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Mozart memories, reflections and revisits (Videos)

Andante: second movement, Mozart Sonata K. 545 played on my Steinway, 1917, M.

****

My relationship to Mozart and his music began with the violin. At the Merrywood Music Camp in Lenox, Massachusetts, only a stone’s throw from Tanglewood, I encountered Eugene Lehner, first violist of the Boston Symphony when I played second violin in a string quartet. At the time, in 1960 I was simultaneously fiddling and tickling the ivories.

In the company of more seasoned chamber ensemble, I was privileged to rehearse and refine one of Mozart’s most divinely beautiful works:

The Quartet in G, K. 387 (first movement)

Lehner, in his 50s at the time, danced around us with a warm smile, conducted as we played, cajoled, hummed, gestured in every which way to make us “sing” with warmth radiating through our very beings. He wanted each of us to give everything we had, and we did, slipping into a universe of imagination, inspiration and pure beauty. I’ll never forget the experience.

At Performing Arts High School in the mid 60s, I had the unique experience of playing the first movement of Mozart’s piano Concerto in G, K. 453 at the Winter concert where a radiance flooded the stage creating a special ensemble between orchestra and soloist. It was my second Mozartean journey that followed my having studied the Mozart Sonata in D K. 311.

My teacher, Lillian Freundlich, the next inspiring individual to flow out of my music camp experience came backstage in the glare of the spotlight to remind me of what we had worked on for months, and how all my practicing was worth the effort. (Ironically, her nephew, Douglas, a Merrywooder had led me to his aunt when I most needed a teacher to guide me through the basics of producing a singing tone)

Mozart became the staple of my practicing as I branched out following my years as a student at the Oberlin Conservatory. Once settled into my own studio apartment on W. 74th Street and Amsterdam, I selected the Sonata in A Major, K.331 composed uniquely in Theme and Variations form, with a culminating Ronda Alla Turca as the final movement.

In my confined creative space that was dominated by an imposing Steinway grand, gifted by my father, I learned the Piano concertos in D minor, K. 466, and C Major, K. 525.

From there it was on to learn and teach more of Mozart’s sonatas.

The composer has always presented a special challenge for the performer. One cannot over pedal, or under pedal his music. The Alberti, “broken chord” bass must not sound monotonous or grinding, but supply a warm underpinning for an operatically spun melody, especially in Mozart’s slow movements.

Certainly the impetus for playing Mozart in a molto cantabile style was aided by suggestions from Eugene Lehner and Lillian Freundlich.

It has also been awe-inspiring to hear the composer’s trios played with a harpsichord instead of piano, creating a timbre, that perhaps Mozart intended. I’ve included a link to performances of this genre.

In a word, I thank those who’ve helped me realize the spirit and soul of the Master’s music so that it’s realized in a style that is convincing and aesthetically pleasing.

***
BIO (Eugene Lehner, Wiki)
Eugene Lehner (1906 – 13 September 1997) was a violist and music educator.

“Mr. Lehner, as he preferred to be addressed, was born in Hungary in 1906. Originally named Jenö Léner, he performed as a self-taught violinist from the time he was 7. When he was 13, the composer Bela Bartok heard him play, and arranged for him to pursue his studies formally. At the Royal Conservatory of Music in Budapest, he studied the violin with Jeno Hubay and composition with Zoltan Kodaly. In 1925, soon after his graduation from the conservatory at 19, he joined the Kolisch Quartet.

“Lehner was a violist with the Kolisch Quartet from 1926 until 1939, performed with the Boston Symphony Orchestra for 39 years (the only player to be invited to join without an audition by Serge Koussevitzky), and continued teaching chamber music at the New England Conservatory of Music and Boston University well into his retirement. Late in his life most coachings were given at his home in Newton. The modest upstairs room he coached in contained photographs covering every wall from all the quartets that he mentored – a real “wall of fame”. Lehner was widely regarded as one of the greatest living experts of the interpretation of chamber works by Alban Berg, Anton Webern, Arnold Schoenberg, and Béla Bartók, having been involved in the premieres of several of such works during his time with the Kolisch Quartet. As a member of the quartet, Lehner gave the premieres of Berg’s Lyric Suite, Schoenberg’s Third and Fourth String Quartets, Bartok’s Fifth Quartet and Webern’s Second Quartet.

