Chopin, Cyprien Katsaris, Fantasie-Impromptu, Frederic Chopin, piano instruction, piano teaching

Chopin’s Fantasie-Impromptu rises above Facebook etiquette

This morning I was greeted by a Timeline addition to my Facebook page that was worrisome. The header was, “Is this your student?” It framed a precociously youthful performance of the Fantasie-Impromptu that was at best hammered out and musically insensitive. Yet one could peel away layers of fast and furious, disorganized playing and find a talented youngster who was sadly denied a good mentor to take raw material and refine/develop it to satisfying artistic levels. (And this would require significant time and patience– it would not be an overnight mega-learning phenomenon. Years would transpire as fundamentals of the singing tone and how to produce it would be the most elementary exposure needed.)

Yet, I meant to tread lightly in my criticism of the child, also refusing to delete the posting for fear of offending a Facebook friend who meant well showcasing the impetuous player pounding the piano without knowing better. Instead, I hunted down a beautiful in-progress performance of the same work under the mentorship of pianist, Cyprien Katsaris.

No words need justify what we perceive as a beautiful fusion of touch and tone. The child makes further advances during the lesson due to her preceding, solid technical/musical foundation. Katsaris builds upon it and infuses inspiration, imagery, blocking techniques and other prompts to grow her playing. And it all comes together in pleasing increments. By the end of the instruction, the youngster is producing more beautiful lines, in a remarkable ONENESS with the piano.

Finally, if we go back to the bare essentials of early piano learning, we can see what it takes to plant the seeds that grow to full musical maturity, where no shortcuts exist.

Right from the start the essence of beauty blossoms from bud to bloom with tender, meticulous, and patient, loving care.

"Tales of a Musical Journey" by Irina Gorin, Cyprien Katsaris, Irina Gorin, Tatiana Nikolayeva, Uncategorized, Yeol Eum Son, Yeti mic, Yeti microphone

My Top You Tube Picks for 2013, What are yours?

My note: I’ve listed links to blogs posted about these performers.


Grigory Sokolov Complete piano recital, Theatre de Champs Elysee (for astounding fusion of technique/lyricism/wide dynamic palette–having everything and anything at his disposal to draw upon from his rich musical repository)

Irina Morozova: Chopin Piano Concerto No. 1 in E minor, Op. 11, second movement (profound lyricism, singing tone, fluidity, molto cantabile, tasteful rubato, and more)

Yeol Eum Son, Earl Wild Arrangement of Gershwin’s “Embraceable You” (gorgeous, finessed playing with a remarkable palette of colors—immaculate phrasing)

Vitaly Margulis: Chopin Nocturne in Db, Op. 27, No. 2 (heart-fluttering phrases, perfect rubato, OLD WORLD playing at its best)

George Li, Liszt “La Campanella” (a wondrously seasoned and beautiful approach to the piano that belies his youth)

Tatiana Nikolayeva ( Old, time-honored, Romantic era-wrapped Schumann) My heart is throbbing!

Yevgeni Sudbin (Domenico Scarlatti from heaven!)

Angela Hewitt, Bach French Suite in G (Lyrical Bach and quite pleasing)

Glenn Gould, Bach D Minor Concerto (beyond words!)

Murray Perahia, Partita in E minor, BWV 830 (As always, exquisite, captivating playing, mind and heart fused all the way through)


Elaine Comparone (Robust, vibrant and the rest)

Keyboard Sonata in G Major by C.P.E. Bach

Domenico Scarlatti Sonata in D Minor, K. 517 (A knock-out performance!)


Seymour Bernstein, Part 4, “You and the Piano”

Boris Berman

Cyprien Katsaris
Chopin Fantasie Impromptu

Irina Gorin (Wrist Relaxation Exercises)

















Cyprien Katsaris, Cziffra arrangement Flight of the Bumblebee by Rimsky-Korsakov, George Cziffra, piano virtuosos, Shirley Kirsten, Shirley Smith Kirsten, word press,, you tube, you tube video

Cyprien Katsaris plays Cziffra’s Flight of the Bumblebee in the pianist’s presence on Live TV

This is a snatch of history. I hadn’t seen the You Tube video until now, but here it is: A jaw-dropping, bravura execution of parallel octaves! (And as the story goes, Cziffra made a change in his Bumblebee transcription, where an EF trill, was embellished with added notes, with short notice given to Katsaris)

Cyprien performed the arrangement “live,” on Cziffra’s televised broadcast, “The Great Chess Board” in 1975, and out of obscurity a You Tuber surfaced decades later with the footage.

