The SINGING ingredient of phrasing

When I studied piano in New York City with Lillian Lefkofsky Freundlich, she always sang over my playing as well as her own. Her habitual voice-overs that lingered for years and seeped into the depths of my musical consciousness, gave me a sense of phrase-loving that would spread far and wide in my own teaching. Yet I would endure criticism from a portion of my You Tube audience, who wanted my focus to be on the fingers and where they traveled over the keyboard. (NO distractions please)

If we eavesdrop on Master Classes of the greats: Boris Berman, Dimitri Bashkirov, Richard Goode, and Murray Perahia, as well as others, we observe their sometimes raspy and imperfect vocal expression that nonetheless communicates shape, nuance, dynamics where fingers alone can’t achieve the same.

In the attached video sample, I play and sing at key moments–and at one point I expose dual lines–fleshing out one “voice” as I render another.

(Tchaikovsky’s “In the Church,” Op. 39, was chosen because of its “singing” choir dimension)

Some of the most gratifying interactions I’ve had with students centered on a vocal exchange where lines and contours were discovered, but simultaneously wedded to a physical understanding of musical expression. (Awareness of harmonic movement, modulations, resolutions, and the flow of breath were always part of the integrated whole)

Here I demonstrate a supple wrist to aid the singing tone.

In the Church

In the Church p 2


About arioso7: Shirley Kirsten

International piano teacher by Skype, recording artist, composer, piano finder, freelance writer, film maker, story teller: Grad of the NYC HS of Performing Arts, Oberlin Conservatory, NYU (Master of Arts) Studies with Lillian Freundlich and Ena Bronstein; Master classes with Murray Perahia and Oxana Yablonskaya. Studios in BERKELEY and EL CERRITO, California; Member, Music Teachers Assoc. of California, MTAC; Distance learning and Skyped instruction with supplementary videos: SKYPE ID, shirleypiano1 Contact me at: OR or at FACEBOOK: Shirley Smith Kirsten, /shirley.kirsten TWITTER: Private fund-raising for non-profits as pianist--Public Speaking re: piano teaching and creative approaches
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4 Responses to The SINGING ingredient of phrasing

  1. lamymn says:

    Please keep singing while you’re teaching!! As a singer (choral) it helps me to think my way through my modest little practice pieces. I recently went to hear Richard Goode at the Wigmore Hall: talk about a pianist who sings, skats, grunts, you name it, all the way through his performing! It doesn’t distract me, or detract from his artistry, quite the reverse.


  2. Thank you for sharing, So glad you heard Richard, one of my favorite pianists. He used to hang out with Murray Perahia in NYC, and I was lucky to hear both often in the Big Apple. Richard played in a master class with Karl Ulrich Schnabel at Mannes–and soared with the Schumann Fantasie. The rest is history. I’m assuming he programmed in Beethoven. There are some lovely masterclasses with Richard Goode on You Tube, where I believe he SINGS to the heavens. Rudolf Serkin was another pronounced singer during performances, and he delivered an amazing Waldstein at Carnegie. I’m assuming he did the same during teaching moments. I’ll revisit.


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