“When the Juilliard Quartet was formed, they spent a summer in intensive coachings with Lehner. He advocated playing string instruments with tempered intonation, in the spirit of Bach.

“Lehner studied violin with Jenö Hubay and composition with Zoltan Kodály.”

Related Links:

A Breathtaking Camp Finale: About Merrywood

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2011/03/09/a-breathtaking-music-camp-finale/

Mozart: The 1788 trios Elaine Comparone, Peter Seidenberg, Robert Zubrycki & The Queen’s Chamber Trio

http://itunes.apple.com/us/album/mozart-the-1788-trios/id257027599

"Tales of a Musical Journey" by Irina Gorin, Debussy Arabesque no. 1, Debussy Arabesque No. 1 by Claude Debussy, learning piano, mental imagery, mind body connection, Mozart sonata in C K545, music, music and heart, phrasing at the piano, pianist, piano, piano addict, piano instruction, piano instructor, piano lesson, piano lessons, piano pedagogy, piano playing and breathing, piano playing and phrasing, piano playing and relaxation, piano practicing, piano student, piano teacher, piano teaching, Pianostreet.com, pianoworld, pianoworld.com, playing piano, producing a singing tone legato at the piano, Scarlatti, Scarlatti Sonatas, Shirley Kirsten, Shirley Kirsten blog, Shirley Smith Kirsten, slow mindful practicing, slow piano practicing, studying piano, Teach Street, teaching piano, The art of phrasing at the piano, W.A. Mozart, whole body listening, whole body music listening, word press, wordpress.com, you tube, you tube video

Jello and other mental images for pianists

Here comes the jello again. I thought I was the only one swimming around in it until I found the good company of Irina Gorin, piano teacher and author, who served what amounted to a jello substitute at her piano lessons. She had packed away a small tub of colorful putty that she dispensed to her very beginning students when they occasionally pounded the keyboard like it was concrete. Ouch! The impact alone should have stopped them in their tracks.

Tracks could have been another tone booster, if thought of as soft tracks of silky snow, before the meltdown or freeze! Better yet, Molasses would work wonders for an image starved pianist, without all the artificial coloring.

With a collection of volume enhanced images, a pianist could milk the piano for its singing tone while sculpting phrases par excellence.

The music of Debussy is sampled below:

Following this musical snippet, I’d skimmed the surface of a Scarlatti sonata, replacing jello with yet another image. Bouncing through light and lively staccato in K. 159, I imagined my springboard trampoline fueling my duetto in 3rds, 4ths and 6ths as it spilled into a shimmering trill.

After a fanciful display, I shifted my landscape in the first section of Mozart’s Sonata, K. 545 in C Major.

All I could think of was beautifully spun out operatic lines that the composer embraced. As a singer, first and foremost, I would shape phrases with the assistance of a supple wrist. Molasses and jello would support an outpouring without intrusive accents.

***
Mental images are always helpful to a pianist. Best integrated into a program of daily practicing that is mindful and phrase attentive, they fuel the imagination and allow the spirit to soar.

Related Links:

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2011/09/20/piano-technique-producing-a-beautiful-singing-tone-with-jello-as-an-image/

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2011/10/06/the-art-of-piano-playing-is-about-breathing-and-phrasing-videos/

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2011/07/09/more-ideas-about-piano-technique-and-mental-imagery-playing-into-a-bowl-of-molasses/


https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2011/10/20/piano-technique-avoiding-pencil-point-playing/

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Practicing on a Digital Piano (Video) PROS and CONS

My Casio PX 110 sits on the second floor of my townhouse because there’s no room for it anywhere else. Haddy Haddorff stole the space that Cassy formerly inhabited. In truth, the digital is not on the high priority activity list of instruments here but it has a role in technique-based toning and conditioning

In the video, I demonstrate how I use my Casio as a practicing tool; where it excels and falls short.

Disclaimer: This Casio Privia model PX110 is no longer manufactured, though there are some around on the Internet. And because my Privia is over 5 years old, having been put through the wringer through years of use, the keys are loose, and there are conspicuously audible clicks upon release of notes. Unfortunately, updated models PX120 and 130 have gone downhill, sounding tinny, and having blubbering notes.

1) CON: The digital is NOT an acoustic piano. It doesn’t have strings, hammers, or any mechanisms in its tone production that match a true piano.

