birthdays, Happy Birthday, Irena Orlov, Murray Perahia, musician birthdays, Yevgeny Sudbin

Happy Birthday, Irena Orlov, Murray Perahia, and Yevgeny Sudbin!

Berkeley flowers

Today is a super-reblog day as April 19th rings in the Spring birthdays of three musical giants!

First to update a documentary that I originally critiqued about Irena Orlov.

And now the sequel:

Reaching Beyond: Seven Years Later

As for Murray and Yevgeny, their artistry has been spread far and wide through my many posts.

So just to say in the simplest way, that all of you immensely enrich our lives with each passing day!

In Gratitude, and with Love….



Chopin, Chopin Barcarolle, Chopin Mazurka, Chopin Mazurka in G minor Op. 63 no. 3, classissima,, Frederic Chopin, International Piano Institute at Mannes College, Irena Orlov, Irina Gorin, Irina Gorin piano studio, Irina Morozova, Levine School of Music, Levine School of Music in Washington, Levine School of Music in Washington D.C., Mannes College of Music, mind body connection, music, music and heart, music and the breath, phrasing at the piano, piano playing and phrasing, piano playing and relaxation,,, pianoworld,, playing piano, producing a singing tone legato at the piano, publishersmarketplace,, Romantic era music, Romantic music, self-analysis, Shirley Kirsten, Shirley Kirsten blog, Shirley Smith Kirsten, singing tone legato, studying piano,, tempo rubato, The art of phrasing at the piano, the art of piano playing, video performances, whole body listening, whole body music listening, word press,, you tube, you tube video

Ethereal piano playing: Another Irina, with an i in the middle, brings heaven to earth

This is the special month of Irina, Irena, and still another Irina. The latest messenger of beauty via You Tube is Irina Morozova. And as fate would have it, one of my readers, owner of a Knight piano treasure, e-mailed me a sample of her Bach-Siloti, which sent me feverishly finger-tapping the search window for more.

Out popped the Chopin Barcarolle performed with gorgeously spun out lines, to die for singing tone and phrasing. Not to be territorial about playing, but the Russian School of teaching piano is glaring for its focus on producing a molto cantabile.

The wrists are not flat. The hand position is not rigid. There’s a flow from the heart into the fingers via relaxed arms and supple wrists. The motions are curvaceous as one note breathes into another at the right moment. Morozova renders a warm, Romantic era interpretation that has a relaxed roundness.

We learn from artists like her who make piano playing so fluid, that the mystery of how it’s done can be unraveled by listening attentively and carefully observing.

Chopin Mazurka in G minor, Op. 63, no.3

I love this interpretation.

And on to a divinely played Chopin Barcarolle:

Irina Morozova, Bio:

Piano; B.M. with Honors, Rimsky-Korsakov College of Music; M.M., Manhattan School of Music; piano studies with Vladimir Shakin, Galina Orlovskaya, Arkady Aronov; performances include Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra, New American Chamber orchestra; participated in Film America’s “Music in the 20th Century” series; awards include Frinna Awerbuch, San Antonio International Piano Competitions; teaches, performs at International Keyboard Institute and Festival in NY; faculty, Mannes College of Music, Manhattan school of Music, Special Music School.

“If music be the food of love, play on….”

Other Links:

Irena Orlov

Irina Gorin

Bach Two Part Inventions, Bally Fitness Center, Bally Total Fitness, Bally's Gym, Bally's Gym Fresno CA, gym workouts to help piano playing, iMac computer, iMac iMovie, iMac21, iMovie, Irena Orlov, Irina Gorin, Irina Gorin piano studio, J.S. Bach Invention 8 BWV 779, J.S. Bach Invention 8 in F Major BWV779, J.S. Bach two part Inventions, Levine School of Music, Levine School of Music in Washington, Levine School of Music in Washington D.C., mind body connection, music and photography, music and photos, music and the breath, musical phrasing and breathing, photos, piano lesson, piano playing and relaxation, piano practicing, piano practicing with use of a camcorder, piano student, piano teacher, piano teaching, piano technique, Piano World,,, pianoworld,, playing piano, recording piano performance for self assessment, self hypnosis, self-analysis, Shirley Kirsten, Shirley Kirsten blog, Shirley Smith Kirsten, sports, sports and piano, Steinway M grand piano, studying piano,, videotaping a piano performance and self analysis, Vladimir Horowitz, word press,, you tube

Piano practicing, performance, and gym routines: Always Reach Beyond! (Video, Bach Invention 8 in F)

I take my inspiration from the two Irina/Irena-s, each pronouncing their names slightly differently. Irina Gorin is the ingenious piano teacher from Carmel, Indiana via the Ukraine, and Irena Orlov is from Washington D.C.’s Levine School of Music via Leningrad. They both inspire students to explore and draw out their deepest creative expression.

