Awe-inspiring playing at the Alaska International Piano-E-Competition

e-competition semi-finalists

This is the first Internet channeled “e-competition” that features a crop of well-trained adult pianists. The preceding Yamaha Disklavier sponsored events were youth based and originated in the Midwest–(Minnesota to be exact)

With current Disklavier technology flying high, the newest venue for pianists to dish out their talent with satellite assistance, is the great state of Alaska.

Such a pianistic convergence with Classical emphasis notches up the cultural level of “the Last Frontier,” trumping Iditarod or dog sled madness.

The international lure of E-Competition has also grown with each passing year through media pumped “LIVESTREAMING.” The cyber beam can easily steer a crowd of sports fanatics to an out of bounds concert hall, which is a mouse click away from the soccer championships.

Reminder: It takes just as much finesse to play the piano beautifully, as to land a Gold Medal at the Olympics or be tagged the Most Valuable Player at the World Cup.

And speaking of the “winner’s circle,” a pianist of Russian heritage but representing Spain, delivered a knockout performance during the Recital Round, Day 2.

Marianna Prjevalskaya graced the stage of the Davis Concert Hall, (University of Alaska, Fairbanks) earning herself a ticket to the Semi-Finals!

Bio: (abridged)
“…As a recitalist Ms. Prjevalskaya performed for thrilling audiences in the US, Europe, Korea, Japan and beyond. She gave acclaimed performances at prestigious venues such as the Grosser Saal Mozarteum in Salzburg, Accademia Santa Cecilia in Rome, Teatro Goldoni of Florence, Minato Mirai Hall in Yokohama, Auditorio Manuel de Falla in Granada, Palau de la Música in Valencia, Auditorio de Galicia in Santiago de Compostela, Fundación Juan March in Madrid, Chopin Museum in Valdemossa in Palma de Mallorca, Steinway Hall, Weill Recital Hall and Yamaha Artists Services in New York. She appeared at important festivals such as Bearcat Piano Festival in Cincinnati, Texas State International Piano Festival, Norwich and Norfolk Festival in UK, Salzburg Festival, Festival Russo in Rome, Bologna Festival, and Divertimento Festival in Poland.

“In addition to her role as performing artist, Ms. Prjevalskaya serves as the Artistic Director of the Open Piano Competition (London), where she was as a jury member in 2012. In November 2014 she will be adjudicator at Albacete National Piano Competition in Spain.

“Ms. Prjevalskaya earned the Master of Music degree and Artist Diploma from the Yale School of Music, Artist Diploma from Indiana University South Bend and the Bachelor of Music degree from the Royal College of Music in London, where her principal teachers included Irina Zaritskaya, Kevin Kenner, Alexander Toradze and Boris Berman. At diverse festivals, she has studied with renowned pianists such as Liliya Zilbernstein, Emmanuel Ax, John O’Conor, Leon Fleisher, Choong-Mo Kang, Richard Goode, Peter Frankl and Piotr Paleczny, among others.

“Having grown up in Russia and Spain, Ms. Prjevalskaya benefited from early lessons with her mother, Tatiana Prjevalskaya, starting at age six and continuing into her teens. Currently, she is pursuing the Doctor of Musical Arts degree at the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore under the guidance of Boris Slutsky.”

The other big attraction (in my humble opinion) is Sweden’s Peter Friis Johansson.

His Schumann Kreisleriana was riveting!


More about the Competition:
(click the sub link CONTESTANTS to see program listings)

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Piano Technique: Executing Tremolos as occur in Beethoven’s Sonata “Pathetique”

I’ve picked up various ideas about practicing tremolos from the piano forums as applies to the Alla Breve section of the “Pathetique” Sonata No. 8 (movement 1) and extracted a valuable tutorial from a colleague who posted it to you tube.

Beethoven tremolos

At first I concurred with pianist/teacher Benjamin Steinhardt that rolling the C broken octave (or tremolo) forward, for example, might best benefit the execution of it in fast motion. But I came to the conclusion that it’s not mandatory in any sense to ride up the key. (on the C broken octaves)

In fact, there are no hard and fast rules about playing tremolos since physiology of the hand, and octave span of individual players are varied.

Here’s what I found most relevant to playing the alla breve section of Beethoven’s Sonata “Pathetique” with its redundant bass tremolos.

First I played solid octaves, and thought in TWO while simultaneously playing the melody. (Musically, I thought of 2 beats per measure not 4 as comported with the composer’s metrical indication)

Naturally, I aimed to shape the bass octaves and treble line in a musical and dynamic way.

This preliminary better clarified how my hands would work TOGETHER when I unraveled the bass octaves.

In this regard I recommend separately playing the octaves while SINGING the melody above.

OR one can play the melody separately while singing the bass line.

This is a more parceled approach to the whole tremolo permeated section which should help advance the learning process by increments.