As a result, it would be a stretch to say, that the player can create the same nuances, dynamics, and clarity of articulation that a decent piano would provide. I underline decent, because there are too many clunkers out there that would make playing a digital, by comparison, a heavenly experience. And because the electronic instruments never need tuning, they are appealing to many, while also being space savers. Still, in my opinion, those two enumerated positives would NOT outweigh the advantage of acquiring an adequate acoustic piano to realize the beauty of music in all genres.

2) PRO: Practicing on a digital can be a great work-out keeping the player in tone and condition, especially if the KEYBOARD has 88 weighted keys. The approach to the keyboard should be deep, defined, and somewhat uniform in touch to acquire the desired physical benefit. Scales, arpeggios, and other technical passage work lend themselves to the world of electronics, without too much artistic sacrifice.

3) PRO and CON: The Digital Keyboard affords the ability to RECORD and PLAYBACK and I provide some examples in the video, still fleshing out challenges in playing the mainstream classical repertoire where nuances and dynamics are central to a performance.

Nonetheless, even if the player can’t exact from the generic weighted digital what he imagines as a desirable sound image, he can still work on phrasing, comparing one playing to another on record to playback, making some adjustments that would advance his skills. He can also explore various fingerings that would improve phrasing.

These keyboards come with two pedals that usually slip away. You plug them into the sustain and soft pedal outlets behind the keyboard. It’s advantageous to invest in piano style pedals that will stay in one place and not cause anxiety when their use is needed.

In the area of rhythmic cohesion, the player can listen attentively on replay to discern a weak underlying beat.

For some attuned to the use of the metronome, there’s one built into nearly all digitals that might be used to address rhythmic problems.(though I’m not a believer in using a metronome in this way. I consult it for the overall tempo based on the number of quarters per minute designated by a composer)

3) CON: The key release clicks on many of these keyboards can be bothersome, though the more expensive ones, might have less of a related issue. This would be an area to evaluate when choosing a keyboard. Where one keyboard has less clicking noises, it can have tonal problems that undercut its appeal, so taking a number of factors into consideration will result in a wiser purchase.

4) PRO. A Player can practice to his heart’s content, not disturbing the neighbors by using earphones. This may be the resonating appeal of the digital. It banishes any looming threats of eviction.

For beginning students of piano, I still recommend that parents acquire an acoustic, “real” piano, because when laying down a musical foundation that includes development of a singing tone, legato, and awareness of dynamics and nuance, the digital is not an adequate substitute for the real thing. And once again, the choice of an acoustic piano, cannot be a rushed journey to acquisition. It has to be a patient, thoughtful process with advice from the teacher and piano technician.

As for sound explorations, using a vast tonal bank, where some digitals have this resource, adds to the joy of experimenting with colors and shades on a mechanical level. For those exploring popular music, jazz, and related genres, it can be a blast to have a repository of “instrument” sounds and rhythmic assists that can be punched in.

But my discussion involves the use of the digital piano as it pertains to piano study and practicing. The strengths and weaknesses can be assessed and the student/player can go from there having the proper knowledge to make intelligent decisions about what to acquire in the short or long run.

***
Please share your experiences with electronic keyboards, even if you have the very pricey variety with all the accouterments that make the playing experience for you a journey on cloud nine. I haven’t discussed Clavinovas, Rolands, etc. in this blog, or the Casio models that are more pricey. This is a vast universe requiring research and lots of sample playing to accommodate individual needs.

Bottom line, having a lovely acoustic piano and a digital could be the best combination on the block, adding spice and variety to music-making.

NOTE: Since I published this blog, I reviewed a host of digital pianos on site at Guitar Center and Best Buy in Fresno, and have framed my opinions based upon these hands on experiences.

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A new member of the piano family has arrived: “Haddy,” 1951 is home! (Video)

Yesterday was a sight to behold. My Haddorff, 1951, a stunning new acquisition, with an old world timbre (though it still needs a thorough maiden tuning in its new abode), was wheeled on a dolly, wrapped in blankets through the streets of Northwest Fresno. Traffic yielded, and two drivers jumped out with cameras. Two business people on a lunch break nudged the beauty over a minor bump. Otherwise it was a smooth ride made possible by Ginnadiy Mikerin, former owner of the Visalia Piano Gallery, who performed Olympiad “wheelies” with the dolly. His truck broke down, and we had to make do. Surely, he had the skills to coast along to my townhouse, zig zagging on his makeshift skate board sans piano.