Words fail to describe this awesome listening and visual experience!

Virtuosos like Katsaris are few and far between. Like Cziffra, every note, every phrase is dynamic in some way, reaching far beyond the printed score.

Bravo! once again.


“Flight of the Bumblebee is an orchestral interlude written by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov for his opera The Tale of Tsar Saltan, composed in 1899–1900. The piece closes Act III, Tableau 1, during which the magic Swan-Bird changes Prince Gvidon Saltanovich (the Tsar’s son) into an insect so that he can fly away to visit his father (who does not know that he is alive). Although in the opera the Swan-Bird sings during the first part of the “Flight”, her vocal line is melodically uninvolved and easily omitted; this feature, combined with the fact that the number decisively closes the scene, made easy extraction as an orchestral concerto piece possible.”


Transcriptions of Bumblebee for the piano are by Sergei Rachmaninoff and Gyorgy Cziffra.

Interview, WGBH Radio (Cyprien Katsaris with Cathy Fuller)

Chopin, Chopin Waltz no. 14 in e minor, Chopin Waltz Op. 64 no. 1, Chopin Waltz Op. 64 no. 2, Cyprien Katsaris, Cziffra, Frederic Chopin, Gyorgy Cziffra, pianist, piano technique, practicing piano passages with rhythms, Scarlatti Sonata K. 96 in D, Uncategorized, virtuoso pianists, word press,, you tube, you tube video

Piano Technique: Even the Big Boys practice with rhythms–Cziffra demonstrates

I’m a great admirer of the late Gyorgy Cziffra and his towering virtuosity. If anyone was under appreciated during his lifetime it was this wondrous pianist whose every phrase had meaning, intent, and emotion.

Cyprien Katsaris, a dazzling performer in his own right, went out of his way to celebrate Cziffra’s artistry during an interview on WGBH Public Radio. The scope of the tribute naturally sent me scurrying to You Tube for samples of the Hungarian pianist’s playing.

I was not only awestruck, but pleasantly surprised to find audio tracks of Cziffra practicing Chopin Waltzes using the dotted eighth-16th rhythm. It’s what so many teachers prescribe for their students to iron out problematic passages. And many pupils will resist, believing it’s a pedantic, time-wasting effort. But if they would just step back and listen to 10 or so minutes of Cziffra practicing sections of three well known Chopin Waltzes, perhaps they might have a changed perspective.

Listening to Cziffra’s playing has become an addiction. These snatches, even in practice mode are brimming with energy and excitement.

Chopin Waltz no. 14 in E minor (Practice 1)

Chopin Waltzes Op. 64, no. 2, followed by no. 1 (Practice 3) The track starts with a brief snatch of a Chopin sonata.


A sample of impeccable Scarlatti played by Cziffra:

Sonata K. 96 in D
This is astounding!!!!!

Chopin Prelude, Op. 28 no. 16

blogging, blogs about piano, Chopin, Chopin Fantasie-Impromptu in C# minor,, Cyprien Katsaris, Cyprien Katsaris Masterclass, Frederic Chopin, piano teaching, piano technique,, pianoworld,, teaching a piano student about melody, teaching piano, teaching piano to children, The art of phrasing at the piano, the art of piano pedaling, you tube, you tube video

Cyprien Katsaris Masterclass: Chopin’s Fantasie-Impromptu (Video)

More of the gift that keeps on giving: A wonderful approach using mental imagery and pinpointed practice techniques. Katsaris has the single-minded patience to work with the student on the physical aspects of playing that realize better phrasing and nuance. The singing tone and the imagination fuse together in this magnificent display of artful exchange between teacher and student. Who could ask for a more inspired offering!

(I noticed the blocking technique that I always find helpful) Thank you again, Maestro!

