Journey Interrupted Update #3

As I waited for my left hand to heal from surgery, I took the opportunity to explore the very limited literature for the right hand alone. There has been very little ever written for just the right hand at the piano. However I did find one interesting nugget. Charles Alkan wrote a series of Etudes in his Op. 76. The first one is for the left hand, the second is for the right hand, and the final is for the hands reunited. These are substantial works with the Right Hand Etude running about 24 pages. It is written in a theme and variation format. It has the expected Alkan challenges but sits very well in the hand.

For therapeutic purposes I have returned to playing the 15 Two Part Inventions of Bach. One of the most interesting editions of these and the Three Part Sinfonias is the Alfred Edition with Willard Palmer as the editor. As part of the preface of each set, Mr. Palmer produces a chart of about 15 different performances, editions, and commentaries’ tempos. For most of the works there is about a 100% difference between the fastest and slowest tempos. As an initial part of my rehabilitation I am exploring how to create effective interpretations at the slower tempos. As my hand improves I will move to the other side of the scale and explore the changes which occur in the character of these pieces as their tempos increase.

One aspect of much of Bach’s music which has always fascinated me has been the flexibility of his music to make sense at a wide variety of tempos. There is content within every note such that even pieces which are traditionally played very fast such as the 4th invention in d minor can be played quite expressively at a slow tempo as well.

Andrew Remillard

Journey Interrupted Update #2

When I last visited these pages I had just had surgery on my left hand and was experiencing the usual post-operative pain issues. That began to change about the 5th day after my surgery. My hand became increasingly sore and I found the bandages more irritating by the day. At the followup appointment with my surgeon it was determined I had an infection in my hand and I was admitted to Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove, IL.

By the time I arrived at the ER I was in pain such that I have never experienced nor wish to ever experience again. I was given several doses in quick succession of a pain medication 4 times stronger than morphine just to bring the pain to a manageable level where I could participate in discussions about my condition with the physicians. The next morning I had surgery to install 3 drains in my hand and to take tissue samples of the infection. While these cultures matured I was put on broad spectrum antibiotics and continued with significant pain medications. I was released 5 days later only to be readmitted a couple of hours later when the infection reasserted itself. I had another drain put into my hand and continued with broad spectrum antibiotics and antibiotics specific to my pathology. After nearly 8 total days I was released again and am now home.

The surgery seems to have been successful, though my rehab has been delayed due to the infection, but every day I have less pain and more mobility and strength.

I spent both stays at Good Sam on the 53rd Ward. If you have ever had to stay in the hospital for a long duration under very trying and frightening conditions you know how critical the nursing and nursing aid staff is to your recovery. I cannot sing my praises of these tireless angels of mercy loud enough. The effects of heavy narcotics and unremitting pain through long lonely nights can leave you in a very fragile state. The care and compassion I received from these exemplary professionals will never be forgotten.

I came to learn that there was a whole host of brothers and sisters holding me up in prayer throughout this long ordeal. I learned what it means to be carried by others when I couldn’t carry even myself.

Andrew Remillard

Journey Interrupted Update #1

One week ago today I underwent reconstructive surgery on my left thumb. I appreciate all of the prayers and well wishes I have received.

I have a pretty substantial cast on my left hand and a pin in my thumb. I will have a cast and pin for another three weeks or so.

I have taken this time as an opportunity to explore literature I never would have even considered; music for the right hand. I knew there was not nearly as much written for the right had as for the left hand, I surprised how little has been written for the mano destra. I did find an Etude by Alkan for the right hand which is from a set of three etudes, one for the left hand, one for the right hand, and then the last one for “hands reunited”. While the piano is more idiomatic for left hand only music, this Alkan etude is a marvelous piece of music. It is very melodic while simultaneously demanding significant virtuosic skills. As with the limited amount of Alkan music I have studied, I have found it to be challenging yet not from being needlessly awkward or full of un-pianistic passages. Everything fits very nicely under the hand; it just requires a good deal of skill to execute up to tempo. I have very much enjoyed the few hours I have spent with Op. 76 #2.

Yesterday I even managed to play a few notes with my left hand while working with a student on an easy Haydn Sonata. It was a bit awkward with a three pound cast on my hand but I encouraged by the complete lack of pain which is something I haven’t experienced in that hand for several months.

Andrew Remillard