The Haddorff, located practically around the corner from my home was artfully transferred with a few mesmerizing dolly maneuvers to home sweet home– Charlie Chaplin or Laurel and Hardy might have lowered “Haddy” out the window, making this quick transport along Shaw Avenue a piece of cake by comparison, though nonetheless an eye catcher.

At the one and only street crossing on Shaw and Arthur, Haddy weathered a few additional bumps, and regained a smooth ride onto the paved entry way to my townhouse, and from there, it was just a few weaves around rolled up rugs, before she was maneuvered into the space formerly occupied by the Casio PX110 Keyboard. The digital was promptly banished to the upper floor set beside my Aerobic Rider.

On the main tier, Haddy was joined by two Steinways, an upright (1098 model) and grand (circa 1917), keeping her dignity reserved for special playing times in and out of lessons. She would not be shared for it was her destiny to be an instrument for personal introspection and contemplation.

But onto the official welcoming ceremony as Haddy reveals how mellowed wine and music-making are wedded. (It has for me a more intimate, velvety tone)

A sample:

What I will do here, is play the same first two pages of the Mozart Drawing Room sonata on all three of my pianos to reveal the contrast in “color” that each instrument offers.

This journey among three instruments may at least enlighten about the character of various pianos and reveal why a player may favor one over another.

Please listen past the preliminary warbling of the Haddorff which is in a raw state. Its tuning will be refined after it has two weeks to settle in.

About the Haddorff Piano Company:

“Charles Haddorff was born in Sweden in 1864, and had studied European methods of manufacture and learned to play piano before he emigrated to the America. By 1898 he had become a piano factory superintendent. Founded by Charles Haddorff in 1901 in Rockford, IL with financial backing from P.A. Peterson they embarked upon building high quality pianos. Haddorff designed new piano scales for his grand and upright pianos preceded by a study of the scientific studies of theoretical acousticians. He called his soundboard design, “HomoVibrating Soundboard,” that was constructed to allow greater freedom of vibration.The cast iron plate was of extra heavy construction and was made with a custom shoulder mating against the pin block. The company also built the Bush & Gerts, Bennet , Hartzell, Karl Zeck and the Clarendon brands of pianos. From start to finish (1901-1960) there were aproximately 160,000 pianos built. After Charles died the company was run by the Krakauer Brothers. The Krakauer firm then sold out to the Kimball Piano Co and soon folded completely.”

Before Haddy came home, it was residing a few blocks away in a different ambiance. The tuner checked it over and was impressed. He did a rushed overview pitch raise to test the durability of pins, strings. It’s always a good idea to have the opinion of a technician before purchasing a piano.

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Mozart Rondo: Allegretto K. 545, Performance and Analysis

Performance:

Analysis:

The Rondo, more often than not, is the form used in the last movement of a Classical era Sonata. (The Classical period roughly encompasses the years between 1750 and 1830) The Rondo is usually a brisk, lively and energetic movement that brings a sonata to a definitive conclusion. It is in the home key of the piece.

In the Sonata, K. 545, Mozart composes a light-hearted final (third) movement evocative of the Opera Buffa, or comic opera.

Form: A B A C A Coda

The “A” section, or Rondo in the bright C Major tonality, with a two eighth note short upbeat to a slightly more prolonged 8th note downbeat is the basic motif of the movement, and will come back interspersed with a B and a C section. The “B” section is in the Dominant key of G Major, while the “C” section goes into the Relative minor ( A minor) This A minor section has a Development-like character, and is more prolonged as it delightfully meanders and then winds its way back to the Rondo “A” section that is in the home key of C Major.

In the A minor or “C” section, Mozart uses an inversion of thirds to 6ths, and dances from one hand to the other, with inverted counterpoint. (He flips over the voices, so that the listener experiences the motif or Rondo idea in the bass range, with a 16th decoration in the Treble and in reverse) The devices of inverted intervals and inverted counterpoint are significant characteristics of this “C” section of the final movement.

Through a pivot chord, using A minor, as a double identity Vi chord in C Major going to its Dominant, G B D, the movement weaves its way back to the “A” section Rondo in C Major followed by a Coda (added concluding section) using Dominant and Tonic progressions in broken chord fashion to the very last splash of articulated, unisons that bring the movement to a resounding, and definitive ending. At the end of this work, I feel like I’m in the orchestra pit, conducting those last measures as the curtain goes down in the opera.