Chopin Waltz in c# minor Op. 64 no.2, Cyprien Katsaris, Guiomar Novaes, iMac iMovie, Joyce Hatto, Shirley Kirsten, Shirley Kirsten blog, Shirley Smith Kirsten, sound and video track problems, Steinway M grand piano, Vladimir Horowitz, word press,, Yeti microphone, you tube, you tube video

The woes of technology: No, I wasn’t finger synching someone else’s Chopin Waltz in C# minor (Videos)

I watched in disbelief as my 55th take of the C# minor Chopin Waltz Op. 64 went up in smoke. That is, it had been the most satisfying re-do, until I discovered that for 50% of the iMac iMovie, (commencing on p. 2) my hand motions and the music were out of synch. Add to this bizarre mix, (without having “mixed” anything in a recording studio) the music finally caught up with my fingers in the last few frames. A real heartbreaker! But such a quirky turn of events had at least proven that I did not fake the performance–or borrow the sound track from one of my Chopin interpreter favorites like Cyprien Katsaris, or Guiomar Novaes. (My playing was nowhere near the caliber of their readings so I shouldn’t stretch the truth) In any event it would have been a mighty task to study their poetry in motion and pull off a performance counterfeit.

The complete debacle was no doubt a stark reminder of the pianist Joyce Hatto who had acquired this unfortunate entry in Wikipedia:

“Joyce Hatto (5 September 1928 – 29 June 2006) was a British pianist and piano teacher. She became famous late in life, when unauthorized copies of commercial recordings made by other pianists were released under her name, earning her high praise from critics. The fraud did not come to light until a few months after her death.”

I was not going to land a similar footnote to my bio in life, or posthumously, just because of a wretched experience with iMovie. Shame on the Apple Support team for blowing off hundreds of fuming musicians whose hands, feet, guitar and drum tracks, you name it, were running amok in all directions!

Or maybe it was the Yeti mic that had spaced out on me. Who knows? I’d moved it back from the piano by a yard or two before recording. Big deal! That shouldn’t have thrown my body and soul out of kilter.

Enough said, except to emphasize, ex post facto, that I’ve posted the performance to You Tube out of sheer fatigue and frustration.

And of necessity I’m adding the obligatory disclaimers that 1) I’m in good health and have no motor movement problems 2) Yes, it’s actually me playing with all the perfectly intact imperfections in the reading, and 3) My noticeably out of tune “Haddy” Haddorff should be excused for its tonal shortcomings due to its 1951 vintage and failure to hold the last 3 closely spaced tunings. Cut it some slack in old age. It’s still a singing nightingale and was the best fit for the composer. My Steinway M grand would not do, because of its tightly packed hammers, and sadly there wasn’t a trace of a concert technician in agriculture’s heartland. Most can milk cows but not voice pianos.

The question remains, “When will this iMac related blight next strike?” It’s probably a dice throw, or a dung shoot. Such pangs of misfortune, no less, having been visited upon underlings such as myself, can boast the good company of Vladimir Horowitz whose hands started a measure ahead of the music in this performance of the Schubert Gb Impromptu, Op. 90.

So what’s not to like? You can close your eyes and forget the problem. (Oops, I think I heard a fire engine somewhere on the track, Oy Gevalt!)

Correction: One of the you tube commentators clarified what I thought was a visit from the friendly fire department:

“I believe what you heard was the sound of a church bell tolling outside, possibly from the nearby Karlskirche. It is a tad distracting, but it is also a strangely poetic coincidence, given the deeply emotional music and the fact that this was one of Horowitz’s last public performances.”


Classical Music with Cathy Fuller, Cyprien Katsaris, Eugene Ormandy, Georgy Cziffra, Sergei Rachmaninoff, word press,, you tube, you tube video, Yuja Wang

The Gift that keeps on Giving: Cyprien Katsaris shares thoughts about pianist, Gyorgy Cziffra and his ‘Bumblebee’ transcription

In a compelling and somewhat controversial radio broadcast beamed from Boston, Katsaris takes the reigns and regales Georgy Cziffra, a celebrated pianist whose career never reached the summit that Horowitz attained. Katsaris is brutally honest about his own displeasure with this state of musical affairs and harps on the “transcriptions” that Cziffra composed and realized with unparalleled virtuosity. “Purely pianistically, Cziffra was superior to Horowitz,” Katsaris insisted. And then he more clearly focused on the transcriptions and their performances by the Hungarian pianist.