That’s what we should all be doing in our personal practice sanctuaries. I certainly try to evaluate and re-evaluate my own performances, whether they’re recorded for myself to review, or for You Tube. Regardless of having an audience of one, or many, the process of learning from experience, examining phrasing, physical comportment, and anything that might have intruded upon a free flow of physical and emotional expression (there’s that word again) is worth noticing.

That’s why I believe that videotaping yourself is an amazing teaching tool– one that can spur musical growth if you, the player, can distance yourself enough from the recorded sample to make some valuable observations. In other words, don’t be hard on yourself. Look at the mirror of your playing like it was someone else’s image– Think of a friend, whom you would not harshly criticize. Underline “O” for objectivity.

This type of mirrored self-analysis is the next best thing to having a teacher present looking over your shoulder. Or maybe you don’t want anyone encroaching on your space. Give yourself a breather and do a little self-assessment.

If you can spot places in your recording where something went awry, and not necessarily a glut of conspicuously wrong notes, you can try to pinpoint a physical problem, where perhaps a tense arm or wrist got in the way. You might remember at this moment, that you lost your breath and became anxious. Every aspect of one’s mental state and respiration factor into a total performance. Musical inspiration or intuition are not enough to get a pianist from the first measure to the final cadence. There must be a pacing, just like athletes know. Pianists are part athlete, part Terpsichore or any nyphm in the forest you choose to be–and part split personality when they’re playing. Vladimir Horowitz talked about fire and ice states when tackling the warhorses.

Being attuned to a relaxed physical state, in any case, works in a player’s favor

Which reminds me that today, a few hours before I attempted to record the whip-lashing, nerve-splitting, Bach Invention 8 on my iMac, I dashed off to Bally’s Gym, with my boots on, no less, and did a self-instigated photo shoot. Actually I aimed the silly Sony Cybershot at the mirror, not realizing that the flash (an automatic setting) would obliterate me, like I was blown up in one of those superhero video games. But at last, I survived once I knocked out the flash.

My goal was to get a pic of myself working out on the Gravitron where I build upper body strength and feel a good workout for my arms. It’s really helps leverage weight into the keys, so I strongly recommend it.

Here’s a fleeting look: I set the weight at 70, which means I’m pulling about 45 pounds. I follow up with 30-minutes of leg press, deep breathing all the way through.

Not to forget, that behind every performance, especially one being recorded, there’s a cat lurking in the wings ready to pounce at the wrong moment, sending any and all music to the trash! So make sure when you sit down to videotape yourself, that your feline is not permitted on the piano, in the piano, or near the piano. In this instance, Aiden was about to leap to the window sill to make his favorite racket, pawing the blinds.

Tutorial on this Invention 8, BWV 779–using a spring forward wrist motion:

Baltimore Maryland, Brian Ganz, D.C., Irena Orlov, Joanna Hoover former Director of the Levine School of Music, Levine School of Music in Washington D.C., Lillian Lefkovsky Freundlich, Pamela Sverjensky Director Levine School of Music Washington D.C., Peabody Institute of Music, pianist, piano, piano addict, piano instructor, piano lesson, piano lessons, piano pedagogy, piano repertoire, piano student, piano teacher, piano teaching, piano technique,, pianoworld,, playing piano, Santiago Rodriguez, Shirley Kirsten, Shirley Kirsten blog, Shirley Smith Kirsten, studying piano, teaching piano, teaching piano to children, teaching piano to teenagers, technique, The art of phrasing at the piano, the art of piano playing, University of Maryland, word press,, you tube

REACHING BEYOND, a documentary about an inspiring piano teacher

The plentiful gifts of Irina Gorin and her brood of piano students captivated so many after You Tube postings of musical offerings revealed soulful, expressive playing by youngsters as young as 4 to the ripe old age of 14+. A treasured group of pupils gracefully approached a Steinway grand with a finesse and creative uniqueness that radiated through each performance.

Only a few days ago, Irina had dashed off an e-mail to me following the recital:

“By the way, someone just sent me an interesting video link. I’ve never heard of this teacher, but she reminds me so much of my teacher. I just wanted to share it with you.”

This note was incentive enough for me to investigate, and I wasn’t disappointed.


The word “creative” springs forth again in a documentary about Irena Orlov, a piano teacher with a mission to realize each and every student’s full range of “creativity.”

Having a passion to find each child’s well of artistic expression, she soul searches with them as they grow side-by-side as musicians and human beings.