By far what’s most important is arm and wrist relaxation, and making sure the thumbs don’t tighten but drift naturally with the hand. Little dips of energy to sustain the tremolo over many measures are also helpful.

Here are thoughtful suggestions uploaded by colleague, Benjamin Steinhardt:

And a supplement contributed by Jackie Sharp


My Additional Beethoven “Pathetique” extract:

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Seymour Bernstein: From Maine with Love

When Seymour packs his bags for the summer, escaping Manhattan’s stifling heat, he takes along his soulful music and fistfuls of almonds.

The maestro, known for his beloved book, With Your Own Two Hands retreats to an awesome, cabin-like sanctuary that sits on a cliff overlooking the ocean. (It’s his daily source of inspiration.)

Bernstein’s Paradise found feeds his commune with the piano (a resonant Kawai grand) and the neighbor chipmunks who are wooed to almonds dispensed by soft inviting hands.

Here, “Junko” is fed generously, trusting his benefactor to the last gulp and pouch storage.

J. is a descendant of “Belinda” who had an album of music dedicated to her.

Belinda the Chipmunch

Seymour has memorialized his furry and feathered friends in numerous colorful musical collections sold the world over. birds_book_one1raccoons_book_one1

And with nature’s bounty surrounding him, he bestows a personal musical gift in gratitude: a divine rendering of Bach-Kempff’s Siciliano.

How the chipmunks, raccoons, birds, and butterflies are soaring with pleasure to undulating waves of sound.


Seymour’s affinity with all living creatures:

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Pianist, Christyna Kaczynski-Kozel, a local “classic” with an International profile


Christyna Kaczynski-Kozel is a credit to many nations. She’s spun around Canada and the Continent, savoring ties to great music mentors, one of whom was a towering figure in the conducting world. In a thread of scintillating and informative conversation, Christyna paid tribute yesterday to her most influential teacher, Sergiu Celibidache.


About the conductor: (WIKI)

“Sergiu Celibidache (Romanian: 11 July [O.S. 28 June] 1912 – 14 August 1996) was a Romanian conductor, composer, and teacher. Educated in his native Romania, and later in Paris and Berlin, Celibidache’s career in music spanned over five decades, including tenures as principal conductor for the Munich Philharmonic, Berlin Philharmonic and several European orchestras. Later in life, he taught at Mainz University in Germany and the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania….”


Christyna’s abode, high up in the Kensington Hills, overlooks the Golden Gate span over the East Bay.


It’s a glittering musical sanctuary dotted with her husband, Michael’s contemporary art.


His paintings partner with stunning Italian lithographs, like this eye-catcher.


Naturally, the living room centerpiece that upstages all, is a magnificently resonant Hamburg Steinway which richly expressed the Baroque ornamental landscape of composer Domenico Scarlatti. It was Christyna’s appetizer to an engaging interview.


The Sonata in B minor, K. 27, just happens to be the opener of a program the pianist will present at the Berkeley Piano Club on Saturday, June 28th at 4 p.m. (2724 Haste St) Mozart, Chopin and Debussy selections will round out the recital.

Without further ado, Christyna’s riveting words and demonstrations at the Hamburg in “concert” with her precious reminiscences of Celibidache follow a nostalgic flashback to a performance rendered by her very gifted musician parents. (The late, Mary Maltaise, Contralto, and Czeslaw Kaczynski, Pianist)


Part 1–A Conversation with Christyna Kaczynski-Kozel

Part 2

Christyna’s concert reminder:
The Berkeley Piano Club
Saturday, June 28th, at 4 p.m.
2724 Haste
Berkeley, CA
Tickets purchased at the door
Or reserve a seat by e-mailing Christyna:

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A common chorus among adult piano students

Marie and Aiden

As decades pass, and each adult piano student on his personal journey chimes in with a greeting at the start of a lesson, I’ve noticed a synchronized choir of commonly expressed thoughts.

The riveting idée fixe that resonates LIVE and through SKYPE channels, is like the redundant motif of Berlioz Symphonie Fantastique.

“I really want to PLEASE you,” I hear times over, maybe even a few hundred if proliferated over a good span of teaching.

Quickly, I think on my feet. What is this about? Is the pupil here to please me, or to take a common journey with me on an equal footing?

My interest in this universe of musical growth and development makes me ponder responses that seem weighted down by early childhood experiences.

Many adults, I have come to learn, were saturated with a Right and Wrong way to play the piano.

It might have started with a vigilant parent who stood over them, counting note blunders, registering keen disapproval.

A stickler for PERFECTION, an overseeing, supervising mom, likely grunted in rhythm with the neighborhood piano teacher who demanded pleasure upon hearing the flavor of the week piece.

She otherwise abhorred a crowd of clunkers to final cadence. Piano pieces were in rapid turnover like licked down lollipops.

