Alexander Scriabin, Bashkirov piano master class, Bashkirov piano master class in Paris, Brahms Fantasies Op. 116, Dimitri Bashkirov, Johannes Brahms, piano instruction, piano instructor, piano lesson, piano lessons, piano masterclasses, piano playing and relaxation, Scriabin, Theodore Leschitizky, word press, wordpress.com, you tube, you tube video

A Piano Masterclass in a universal language

Into the wee hours of the morning I was mesmerized by a Masterclass conducted by Dimitri Bashkirov at the Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord, Paris, France. The great Russian virtuoso and teacher, a descendant of the Leschetizky era by his student association with the legendary piano master’s wife, communicated in Russian with a third-party French translator. But no language barrier existed that required an interpreter. Bashkirov’s physical gestures, conducting motions, and singing were ample expressions of a universal musical language.

The ongoing French translation and a few cameo appearances made by a woman who rattled off promotions for the Event sponsored by Arcadia Musica, were the only annoying distractions.

A Yamaha grand piano sounding a bit too angular and brassy to communicate Brahms Fantasies, Op. 116, was artfully handled by student, Nathanael Gouin, who did his best to work his way around the instrument’s limitations. Bashkirov’s overtly rounded arm motions helped him overcome any tendency toward percussive playing and at one point the singer/conductor/player wrapped into one, pressed his hands against the student’s back to illustrate a supple wrist total weight-charged entry into chords. His directions were perfectly transmitted sans Francais.

Bashkirov’s teaching and playing have an Old World flavor. His perception of the piano as an orchestra with immense voicing and color capabilities is revealed in his recordings. If there’s a Russian School of playing, as epitomized in the artistry of Richter and Gilels, I see a tie in here:

To conclude here are excerpts from William Boone’s interview with Bashkirov (Italics and bold emphases are mine)

Utrecht, 24 October 2003

“Although he won a major piano competition (Marguérite Long/Jacques Thibaud) in Paris in 1955, Dmitri Bashkirov is not best known as a concert pianist. He suffered from the severe Soviet regime and was not allowed to travel abroad until the early 90’s. However, in the meantime, he gave many concerts in his native Russia and built a solid reputation as a teacher who trained many famous, sometimes internationally acclaimed pianists such as Arcadi Volodos, Nikolai Demidenko and Jonathan Gilad. He currently teaches at the Queen Sofia Academy in Madrid. He also gives worldwide master classes. I attended a few of his lessons between 21 and 23 October 2003, when he visited Muziekcentrum Vredenburg in Utrecht….”

“Bashkirov emphasized what counted most for him; absolute fidelity to the printed score(s) and consistent ideas about tempi. He frequently stopped students to point out that Chopin or Liszt (to whom his master classes were dedicated) hadn’t written any change of tempi in their scores. He was genuinely surprised when a Russian student, who had just played Chopin’s 4th Scherzo in a very whimsical way, asked him: “But do you want to hear all the notes?

“On the other hand, he was sometimes flexible and acknowledged that pianists were allowed to freely interpret indications like “piano”or “forte”in a score, as long as they realized what a composer had originally written down. He emphasized that such indications can sometimes be relative and only get their true sense in the context of an entire composition.

“Furthermore, he put a lot of emphasis on the harmonic aspects of a composition. With a lot of pianists, left hand passages in Chopin’s and Liszt’s music tend to remain unnoticed. Bashkirov showed that you should not just play the melody, but that you should above all emphasize the harmonic audacities of both Chopin’s and Liszt’s writing.

“His diverse knowledge was impressive. He was particularly able to convey compositional elements in Liszt’s music and how these should be reflected in the interpretation. He explained for example how the last bars of the transcription “Auf dem Wasser zu singen”(after a song by Schubert) should sound “clear as water”. To another student who started the Etude “Chasse Neige”, inspired by falling snow flakes with great effect, he said: “Why do you play with so much emotion? This piece is about nature!”

“Of course he made a lot of other interesting comments, that proved useful for students or amateur pianists.
* Never play a recurrent motive the same way twice.
* When you phrase, always think of the last note, because this will enable you to see the phrase as an arch or build up tension.
* Try to always hear the sound inside yourself, play with your ears instead of your fingers.
* Always play with color and imagination, there is not one “piano”or one “forte,” there are 40 different “fortes”or “pianos.”
* A pianist has to make a piano sing. If you move your hand forward on the touches, you will get a more beautiful cantabile sound.