The opening to this Arista Video Production is riveting:

“This is a film about a unique person, a musician with a quest not only to bring people into the beautiful and harmonious world of music but also to bring this beauty and harmony into everyday life.”

Known to many as “Irena,” we learn that she has a warm and endearing presence that has influenced the lives of so many inside and beyond musical universe.

The question is, from where did her passion for teaching spring?

To provide answers, she sat down with an interviewer and shared how it all started and where it began?

At the age of 14 or so, a singular teaching opportunity sparked Irena’s creative fire and illuminated her career path. As she tells it, her teacher at a music school where she had been enrolled for about ten years, gave her a chance to help a young piano student within a classroom setting. The experience was so engaging, that it had far-reaching implications. Irena excitedly raced to tell her teacher, “I want to do it all my life.” Not long after having this epiphany, Irena, just 15 at the time, was gifted her very own piano student by her mentor, and the rest is history.

The Backdrop:

In 1980 Irena had left the Soviet Union in response to its oppressive regime. Having graduated the esteemed Leningrad Conservatory, she had made an indelible impression on a Pedagogy Professor, Faina Bryanskaya, who taught at a musical college affiliated with the St. Petersburg Conservatory. Irena’s presentation there was memorable.

“She entered the room, very young, very small, very energetic with twinkling eyes. Her ideas were so unique and creative that I told my colleagues, ‘Pay attention to this girl, she’s a genius teacher.'”

Years before Irena had arrived in the US to join the faculty at the renowned Levine School of Music in Washington D.C., she emigrated to Israel where she broke ground in the field of Music Therapy. Working with psychiatric patients whose disorders ranged from major depression to schizophrenia, she was able to “enrich the lives of those whose existence may have seemed hopeless, proving that what may have seemed impossible was possible.”

A determination to dig deeply to find the soul of human beings, reach in, and bring expressive, creative beauty to the surface, became the theme of Irena’s life work.

As things played out, Irena relocated to the US, and began teaching in the Levine School of Music in 1988.

The Director at the time, Joanne Hoover, vividly remembers their first meeting:

“In came a small dynamic bundle of energy, emanating fire and determination. I don’t recall what she played for me as that was always something I asked of those who wanted to teach at Levine… But I do remember that unlike other applicants who insisted that they wanted to teach only the gifted and talented children, Irena said, ‘I will teach anybody.’ I knew from that moment on, that this was someone who was quite special.”

Others, including members of the piano teaching community, likewise praise Irena.

Brian Ganz, a teacher at the Peabody Institute says that Irena “uses humor and stories to cajole and coax the very best out of her students…”

Her professional colleagues suggest that Irina does not teach by any rules. She teaches and learns as well on her own–always open, willing and ready to receive something new.

Santiago Rodriguez, concert pianist, and former artist-in-residence at the University of Maryland, insists that Irena has “a combination of personality and passion that we can all learn from.” He goes on to characterizes Irena as a teaching “icon” in the D.C. area as evidenced by the consistently accomplished and expressive pianists that have come through her studio. Rodriguez, like Julian Martin have been pleased to accept many of her pupils as they continue their musical pursuits at the college or conservatory level.

It’s clear that Irena’s teaching has “a disciplined side,” Rodriguez says. “She won’t tolerate mediocrity…She wants to teach you how to do something very well–to excel and be better. And the students work hard because they like her.”

Elisa Virsaladze, a Professor at the Moscow Conservatory and Hochschule fur Musik und Theater muses that “Irena is like a child who is amazed by life and maintains a constant joy of living.” (paraphrase) This description would indicate a wide-eyed appreciation of a sunrise as the first, or a miracle of nature preserved fresh in the imagination.

Brian Ganz, views Irena’s students as being in a communal “rainforest” thriving amidst the lushness of the environment.


Others echo how Irena “understands people so well, knowing how to motivate students to nurture and develop their creativity.

One pupil says, “Irena is a unique person. She makes her students grow in so many ways…She’s like a friend.”

Another states that Irena makes you “feel the music, and see it as if you’re reading a book. It’s very special.”

A teenager emphasizes how Irena “explains the pieces in stories so I will be able to project the composer’s ideas as I am playing the music.” It’s like the composer is standing there telling me just how to play his work.

Irena encourages her students to take on formidable challenges and stretch their abilities.

A youngster who wanted to study a difficult piece, perhaps a bit beyond his technical skill, was not discouraged by Irena from pursuing it. She told the child to learn the composition “one measure a day.” With such words of wisdom under his belt, he had gone on to master a Bach selection in just 56 days.

Many of Irena’s pupils learn by her example: They say that she lives in the moment–in the here and now, and encourages them to embrace the same. “Live for today with no regrets about yesterday, or for what is to come in the future,” she wisely tells them.