Feedback is always appreciated. If you have ideas to share about this effervescent movement, please post.

Links to Piano Instruction first movement (in three parts)

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2010/12/29/piano-instruction-harmonic-rhythm-and-phrasing-part-1-mozart-sonata-in-c-k-545/

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2010/12/29/piano-instruction-part-two-harmonic-rhythm-and-phrasing-mozart-sonata-in-c-k-545/

Second movement, Analysis and Instruction:

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2011/01/07/piano-instruction-second-movement-mozart-sonata-in-c-major-k-545-video/

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DREAM PIANO: Overview and Acknowledgments

My two-year long romp on the piano finding trail with York as my professional companion and consultant had been worth all the time spent in, around and under pianos. How else would I have acquired knowledge about the piano’s harp, or cast iron plate were it not for his having the bravado to dismantle it from the Proskch 1905 grand and haul it out to the College of the Sequoia’s welding department. In the face of technicians and others who mocked him for his efforts, he persevered; soda blasted the ugly looking frame and dragged it home for a second wind. Rebecca McGregor, a victim of her impulsive sight unseen Internet piano purchase and an unprincipled seller, had written me a thought provoking e-mail after she had hovered over the plate on full view in York’s driveway. It was a funereal scene.

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2010/12/10/funeral-for-a-cracked-plate-piano-caveat-emptor/

She wrote, “I actually learned something at York’s, and I think you captured the essence of our meeting and the somber mood. Were we paying for his having tried to mend the plate, I would have stopped him, but with York’s willingness to take it on without payment, we’d have been fools not to let him proceed.” (This was before the plate cracked in two other places as York hauled it to his pick-up truck)

Rebecca had linked hands with Terry Barrett and York’s wife in a prayer vigil over the plate and then helped to flip it on its back to survey its underbelly.

The underside of inanimate things always sparked York’s curiosity and it invariably sent him nose diving under pianos to investigate anything from mice, moths and moisture to the storage of $$$ assets in the crannies of a Kawai.

To my educational advantage, he found it necessary to drag me along on his adventures to prove without a doubt that he had the lowdown on each and very piano he tuned, moth proofed and treated for rats.

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2010/12/24/me-york-and-our-great-piano-adventure/

And I can personally attest that his tattered, age worn diaries were evidence of his meticulous record keeping since 1948. These should someday be enshrined in the Smithsonian or at least in the PTG (Piano Technician’s Guild) Hall of Fame.

While Terry Barrett, RPT (Registered Piano Technician) argued that bridle straps had no importance in the assembly of uprights, and moths were basically harmless to pianos because they would die eating cyanide based hammer felts, York produced incontrovertible evidence to the contrary. He marched valiantly on his truth finding crusade and produced a Kimball made “Whitney” spinet without bridle straps that had a basic action defect, and he plucked a hammer from his pick-up truck that had the most perfect, moth drilled hole I had ever seen! Such was Mother Nature at work.

As an unofficial “apprentice” to the city’s senior piano tuner, I had acquired trade secrets that no piano technology school or correspondence course would ever impart. Would most “registered technicians” anywhere in the universe know to battle moths with a bottle of cloves? York was always far ahead of his time banishing moth balls from his tool box. “They cause cancer,” he said repeatedly when we stumbled upon pianos that were victims of merciless moth attacks. While I hadn’t yet seen examples of chewed up bridle straps from nest seeking rats, York had promised to phone me immediately if he had a scheduled DECON call at a church or elsewhere.

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2010/12/30/samick-york-tofujie-and-me-on-the-piano-chasing-trail/

The master tuner without his formal “registration” in the Piano Technician’s Guild showed those who had somehow obtained it that he deserved at least the honorary title because of his decades long association with pianos. Thankfully, the local Fresno chapter honored York by giving him a podium to demonstrate piano restringing, and when he turned up at monthly PTG meetings as a devoted “associate member,” his colleagues always greeted him with a hearty slap on the back.

On the day I had shown up to interview “Laroy Edwards” retired Yamaha senior piano technician, and emissary for the company all over the world, York made his presence known by telling his full length account about the cat that had been trapped under a grand piano lid and miraculously, emerged alive and well, though hairless. York fleshed out, colorful new details each time he spun a piano related tale, though he sometimes forgot that he’d told the story one too many times.