Aimi Kobayashi, Brahms, Elaine Comparone, Glenn Gould, great pianists, Johannes Brahms, keyboard technique, Liszt, Murray Perahia, music history, Myra Hess, New York City High School of Performing Arts, Oberlin Conservatory, New York City High School of Performing Arts, pianist, piano, piano society, Piano Street, piano student, piano teacher, Piano World, pianoaddict.com, Pianostreet.com, pianoworld, pianoworld.com, scales, Scarlatti, Shirley Kirsten, Shirley Kirsten blog, Steinway and Sons, Steinway console, Steinway grand piano, Steinway M grand piano, Steinway piano, talkclassical.com, Teach Street, technique, uk-piano-forums, Uncategorized, video performances, Vladimir Horowitz, word press, wordpress.com, Yamaha piano, you tube, you tube video

My Favorite Video Performances of Beloved Pianists: Do you have some to share? (UPDATED)

Update: Approaching still another New Year, I will add more favorite performances by pianists to the group: These inspiring players include Irina Morozova, Cyprien Katsaris, and Georgy Cziffra plus Yeol Eum Son playing Gershwin’s “Embraceable You.”

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Since it’s the New Year, here are some of my picks, though I’m a bit of throwback to the old days, when modern technology had not yet invaded the recording studio. There are few reel to reel interspersed performances, and one special concert appearance that dates to the World War II era, when pianist, Dame Myra Hess played the Mozart concerto in G Major, K. 453 in London’s National Gallery,  joined  by the Royal Air Force orchestra. Let’s start with this one, and move forward in time. (with zigzagging here and there)

This concerto has special meaning for me since it was the very first one I studied, and was fortunate to have performed at the annual winter Concerto Concert of the HS of Performing Arts Orchestra. Though my heart was set on playing the Beethoven Bb Concerto, Murray Perahia and Robert DeGaetano earned the honors, and rightfully so.

Speaking of Murray Perahia, I can say with certainty, that those who took classes beside him at “P.A.” (Performing Arts High) were indelibly influenced by his artistry, up front and personal. Here is one of my favorite performances of his, that is a bit scratchy, but resonates with Perahia’s singing tone, vibrant energy and shimmering passage work.  For Mozart Concertos, I would recommend his CDs of ALL 27!!!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FnMKeShFOd0

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And don’t forget the  middle (slow) movement of this concerto that was adapted as the movie theme for “Elvira Madigan.” Who says the MAJOR key can’t be soulful.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O7335XDZQP0

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Let’s back track a bit. Watch Glenn Gould practicing Bach at home on his old Chickering grand (not the beloved Steinway written about in Katie Hafner’s book) Excuse his singing, but it does give life to the pianist’s phrasing.

Lang Lang plays Liszt’s “Liebestraume” at his Carnegie Hall debut recital.

Krystian Zimerman performs the Schubert Impromptu No. 3 in Gb Major Op. 90 in a lovely parlor setting.

Vladimir Horowitz plays the Chopin “Black Key” Etude, Op. 10, No. 5. While the video and audio clarity is not perfect,  this performance has historical value. Horowitz was interviewed in his Manhattan apartment in the presence of his wife Wanda, who is the daughter of the famed maestro, Arturo Toscanini. The impromptu playing of the “Black Key” Etude is worth a listen, minus all the recording studio edits, splices, etc.

And in the present, my favorite young pianist who reminds me of a   young Richter or Gilels, whose concerts I attended at Carnegie Hall.

In this appearance at the 2010 Chopin International Piano Competition in Poland, Evgeni Bozhanov from Bulgaria plays the Chopin Waltz in Ab Major, Op. 42

Notice the Yamaha piano that Bozhanov selected over a Steinway and Fazioli. Interesting story going back to the 2009 Van Cliburn Competition in Texas: Bozhanov was not pleased with the Steinway grand sent to his host family, so he chose to practice on a Yamaha Clavinova. (digital piano) I thought it was charming to see him perched at the Clavy rehearsing some of the warhorse concertos, minus the orchestra, of course.

Aimi Kobayashi (age 14).. not just a child prodigy, but a fully developed young artist who communicates music from the heart with an abundance of technique to spare. Here’s the Chopin Etude no. 4 in C# minor.

Excuse this departure, but I must include one particular, resonating harpsichord performance.

The artistry of Elaine Comparone is displayed in this performance of the Scarlatti Sonata in D minor, K. 517:

And to come full circle, looking back over a panorama of wonderful pianists and their performances, here’s a sample of Dame Myra Hess’s artistry, reel to reel, playing Brahms selections.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aX9TgQUclfg (Looks like the account was closed down)

Once again, who says that the MAJOR key cannot be beautifully soulful and melancholy.  (Brahms Intermezzo in C Major)

Please share your own preferences and choices. I look forward to seeing/hearing your selected artists and their videos.