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Pianist, Martha Argerich waxes poetic about her career, old age, and more

I was entranced by an interview conducted with Maestra Argerich on the eve of the 2009 Nobel Prize ceremonies in Stockholm. She was to give a concert, playing the Ravel piano concerto, but graciously paused to share her deepest thoughts and musings about music, life, communication, getting old and more.

The interviewer was on the spot, I thought, having to feed the pianist questions that were worth her time and effort–though Argerich was artful enough to steer the repartee in her preferred direction.

A good example of her flight of fancy produced her registered enthusiasm about an impassioned cause.

She voiced “interest” in housing for “oldie” musicians in the mold of Casa Verdi in Milano. (A short film, gives a tour without narration. The visuals tell all. A long list of engraved benefactors, includes Luciano Pavarotti)

Visiting Casa Verdi

Argerich is aware of her mortality, not having to underscore the precise word, but her impromptu comments about aging made an impression.

“I am thinking all the time about “oldie” people, like myself….I want to create a place, like a musical club–for retired people who are lonely.”

The conversation could have drifted in this direction for hours, if uninterrupted.

The interviewer was in tempo.

On being amidst intellectual giants in Stockholm?

Argerich beamed in her reply.

“It’s interesting to have inspiration from others.. Communication (not invasion) is essential to life.” (the missing last word, “Right?” was registered rhetorically in her facial expression) She’s conspicuously reflective, then animated, always bristling with passion.

Practicing. Does she like it?

“I don’t like the thought of it, but once I’m doing it, I like it.”

And what is that mounted miniature statue that sits on her prized grand piano?

The early inquiry seemed frivolous.

Perhaps the interviewer had expected an answer that justified her curiosity.

Argerich reluctantly responded, revealing a “Japanese Buddhist priest,” permanently affixed—maybe, yes, it was a “a good luck charm” (in French, “porte-bonheur”) but who really cared. Let’s move on.

The awkwardness of dwelling on the figure was apparent. The pianist’s mind was churning with more inspired thought and ideas.

The conversation shifted to the middle movement of the Ravel concerto.

In this musical cosmos, Maestra refused to confirm having one fixed “feeling” about it. (as the questioner expected)

With each performance she experienced a new and different enlightenment. And in her refreshing candor she admitted to being nonplussed at times about the whole undertaking.

Through less than 6 minutes of interview time, one gleaned that Martha Argerich is a free spirit, ever evolving and growing in unique directions–Perhaps a classic throwback to another century.

But don’t try to pin her down to most of anything, si vous plait.

Finally, here’s the long-awaited You Tube video exchange for high points I might have missed. (Note additional posted interviews with Martha that are worth sampling)

One of my favorite Argerich snatches from the Verbier Music Festival



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Practicing knotty piano passages, and tips on how to avoid fatigue while boosting technique (Videos)

At my You Tube Channel site, I routinely pick up comments daily, and the majority center on piano technique. While I lay no claim to being an expert in this complex universe, my trial and error practicing over decades has come with insights that I enjoy sharing.

Earlier today, I’d noticed the following note posted at my site that referred to a devilish strings of repeated notes found in Scarlatti’s D minor Toccata, K. 141:

“My God!

“I can’t believe I’ve found this video—I’ve been killing myself trying to loosen up my 3-2-1 repeated notes for this EXACT piece!

“You’ve helped me to try out new ideas because I was about ready to give up as I no longer take lessons and kept tensing up. I just couldn’t figure out just how to fix myself.”

He referenced one of my comments in passing.

“You mentioned getting fatigued doing the repeated notes later on in the piece…do you think that no matter how loose you are you will eventually get somewhat fatigued by the end of this piece?”


Naturally, I answered his final question, emphasizing the dangers of over-practicing knotty passages, especially those with redundant motions that could cause an overuse injury.

It becomes quickly apparent that if you keep playing 3-2-1 repeated note combinations for hours on end, even if you execute them with a supple wrist and relaxed, flowing arm, the oxygen to the cells is going to give out at some point.

Veda Kaplinksy, a Juilliard School Professor of Piano, had driven this point home loud and clear in one of her media interviews.

From ingesting her words of wisdom, it followed that a player should know when it’s time to take a breather. A few hours or more of needed break time would allow the muscles a period of rest and repair.

In the meantime, I had revisited two of my posted videos that might help those agonizing about those time-worn, bummer sections that required renewed fuels of relaxed energy.

The first dealt with those dizzying repeated notes in the Domenico Scarlatti Toccata and how to approach them. I used Martha Argerich as my role model, watching her motions as she generated perfectly formed scads of them. It looked like she was sweeping or dusting the keys.

You can be sure after watching the You Tube video following mine, that her arms, wrists, and hands were very relaxed to pull off such an amazing performance!

In my second instruction, I used Burgmuller’s “La Chasse” as a springboard to explore ways of dividing the hands to advance articulation as well as an effective crescendo in an Allegro vivace frame.

After the introductory measures, I examined the repeated broken octaves in staccato and how to play them easily without tiring.

Amidst this whole terrain of practicing passages that require redundant motions with regular infusions of supple wrist-generated energy, I noted my last night’s revisit of Chopin’s Nocturne in F Major, Op. 15, No. 1.

Having already exhausted everyone’s patience obsessing over the “killer” MIDDLE SECTION, I still enlisted it as a potential overuse injury stimulant–that is, if rest and repair breaks were not taken, one’s hands could feel like they were about to fall off.

But before I was completely shut down at my sixth playing, I preserved the first, and uploaded it to You Tube, feeling some progress had been made.

There will be further attempts to unshackle the death-defying mid-section as time permits.