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Piano Technique: Exploring contrasting emotions when practicing a piece (as Daniil Trifonov, pianist, recommended in his videotaped interview)

I put into “practice” one of Trifonov’s recommendations, as I mentored a second year piano student this evening.

We started the lesson by playing “happy” and then “angry” consecutive staccato thirds. (“Hopping” from Dozen a Day)

Eventually after completing our scale and other technical routines, we applied the emotion shifts to the opening of “Wild Rider” by Robert Schumann (from the composer’s “Album for the Young”) “Sad” and then “Happy.”

The video demonstrates:

I’m not entirely convinced of this approach as it pertains to mainstream piano repertoire. I think it’s more applicable to scales, arpeggios, octaves etc., that are metaphors for the literature, and feed into it.

To devote time to making a Bach Gigue, for example, sound sad, is for me, counter to the style or spirit of the composition.

Elaine Comparone who plays harpsichord, piano, and organ, agreed.

“It would seem to me that a piece, being a work of art, would possess an intrinsic meaning or feeling(imbued by the composer) that the player would then try to transmit to his/her listeners. It is up to the performer/interpreter to discover this meaning, not to superimpose an entirely arbitrary or perhaps contrary one.

“For instance, can you imagine, or would it make any sense to play the first movement of the Beethoven Pathetique Sonata, for instance, in a perky, playful mood? I’m not sure what Trifonov is getting at. Maybe he feels he can try a bunch of different approaches with the pieces he plays.

“The B-flat Schubert might allow for some variance of interpretation, but I can’t imagine anything more than varying shades of a certain feeling. Maybe that’s what he meant…

“I guess different interpreters can discover varying meanings in a piece. But I don’t see the point of attempting diametrically opposing interpretations on the same piece.”.

Irina Gorin, teacher and creator, Tales of a Musical Journey, however, asserts that she asks her students to play their pieces with two or three different emotions to broaden their depth of expression. As she’s quoted: it applies to “anything.”

All ideas are welcome.




2 thoughts on “Piano Technique: Exploring contrasting emotions when practicing a piece (as Daniil Trifonov, pianist, recommended in his videotaped interview)”

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