded (or wanted) to perform the sonata at one of my school concerts. I remember with some pain the hash I made of it, largely through ‘nerves’, which have dogged my public performances ever since.

I was diagnosed with PD in 2007, but it wasn’t for some years that I realised my piano playing was worse during ‘off time’, alongside my other symptoms. Until 2014 I regularly played the piano for charity, in the form of ‘Pianathons’ lasting an hour – with medication carefully timed for the performance to coincide with my ‘on time’. Since then a combination of nerves and the progression of my condition have prevented my continuing to perform in public, although I do try to play regularly at home now I am retired and can time my medication accordingly.

It is interesting (and perhaps encouraging for other musicians newly diagnosed with PD) to find myself  just about able to play that same Mozart sonata, as the following recording of bars 1-28 show. The performance is spoilt by being created simply on a digital voice recorder – and of course my several mistakes! To hear it click on and press the top right button to start. I apologise for any adverts, from which I do not benefit!


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