I was having just "one of those days" with my piano practicing last week - have you had those?! Nothing seemed to be going right, I was distracted, etc. I often listen to some favorite piano works performed beautifully by favorite pianists to inspire and motivate me to head back to the piano, and I happened to read an article about Ruth Slenczynska. I know her playing, and also had (but had "lost") a copy of her book, Music at Your Fingertips, which talks about practicing, repertoire, listening, and other topics (ask me about at your next lesson!). Maestra Ruth - at 97 - was just signed by Decca Records - I link an article here. Upon reading I wanted to reacquaint myself with her, so have watched and listen to videos, and I really want to share some of those with you in hopes that you will learn a bit about her! Madame Slenczynska, a child prodigy giving her first comet at four, is the last living pupil of Rachmaninov; she also studied with other of the finest pianists of the early 20th century, like Joseph Hofmann, Alfred Cortot, Egon Petri, Artur Schnabel. There is a lovely article in BBC news with several videos of her playing. I can't encourage you enough to take a half hour and watch this video I link on youtube with Ruth discussing her study with Josef Hofmann (and please listen to this video of his playing of the Chopin Ballade No. 1) and Rachmaninov....you will learn much, as I did! I was also fascinated with this video as Ruth discusses her experiences at the Paris Conservatoire as a child, and all of the people she came into contact with there. Ruth studied at Curtis Institute and some of her classmates became life-long friends, like composer Samuel Barber, pianists Shura Cherkassky and Abby Simon. Such a life in music!! Now, I am inspired to get back to work at the piano, and I think you will be too!
I was very excited to listen to the newest recording by the splendid pianist, Paul Lewis, of the piano pieces composed by Johannes Brahms late in his life. I have studied and learned many, many of these Op. 116, 117, 118, and especially 119 "intermezzi" and fantasies. I link an article by David Allen regarding what Paul Lewis calls "works of abject anguish," but please don't let this darken your day! Listen to these pieces on whatever streaming platform you prefer; I think you will agree with my assessment of them as pieces of great beauty. We can all use a little Brahms in our lives! I hope you enjoy as much as I do.