NEWS FOR STUDENTS
So excited to hear and see one of the outstanding pianists of our time perform a "Tiny Desk" concert (and on an upright piano in their studios played by some...ahem....rather "lesser" keyboard players)!! I will quote host Tom Huizenga's words of introduction for Marc-Andre Hamelin as particularly apt: "(Marc-Andre) is regarded as one of his generation's most technically astounding pianists, but he's no empty virtuoso." Please listen to the short concert at "Tiny Desk" here. I have never heard Bolcom's "Graceful Ghost Rag" played more lovingly (Hamelin recently released a wonderful recording of all of William Bolcom's "rags" for piano; check it out!). And I was thrilled to hear the composition written for the 2017 Van Cliburn competition by Marc-Andre himself, called "Toccata on L'homme armé." I watched and listened to many of those competitors that summer myself, but what a great chance to hear to composer play his own work! This was pure delight; I hope you enjoy as well!!
Wisdom, age, and grace......all of these define the pianist and teacher Seymour Bernstein. This morning I watched a beautiful and inspiring video on youtube from Tonebase piano with an interview of Seymour by host Ben Laude. Seymour is giving marvelous advice (there may be a thought or two I'm not sure I totally agree with?); please watch here and see what you think? Seymour opens with advice to parents of young piano students - they MUST be a part of home practice - I agree. He also describes the way education was framed during Plato's time with four disciplines that are necessary to make a "whole" person. Guess what one of the four disciplines is? Yep, MUSIC! Let's discuss at your lesson......
Have you ever heard "three's a crowd"?? Well. not always, my friends! One gorgeous sub-genre of chamber music is the PIANO TRIO. Piano trios generally mean violin, cello, and piano (and isn't everything better with a piano !?!) I recently read a marvelous article from Interlude.HK called "Chamber Music, the Ten Most Beautiful Piano Trios". There you will find linked a number of videos with trios by Mozart, Beethoven, Arensky, the Ravel in a minor (fabulous), etc. etc. I am linking the article here for your perusal and listening. Three can be the most beautiful number, what do you think?
So, to those of my dear students who are missing their lessons as I take a break - to PRACTICE ! - I can't encourage you enough to spend 45 minutes taking a lesson with Seymour Bernstein, teacher, composer, and lovely human being! In this youtube video called "Seymour Bernstein teaches Chopin's Prelude in e minor," you will garner much in the way of understanding music-making at the piano. You may have noticed at your lessons that I have Bernstein's book entitled Chopin: Interpreting his Notational Symbols sitting on a music stand in my studio. I have been reading and truly thinking about all that Maestro Bernstein has researched and suggests regarding the "hairpin" symbols in Romantic style period music (these hairpins look like small crescendo and diminuendo markings, used together or singularly). Please watch his video linked above for a full explanation of this.......if you own a copy of the Chopin Preludes, find the e minor and try out some of the ideas for performance for yourself; we will discuss when I see you next! Enjoy your own time at the piano for the next several weeks!
I have been watching videos of the 2022 Verbier Festival on medici.tv. This event takes place in the Swiss Alps, and I have seen some wonderful performances, including Yuja Wang (can her fingers REALLY move that fast through Ligeti's "Devil's Staircase" Etude and Kapustin's Concert Etude No. 3!!?!), Daniil Trifonov, and Kirill Gerstein playing the Liszt sonata in b Minor on........the Maene-Vinoly Concert grand piano with, yes, a CURVED keyboard!! I have been fascinated with this instrument after reading about it and I thought you might enjoy learning about this, too, so I link articles here and here. This instrument is straight-strung as opposed to being cross-strung as our current grands are; the sound is quite different. I can't share the Verbier festival videos with you, but here is a youtube video of Kirill Gerstein practicing a bit of the Liszt on the Maene-Vinoly. Listen and tell me what you think!!1
I watched an interesting lecture on youtube recently. Professor David Witten at Montclair University discussed Chopin's sketches regarding technique. The lecture is entitled "The Greatest Method Book Never Written: Chopin's Sketchbook for Pianists". I found many of his comments to be thought-provoking; Prof. Witten is also an engaging speaker! The video is a little under forty minutes, and I think you may enjoy as I did! Let me know your thoughts!
Some of you may tire hearing me say that the study of music is a lifelong endeavor, but truly, I learn of new composers, performers almost every day that I previously knew nothing about. For example, as much as I have admired the music of organists Marie-Clare Alain and Gillian Weir, I never knew about Jeanne Demessieux, born 100 years ago, who was an astonishing performer and virtuosic composer. I link a New York Times article here, with incredible performances of her music played by Paul Jacobs (who is from Washington, PA., went to Curtis, and is chair of the organ department at Juilliard). Please do watch the inserted youtube video of Paul performing Demessieux's "Octaves". I watched with dropped jaw!! Jeanne Demessieux was deemed " the greatest organist of all generations" by none other than her teacher Marcel Dupre. Maurice Durufle, as he was finishing his Requiem said that "next to Demessieux, the rest of us play the pedals like elephants". There is also a link in the article to a wonderful performance of Demessieux's Te Deum by Renee Anne Louprette. Sit back, turn up your speakers, and prepare to be wowed!!
WHAT is an "Etude"?? Harvard Dictionary of Music describes as "A composition designed to improve the technique of an instrumental performer by isolating specific difficulties and concentrating his or her efforts on their mastery. A single etude usually focuses on one technical problem; etudes are usually published in groups more or less systematically covering a range of such problems in a range of keys." This month we will focus on etudes. If asked to name one famous collection of etudes, many pianists would come up quite easily with those written by Czerny and Hanon, but immediately thereafter, one would probably say those by Chopin (I linked Pollini playing all twenty-four). There are, however, thousands of etude for piano, and every pianist should have a good number under their fingers! Those etudes by Claude Debussy are among the most glorious, in my opinion; listen here to a young Mitsuko Uchida practicing during an interview regarding her performance of the Debussy Etudes and see if you agree! To listen to the set in entirety, I link one of my fav pianists, Jean-Efflam Bavouzet, performing the Debussy. Now, another set of etudes that I just adore are those incredibly difficult ones by Gyorgy Ligeti. Listen to No.13 dubbed "the Devil's Staircase", performed here by another favorite pianist of mine, Pierre-Laurent Aimard. There is also a good video by Aimard where he discusses this work in detail. Alright, enough! Now, let's get those fingers moving! What etude are YOU working on today?
One of my favorite quotes by Sergei Rachmaninov:
“Music is enough for a lifetime, but a lifetime is not enough for music.”
Hey, gardener/pianists, check out student Gwen's wonderful garden blogs! Visit Gwen's