Sorry I haven't managed to comment on this before - I've been on the road for a couple of days.
When I have a passage that is difficult for my hand, here are some of the strategies and principles that I use to master it:
1. Make it more difficult than written
2. See No.1
How may this be done:
A. First one must understand where the mistake/difficulty lies. A "wrong" note is ALWAYS (except for "accidents") about the approach to the note, i.e. it is about everything BEFORE you play it. Therefore, always practice to stop on the given problem. NEVER begin practice on a "corrected" wrong note.
Yeah, I understand this much, which is what I was getting at with the hand position thing. There are various 'approach' methods that have to be used in 25/11, and some of them I haven't quite worked out yet. I only restart on the 'corrected' note in performance.
B. Change rhythms so as to explore and work against new increased difficulty
I tried this, and it was fun. Specifically, I did dotted rhythms in the RH, which helped a bit with the prominence of the melody. But I wonder if that's when my problems with unevenness in the RH began; I didn't have that problem before. But it might have just been the increased speed. The dotted rhythms helped at first, but not very much. It was very jazzy, though; I tried playing it like that, usually without pedal, and I would end on a blues scale instead of the melodic minor.
C. Practice passage-work in double-notes (25/11 is quite suitable for this)
I absolutely HATE practicing like this. I tried it with 25/11 but I didn't find it to be helpful at all.
D. Practice faster and WITH metronome
Check! I do both slow practice and too-fast practice with the metronome, but sometimes it just becomes impossible for me to keep up with the metronome.
E. Expand leaps by additional octave
Sometimes there is not enough room!
F. Practice with eyes closed
I do this all the time, and often perform with eyes closed, and my teacher gets on to me for looking out into the audience (usually when someone, like my dad, is making too much noise). Chopin was actually disparaging of people who had to look at their hands when playing, but this is one of those pieces where it's damn near impossible to avoid looking at your hands, especially with the huge leaps.
G. Practice ppp and fff
I have done this too, but right now I'm more worried that the dynamics aren't coming off like I want them to at all. At first my LH was way too loud, especially the V-I octaves in the bass (!), and it was just horrible, but now I've overcompensated I think.
H. Practice it backwards (not the whole piece, just the problem areas).
I practice problem areas pretty randomly. Quite often I start out with the two measures of doom, or the bit leading into them.
I have practiced those two measures more than I've ever practiced anything in my entire life. This is the hardest of three such examples in the piece (it's in a different key each time, and the third is more different than the other two), and I often find it useful to practice them in succession since the technique is similar. But I don't always do that.
(I. I once knew a woman who could play some Czerny etude in any key you asked her! Crazy!)
Anyone who enjoys playing Czerny is crazy. I can play most things in whatever key you ask, but not all that well (I don't do it regularly in practice). Sometimes I transpose for fun; sometimes I switch things from major to minor, etc. I was talking to my teacher about transposing as I had just finished playing the Partita II Sarabande, and I told her to pick a key. She picked F# minor, so I played it in F# minor, and she was just amazed. I was amazed because it's not as if I played it anywhere near as well as I play it in C minor, and I was under the impression that most (music major) pianists could transpose with similar aptitude, but apparently I was wrong. Then I did the capriccio in F# minor, with a bit more difficulty, lol. I asked my teacher, 'Don't the non-pianists have to transpose for their piano competency exam?' and she says, 'Yeah, they have to do America the Beautiful, not Bach!' I guess I don't see much difference. I taught myself how to play piano, and knew all the keys from an early age. I wonder if it's because I didn't have any conception of certain keys being more difficult than others, because I couldn't read music.
As for the breath of fresh air...I think that's now, for 25/11. I have been seriously neglecting it for the last few months to work on 25/12 and Beethoven (I wish I'd spent more time on Bach). I mostly worked on 25/12, really...I hate practicing Beethoven with an unholy passion. So now I'm ready to dig back into 25/11, especially now that I've posted recordings and I've seen how fascinated people are with the piece - it gives me extra encouragement to try to play it well. I also posted links to my recital recordings at Piano World (I have been hanging out in their Chopin thread lately, just because there aren't enough people here who like talking about Chopin; I much prefer the atmosphere here, but Kallberg hangs out over there, and I am digging his occasional comments). Anyway, 25/11 has been downloaded more than all the other pieces combined. And that's not counting the original links I posted at PW, which I made when I wasn't logged in to Mediafire. I have no idea how much they were downloaded, but the comments indicated that most people listened to 25/11.