But why was perfection the all in one, ace-in-a-hole goal when the PROCESS, not the destination was far more important.

After so many years of hearing victims of this indoctrination perpetuate a self-punishing tradition, I found myself plowing through the wreckage, trying to steer everyone into a happy and healthy safety zone.

My declarations bundled in affirmation followed:

There is no need to please the teacher, but rather to PLEASE oneself.

Or perhaps, PLEASE should be replaced with I want to enjoy learning in its many facets, knowing that progress comes in spurts, not as a linear, forward movement. (When first learning to walk, for example, slips and falls did not attach value judgments), and crawling was an accepted stage of growth without a nod of disapproval.

In this regard, looking over the fence at every other adult taking piano– using a measuring rod to compare rates of advance is meaningless, and a waste of energy.

So I will shift my eyes and ears to the keyboard and savor each day that I make contact with something BIGGER than me, a gift I must cradle.

Finally, from the perspective of a piano teacher who is NOT a high priestess sitting above a congregation of love-starved students, I say,

While imparted pats on the back are part and parcel of human interaction, they should not be sought after as ENDS to mark out the ONLY POSITIVE junctures of piano study.

Instead, cleanse the environment by striking “success,” “please,” “good and bad lessons” from the vocabulary.

Meditate on,

Music is about enriching one’s life with beauty, and having a partner mentor who leads and follows in a harmonious pursuit of what is largely intangible but still a miracle of creation.


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Piano Technique: Wrist flexibility and relaxed arms

Livia Rev, Hungarian born pianist, who’s 98, demonstrates in her playing how flexible wrists and relaxed arms spin beautiful phrases in legato and staccato. In a romp through Czerny studies, we observe her conspicuous, elastic wrist motions.

In a separate video posted to you tube, Rev, literally takes a student’s hands and dips the wrists way up and down, and then specifically nudges them in clockwise and counter-clockwise directions..

Ironically, I’d demonstrated the very same motions for an adult student as we worked on a C Major scale in 10ths.

Going back decades, my New York City teacher, Lillian Freundlich advocated this type of relaxed, free range motion that helped phrase-shaping.

Ena Bronstein, a student of Claudio Arrau and Raphael De Silva also focused on supple wrists and fluid arm movements. And as her pupil in the 1980′s, I managed to absorb what she passed down via her well-known mentors.


About Livia Rev
Lívia Rév
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

“Rév was born in Budapest, Hungary. She started her studies with Margit Varro and Klara Mathe. Aged nine, she won the Grand Prix des Enfants Prodiges. Aged twelve she performed with an orchestra. She studied with Leo Weiner and Arnold Székely at the Franz Liszt Academy of Music, with Professor Robert Teichmüller at the Leipzig Conservatory, and with Paul Weingarten at the Vienna Conservatory, having left Hungary in 1946.

“Rév lives in Paris, with her husband Benjamin Dunn.

“She has won the Ferenc Liszt International Record Grand Prix.

“Rév has performed across Europe, in Asia, Africa, and in the United States. She has been the soloist with conductors such as Sir Adrian Boult, André Cluytens, Jascha Horenstein, Eugen Jochum, Josef Krips, Rafael Kubelík, Hans Schmidt-Isserstedt, Constantin Silvestri, and Walter Susskind.

“Her first US appearance was in 1963 at the invitation of the Rockefeller Institute.

“She is well known for her light touch and clarity. Her recordings vary from complete Debussy Préludes, Chopin Nocturnes, and Mendelssohn Songs without Words.”

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Adult Piano Instruction: Sight-reading, Solfeggio, and Transposition

I reserve the last 10-15 minutes of my lessons with a few adult students for sight-reading, sight-singing with solfeggio, and transposition activity.

While I begin with short pieces in five-finger positions, the requirement to transpose these in a Circle of Fifth progression (playing Major and Relative minors) is a valuable ear-training experience.

In the following example, a student is prompted to sing the bass line as she plays the treble, and then in reverse.

She practiced a Major/Relative Minor sequence using a movable “DO.”

In the second demonstration, an adult beginner who started piano lessons just 5 months ago, had his FIRST experience with sight-reading and transposition. (Initially, he read an A minor phrase, treble line only, and subsequently transposed it into into the PARALLEL A MAJOR key. The tonalities, C Major and c minor followed)

Finally, the student returned to the A minor model, parceled out the bass line, and played the phrase with both hands.


(With both pupils, I used Fundamentals of Piano Theory by Keith Snell and Martha Ashleigh)

These activity supplements improve sight-reading skills, and help pupils internalize what’s on the page.

They advance ear-training and grow an awareness of intervals and key relationships.

Organizers that include repetitions and sequences aid reading and memorization.

As a student advances, he/she will transpose more complex pieces that do not adhere to five-finger positions.

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