It applies to music-making.


Married to Henry Orlov, musicologist, Irena and her chosen partner, appear to have a unique chemistry between them. Walking arm-in-arm, playing chess on the terrace of their apartment, sitting on a bench charming their prancing white dog, the two are observed in a harmonious relationship that emanates far beyond its own boundaries.

The film is a bundle of tender moments such as these and includes snatches of inspiring performances given by Irena’s piano students, some of whom have gone on to pursue professional careers.

To conclude I will admit that I had a piano teacher who in many ways resembled Irena. Mine, a Peabody faculty member for many years, taught me that studying piano was a metaphor for life, a soulful and expressive pursuit like no other. Like Irena, Lillian Lefkovsky Freundlich reached beyond the label, “piano teacher.”

Watching this documentary evoked her memory, and for many others it will touch the heart in a special place.


Lillian Freundlich



Irena Orlov

Graduate degree from Leningrad Conservatory; began teaching piano during student years; educator and lecturer at seminars throughout Russia. After emigrating to Israel in 1980, taught music and worked as music therapist in a psychiatric hospital. Has been teaching piano in Washington, DC since 1986 and at Levine since 1988.

Irena Orlov is a Levine Master Teacher.


A tribute to the work of Irina Gorin, piano teacher, Carmel, Indiana

Getting into the spirit of piano playing.. with references to Irena Orlov

Piano Teachers, Students, and Reluctant Farewells

Aiden Cat, classical music, classissima,, iMac, iMovie, Irena Orlov, letting go to music, Levine School of Music, mind body connection, Mozart, Mozart Rondo Allegretto K. 545, music, music and heart, music and the breath, piano playing and breathing, piano playing and phrasing, piano playing and relaxation, piano practicing, piano studio, piano technique, Piano World,,, pianoworld,, playing piano, Shirley Kirsten, Shirley Kirsten blog, Shirley Smith Kirsten, Steinway grand piano, Steinway M grand piano, Steinway piano, studying piano, the art of piano playing, Uncategorized, video editing on iMovie, video performances, video uploading, videotaped replay, whole body listening, whole body music listening, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, word press,, you tube

Playing piano and getting into the spirit (Video with Aiden cat joining in)

It’s holiday time, and we’re all eating with gusto. In honor of Thanksgiving, we completely let go, pardoning ourselves of any rigid diet that would preclude an all out splurge.

So now, enter the piano, as a feast of delights waiting for the player to partake without a hint of holding back. It seems like climbing a mountain.

Agreed that you must learn the notes carefully at first and parcel out the fingering, etc. It takes patience. A famous piano teacher, Irena Orlov, from the Levine School of Music in D.C. recommends that students master one measure per day, particularly when faced with technically challenging pieces. Just imagine how well a pupil would know the Mozart Rondo Allegretto K. 545 after just 76 days! Not an impossible task, considering that a baby needs more than a year to learn to walk.

It’s all relative….

Tonight I was shuffling between my Haddorff console and Steinway grand piano, deciding which instrument would best suit the Mozart I had previously mentioned, and then again, Aiden was bench hopping so I allowed it because of the holidays. I reasoned, why not include him in a recording session in between turkey treat nibbles. He needn’t be shooed into the bedroom in solitary confinement every time I attempted to capture some music on my Imac.

Sad to say, by lifting restrictions on his comings and goings, he killed two especially good readings of the Rondo. In one he managed to squiggle off the piano bench, meandering his way to the window sill where he orchestrated his usual racket. (When iMac is capturing an EVENT he knows just when to paw the shutters to bring any and all music to a grinding halt) Naturally, as soon as I sense his general direction, my playing begins to deteriorate. A glaring case of anticipatory anxiety.

Irena Orlov would have interjected in her Russian accent, but dorogaya moya, Дорогая моя (“my dear”) you hev to learn to concentrate.. and maybe you need to think one measure at a time.”

Redux: Aiden did it again, but on the third warning, he abandoned his monkey business and jumped off the piano bench and settled into his favorite chair. (off camera)

What has all this to do with playing piano and getting into the spirit?

The basic lesson to be learned is that you must find a place within yourself where music totally absorbs you and allows no room for distraction.

What other reason is there to take up the piano in the first place if not to be immersed in a spiritual process.


Tonight after I had gorged myself silly on turkey, homemade stuffing, and pumpkin pie, I wobbled over to the piano, and reclaimed my right to channel Mozart without a hitch. Aiden was hanging around being otherwise quiet until…

That’s in the past now, because the Mozart Rondo made it to You Tube while two other playings were “moved to the trash.”


Link to Documentary about Irena Orlov: