Sparky’s Magic Piano and the ‘Rachmaninov Challenge’

When I was growing up in early 80s, there was a radio show for kids in New Zealand on Sunday mornings. I remember they started around 7am and they lasted a few hours. Most of the recordings were recycled British and American radio drama from the 50s and 60s but they had great atmosphere and production values – remember that this was from a time when radio actually meant something. My very favourite story was Sparky’s Magic Piano, with Spike Milligan’s Bad Jelly the Witch coming in a close second.

Sparky was a little boy who discovered his piano was magic. It played any piece he asked it to, fooling his teacher into thinking he was the greatest pianist of all time. He toured the most famous concert halls in the world, delighting his audiences with his skill and expertise until….he woke up. The music was great; a seriously good selection including Chopin, Liszt, Beethoven and Rimsky-Korsakov…..but one piece, Rachmaninov’s Prelude in C sharp minor, Opus 3 number 2, was my favourite. Powerful and menacing, this is music that makes your spine tingle.

I remembered the piece yesterday, listened to it and decided upon a challenge for myself – the Rachmaninov challenge! I have just ordered the sheet music:

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Now I should say here that I’m not a ‘Rachmaninov’ type of pianist’. I’m more of a ‘play-a-few-chords and-then-some-melodic-lines-by-ear’ type of pianist. This is basically out of my league. I do have a few things going for me though: 1. The piece starts slowly with big spacious chords 2. The piece ends slowly with big spacious chords 3. I don’t mind practicing 4. I don’t have to perform in a concert hall when I am finished.

The challenge with this piece really starts about 2:02, with the serious roadblock appearing at 2:35. Watch the performance below to see what I mean, but also just enjoy this work as a masterpiece of romantic period piano.

So there’s the Rachmaninov challenge. I’ll post updates here. Wish me luck!

Why not have a listen to Sparky’s magic piano while you’re here. It’s a treat.

One thought on “Sparky’s Magic Piano and the ‘Rachmaninov Challenge’

  1. I absolutely love listening to classic. The only issue is that I never can remember the names of the songs I like. In fact I have some pieces in my head, like earworms, that I never could find again. I had a small mug as a child, if you took the mug it played music, if you put it on the table, it stopped. I am absolutely sure it played a mozard melody, a beautiful one. I never found it again.

    Later in my twenties I was watching lots of WW2 documentaries and quite a lot of them had a very dramatic classic song either as opening or at the end of the documentary. All I know is that it was played with a violin. Such a beautiful song, but it’s still haunting me because I can’t find it.

    Apart from that, I have a playlist on YouTube that I named “classic/piano” where I sometimes add things I like. But not just classic but also contemporary piano stuff like epic movie soundtracks (Hans Zimmer Time on Piano for example, or Comptine d’Un Autre Été which I find a very beautiful piano piece as well).

    I can’t play piano except the Chopsticks (Flohwalzer). My grandpa had a band and the pianist thaught me the easy Chopsticks song when I was a kid. I stil can play it today 🙂 I sometimes wondered if I should get myself a digital piano, I’d be interested but I already have several expensive and time-consuming hobbies, this would open a new rabbit hole I guess 😀 But maybe someday, who knows.


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