As part of my job as a church organist, I occasionally program a series of piano pieces. Frequently they will be a series of compositions by the same composer, such as the Impromptus of Schubert or Songs without Words by Mendelssohn. For the month of November, I planned a number of unrelated pieces that I wanted to play.
Since I haven’t played a lot from memory recently, I went with the easiest from the set of pieces first, the Bagatelle “Für Elise” by Beethoven. I expected that it would receive at best a few pat compliments since it is not a difficult piece for a professional musician. My surprise was how much I connected with people by playing this. My only reasoning is that it’s a piece many adults know first hand since it’s one of the first pieces played past the beginning level.
Still, in my mind, the compliments were outsized compared to other pieces where the difficulty was so much higher, yet didn’t connect in the same way to my listeners. It even sparked the interest in an adult who came up to me afterward to say he was considering taking lessons again.
I’m sure there are many lessons to draw from this, but the most obvious one is not to be afraid of doing something simple or easy, as long as you do it well. In retrospect, the reaction I received shouldn’t have been a surprise. I had a similar reaction when I heard the piece on a CD played by Claudio Arrau, one of the great pianists of the 20th century. It was the inspiration for me to re-learn this piece!