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Virtuosity and Poetry in Motion hallmark Ena Bronstein’s musical return to Fresno

Mister Rogers would have welcomed Ena Bronstein back to the “neighborhood” that she left over 25 years ago. He’d say that she planned to honor her friends, former neighbors, and piano students by giving them a very special reunion concert wrapped in love.

And so it happened that our Fresno “neighborhood” piano teacher who had emigrated to the East Coast, returned “home” to her roots to bestow a musical gift that left an indelible memory.


With my video camera mounted on a delicate tripod, I wound my way to the balcony of First Congregational Church, finding a snug space, keyboard-side for my film landing. From this vantage point, I could zoom in on a 9-foot grand that was pea-size to the naked eye.

It evoked my childhood seat in Carnegie Hall’s last row– with its dizzying gaze upon a stage that hosted Ashkenazy, Richter and Gilels. Their delicate pianissimos were melted pin drops of musical pleasure.

Ena, too, would feed the soul of listeners at the Old Red Church on Van Ness with an expressive palette of tonal colors and textures, framed and styled for each of three composers: Liszt, Debussy and Beethoven.

From the very first silky sound emanating from a well cared for piano, she riveted her audience to every nuance, sculpted phrase, and expressive possibility of all programmed works. It was playing permeated by seasoned maturity, finesse, mood painting and heightened expression. (For students learning about the unity of physical movement with fluid, emotional musical expression, Ena’s supple wrist and flowing, relaxed arms were exemplary models)

An excerpt from Liszt’s 12 Transcendental Etudes

In the culminating Beethoven Sonata, op. 111 the artist left us in spellbound silence at the last fading cadence, needing no encore to disturb a purity of contemplation.

I barely held back tears.


Ena celebrated the birthdays of Liszt and Debussy in a personalized performer to audience soliloquy, then continued to play her heart out.

Pour Le Piano: Debussy Toccata

Prelude: Voiles (with my photo seascapes along the Bay)

For her generosity, and singular benefit performance to restore the Church’s Casavant pipe organ, she was rewarded by large servings of love that circulated through the reception area following her concert. I was one of many former students who begged for a photo with her:

As icing on the cake, I was granted a brief interview with my “neighborhood” piano teacher who, despite her farewell decades ago, will always have an eternal presence in my life and those of others she touched in a unique way.

Ena, please come back home again, soon!


From 12 Etudes Transcendantales
Harmonies du soir Liszt

Preludes – Voiles Debussy
Feux d’artifice

Etudes – pour les Arpeges composes Debussy
pour les Degres chromatiques

Pour le Piano


Sonata Op.111 Beethoven

Maestoso – Allegro con brio ed appassionato
Arietta – Adagio molto, semplice e cantabile


Ena Bronstein-Barton Bio:


“Born in Santiago, Chile, pianist Ena Bronstein Barton began her career in South America, touring her native continent. After winning a national piano competition she traveled to New York to study with Claudio Arrau and Rafael de Silva. Her New York debut at Town Hall was received with critical acclaim. Since then, Ms. Barton’s career has taken her across the United States, back to South America, to Europe, the Near and Far East, Australia and New Zealand. Among her engagements abroad was an extended tour of Israel and Europe, highlighted by performances as soloist with orchestras in Jerusalem, Luxembourg and Rome.

“Ms. Barton has received many honors throughout her career, including an invitation to attend the Casals Festival, a 1976 Martha Baird Rockefeller Grant which resulted in a solo recital at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall, and the 1996 Distinguished Artists Piano Award by Artists International. Her chamber music performances have included appearances with violinist Jaime Laredo and the Guarneri Quartet.

“Ms. Barton taught at California State University-Fresno for 13 years. She was artist-in-residence at Monterey Peninsula College in California and has conducted master classes at the University of Veracruz in Xalapa, Mexico, and in Santiago.

“Recently she gave a recital and master class as part of the centennial celebration of Claudio Arrau’s birthday being held in New York City at the Greenwich House Music School.

“Currently, Ms. Barton is head of the piano department at the Westminster Conservatory of Music, the college’s community music school. She is also a member of the piano faculty of Westminster Choir College of Rider University.”



Donald Munro’s Fresno Bee interview with Ena Bronstein:


The Neighorhood Teacher Lives On:


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Excerpts from my POWHOW TOP NOTCH TONE TUTORIAL! (webcam piano instruction)

Snatches from our first class! We’re working on sculpting a beautiful musical line in a five-finger position.







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Piano Instruction: Practicing the “windy” chromatic scale of Beethoven’s “Fur Elise”

After a stream of graceful arpeggiated triplets, a “windy” sounding, descending chromatic scale leads artfully back to the opening theme that concludes “Fur Elise.”

The traditional chromatic fingering I’ve inserted in the score corresponds to the 1/2-step sequence beginning on Bb: Black/white, Black/white Black/White/White etc. 3, 1, 3, 1, 3, 2, 1 etc.

Video Instruction

Through a lesson-in-progress with an adult student, I fleshed out ways to phrase, shape, and smooth out these referenced measures permeated by rolling triplet figures.(79-85)



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A Power Piano Powhow Launch! (LIVE webcam class instruction)

My first POWHOW class, “Top Notch Tone Tutorial,” brought a group of piano enthusiasts who appeared in their own unique “boxes” eager to learn about touch, tone, and nuance. An inspired pooch even chimed in off camera, but was quickly re-routed to BOW-WOW Dog Discipline 101.