As example, here’s the artist/transcriber’s own reading of ‘Bumblebee’ that is ear shattering! (Everything Katsaris fleshed out about Cziffra’s phrasing, imagination and musicianship is realized in this performance)

Ironically, an anonymous You Tuber managed to catch Katsaris playing the same Cziffra transcription back when, and posted it. Re-played on the air in Boston, it put Katsaris in the hot seat as coyly noted by the interviewer, Cathy Fuller.

Here’s the second version for comparison. It’s certainly a far better recording environment, but I can see why Katsaris took the time to praise Cziffra on this score and others. (pun intended)

In the course of Katsaris’s interview, he revealed himself as an impeccable music historian, recounting fascinating stories about Eugene Ormandy and Rachmaninoff. For this generous and colorful serving of pianorama, I’d recommend a hasty visit to:

You won’t be disappointed.

(Station Name: 99.5, Boston’s All Classical Station, a service of WGBH
Host: Cathy • Producer: Alan McLellan • Engineer: Jane Pipik)

By the way, here’s Yuja Wang adding her bedazzling ‘Bumblebee’ to the mix.

The crescendi in Cziffra and Katsaris’s readings seem more convincing. One can feel the bumbleebee’s buzzing at close range, then circling around.

Biography: (excerpted from
György Cziffra (Piano)

Born: November 5, 1921 Budapest – Hungary
Died: January 15, 1994 – Morsang-sur-Orge (Senlis), France

“The noted Hungarian-born French pianist, Georges [originally György] Cziffra, was a son of Hungarian Romas (his father, György Cziffra Sr., a cembalo player who played in cabaret halls and restaurants in Paris in the 1910’s).

“Cziffra was noticed at the age of 5, as he improvised on popular tunes in bars and circuses. His teachers at the Franz Liszt Academy of Music in Budapest included Ernő Dohnányi.

“His education was interrupted by World War II, when he served in the Hungarian army. After the war he continued his studies at the Franz Liszt Academy with Ferenczi, but was once more distracted from music when he was arrested in 1950 for his rebellious political views. Held under forced labor, he was eleased from jail in 1953, but was again endangered by the abortive Hungarian revolt in 1956.

“In 1956, convinced that he could have no peace under Communist rule, on the eve of the Hungarian insurrection and after a stunning account of Béla Bartók’s second piano concerto (EMI References), György Cziffra escaped with his wife (Soleilka – of Egyptian origin) and son to Vienna where his recital at the Brahmsaal caused a sensation. News of this event reached The New Yorker. His Paris debut the following year caused a similar furor – and his London debut at the Royal Festival Hall playing Franz Liszt’s first concerto and Hungarian Fantasy was equally regaled.

“His meteoric career continued with concerts throughout Europe and debuts at the Ravinia Festival (Grieg and F. Liszt concertos with Carl Schuricht) and Carnegie Hall New York with Thomas Schippers.

“It should be noted that he always performed with a large leather wristband, as a memento of his years in labor. In 1968 he became a naturalized French citizen, and in 1973 he founded the St.-Frambourg Royal Chapel Foundation in Senlis, France to assist young musicians and artists.

“He died in Senlis, 72 years old, from a heart attack resulting from series of complications from lung cancer due to smoking and alcohol.

“György Cziffra was best known for his interpretations of works of the Romantic repertoire. He is most known for his brilliant and extravagant recordings of Franz Liszt’s virtuoso works. He also recorded many of Frédéric Chopin’s compositions and those of Robert Schumann. His interpretation of “Carnaval de Vienne” was admired by Alfred Cortot, and his famous transcription of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s ‘Flight of the Bumblebee,’ written in interlocking octaves was celebrated.

“Many of his recordings are controversial, claimed by some to be showy and unmusical. Others regard these reactions as professional jealousy. In any case there is generally little doubt that Cziffra had a remarkable virtuoso technique and was a master at improvisation. He published “Des canons et des Fleurs” (Paris, 1977).

“György Cziffra’s son, György Cziffra, Jr., was a professional conductor and participated in several concerts and recordings with his father. However, his promising career was cut short due to his death by burning accident in 1981 – said to have been accompanied by a suicide note – an event that sparked a progressively diminishing morale in Cziffra, Sr. Cziffra never again performed or recorded with an orchestra, and some critics have commented that the severe emotional blow had an impact on his playing quality as well. While many thought that his pianism deteriorated after the death of his son, some felt that his playing was deeper than before.”