The PIANO basics were top priority:

Where to sit on the bench; relaxed, round, hand position; approach to the keys from lap to keyboard as prep for the main Event.

Detached note playing with supple wrist motion, separate fingers of each hand. Imagining a beautiful tone, and singing along.

Playing groups of two notes (8ths) with a dipping wrist, and follow-through forward motion.

Finally, grouping four notes at a time in “doubleleedle” tempo (twice as fast as 8ths but framed by a well-controlled tempo) The flexible, “spongy” wrist helped with phrase-shaping.

It was a joyful romp over C, D, E, F, and G of each hand, adding in the “sad minor” with Eb for mood contrast.

Not to forget our CONTRARY MOTION escapade, with fingers going in opposite directions.

A brief encounter with “monkey swing out” elbow motions assisted with tapering phrases gracefully.

To wrap things up, we played various measures at different dynamic levels: First LOUD (Forte) to soft, (piano) then soft to LOUD.


Coming up: The Trampoline effect, and how to produce a bouncy “staccato.”

Join the fun and sign up for piano classes that interest you.


Feel free to contact me with suggested ideas, days and times.




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Piano Instruction: Pastorale in D Major, K. 415 by Domenico Scarlatti, a stepwise approach

The Pastorale in D, included in Margery Halford’s Scarlatti, An Introduction to his Keyboard Works, poses significant musical challenges. In the technical realm, the composer has a tricky landscape of two-note legato figures as offbeats in the treble, and these are set against bass, dotted quarter rhythms. (This counterpoint is later inverted in the middle section)-Note that 12/8 meter is felt in 4.

Intertwined with this mosaic are a series of apoggiaturas, or non-harmonic tones that resolve into the bass chords through redundant two-note groupings. These passing harmonic clashes in duple 8ths are strongly “motivic” meaning they reflect the composer’s main idea in its smallest form.

In realizing these redundant figures, the pianist has to carefully lean on the dissonant note, and artfully resolve it. A supple wrist helps to shape down these slurs.

In my video instruction, I show ways to practice the Pastorale, starting with separate hands, isolating voices, blocking, and tracking harmonies. The application of a flexible wrist is naturally indispensable to this whole learning process, and playing with a singing tone should underlie all practicing.


LIVE webcam instruction at POWHOW



Scarlatti Sonata in G, K. 431 Tutorial


Scarlatti Minuetto in C, L. 217 Tutorial:


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Piano Technique: Practicing the C# minor Arpeggio in a myriad of ways (Video)

You can imagine any number of approaches to an arpeggio that will nudge it along to fluidity. One, is thinking that the elbows, arms, and wrists are playing the fingers. In a sense the fingers are the end of a total arm suspension. Relaxation is the key word.

The C# minor arpeggio is thankfully symmetrical and starts with parallel fingers 2, 1, in both hands and then progresses through reciprocal (or mirror fingers) on the G#, C#: The Right hand uses 2, 4, while the Left is in reverse, with 4,2. Thumbs MEET between these black key tunnels. Such a predictable pattern of notes assists the student on a cognitive level.

C# E G# C# E G# C# E G# C#

The Physical or Kinesthetic dimension of arpeggio playing:

The videotaped instruction fleshes out a swing of the elbows, and demonstrates how a student can practice sweeping, curved motions of the arm SILENTLY before infusing sound. The miming of movements is one of the ways a player can be his own best coach between lessons.

Blocking is another technique reviewed in the footage.

Finally, thinking of arpeggios as playful romps over the keys, with abounding rolls of energy is a great frame of reference. It applies to legato and staccato playing since both need contouring.


Practicing the E Major Arpeggio


POWHOW LIVE webcast piano instruction:


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Part THREE: Guess what happened on the way to my El Cerrito Piano Studio? (Photos!)

There was no rooster greeting me for the past two weeks as I wound my way from Bart Del Norte into the El Cerrito Hills. The “cockadoodledoo” had been a welcome embellishment to my time-honored walk and I wondered what happened to the messenger.

Once I had ensnared some video through a wood fence opening of a modest house that revealed a mini-parade of hens and their male companions, I missed their audibly friendly alerts.

Packing for my Amtrak trip north from Fresno I’d almost forgotten my Sony Cybershot digital camera. But at the last minute I’d reminded myself that the wandering wild turkey I’d encountered 4 weeks ago on the steps of a split-level home, could surface again for a photo opportunity.

I’d be ready!

For all my rehearsals and preparation, there was not a trace of sauntering poultry within my El Cerrito walking radius, but resignation would not consume me.

I ignored the quiet of the home where the Rooster had incessantly crowed, and pointed my digital camera through an even bigger hole in the fence that was nearly heart-shaped.

And gasping with excitement, I found this:

Capricorn Love in full bloom:

Farmyard fare:

A great segue way to piano lessons!


Part ONE: Guess What Happened on the way to my El Cerrito Piano Studio?


Part TWO: Guess What Happened on the way to my El Cerrito Piano Studio?