Besides being York’s companion through our two year-long piano adventure, my having compiled these stories was a natural outcome of all the trips made to many homes containing used pianos of an infinite variety–some sold in estate sales and auctions.


https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2010/12/12/the-great-piano-auction/


https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2010/12/05/used-pianos-estate-sales-and-mr-york-the-tuner/

And in the course of this learning driven journey, I had hoped that readers would willingly share their own piano memorabilia since a keyboard culture may be dying on the vine if not preserved.

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2010/12/22/is-the-piano-a-dying-breed/

The old upright stories should be written down and treasured. The genealogy of older pianos should be a relentless source of research. Piano owners should learn how to discover the age of their pianos by seeking out the serial numbers on the cast iron plate, and by consulting the Pierce Piano Atlas or the Bluebook of Pianos.com. While it’s common for piano owners to throw up their hands and say,”I know virtually nothing about my piano,” it’s time for a new attitude to replace the old. Even “Alice” was exhilarated to know more about her “player piano without a name” when I enlisted her in the fact finding adventure. While the piano had been virtually un-played for 4 years since its purchase from an antique store for $125, she quickly became my “Dr. Watson” beaming a flash light on its cast iron plate; screaming in delight when she discovered the digits that might help date it. In the case of her particular piano, supplementary information acquired from Robert Furst’s Bluebook of Pianos.com led to its more conclusive identity.

Sharing a systemic approach to the whole research undertaking with Alice, I was able to enlist a new partisan in the preservation of old pianos. In fact, she became very reluctant to part with her stately upright once I had breathed life into it as a performing pianist. But at long last, it finally found a worthy owner who had promised to take good care of it and give it a new home.

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2010/12/15/a-player-piano-without-a-name/

Another piano, a table style Aeolian with three leaves underwent an equally intense identity crisis as its true birth date was pursued. I couldn’t thank Mr. York enough for his A-1 guesstimate and Terry Barrett for pulling the piano’s action and stumbling upon a note with the date “APR 1936” engraved in the wood. What a miraculous discovery!!

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2011/01/26/a-table-style-piano-with-three-leaves-the-whole-story-in-lurid-detail/

DREAM PIANO had been all about the exciting adventure of pursuing and finding pianos, primarily in the private party, used piano market and how these travels of mine had changed the hearts and minds of the many piano owners that I’d encountered. Just making a routine house call to check on a piano up for sale, I’d invited myself into the lives of so my people who possessed the kindness and generosity to share their piano stories. “Ralph Cato,” whom I’d met at the Guitar Center looking for a keyboard to give his daughter for Christmas shared a heart rending story about his first piano and how he stole into the night to pick the lock and play it. Even a US Olympic Team boxing trainer with the exterior of a lion, softened up to share a tender memoir.

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2010/12/22/cato-his-killer-keyboard-and-a-round-of-piano-lessons/

“Caroline Scheer” opened her heart to me and finally imparted the reason she wanted to sell her beloved Knight piano. This had been a mystery all along, but when the truth spilled out one day during a taped phone interview, all the puzzle pieces fit together. I had learned that her father never kept his promise to buy her a grand piano, like the one she had seen at Delaware University, if she obtained all “A’s” on her report card. How many others would want a grand size piano in their home just because they had been deprived of one early in life.

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2010/12/16/the-little-knightingale/

In my travels, I had learned that pianos had a wide variety of meanings for different owners. For some, they were not musical instruments at all, but beautiful pieces of furniture to behold. But that might have been because the buyer or seller didn’t know where to begin in assessing the value of something that at one time had a playing life. And from the countless visits I’d made to homes with old pianos, just by playing them, they acquired a new value and meaning for their owners. Maybe there was an important message to heed. Why not bring a performing musician and piano technician to an establishment or home that housed a piano for sale. Why rely on a visual assessment of something that was meant to elicit tones, harmonics, and chords of beauty?

Perhaps the late Anne Meux, whose esteemed Fresno family had been memorialized in a landmark home preservation, experienced an awakening when her pianos came to life the afternoon I had played them. Prior to my impromptu visit, these musical treasures might well have been regarded as decorative furnishings, appreciated only for their external beauty.

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2011/01/15/anne-meux-her-pianos-and-my-visit/

Pianos I’d encountered that were pretty but without musical value:

So many piano owners found themselves with antiques of the square or parlor grand variety that were quite ornate looking but could not play worth a dime. And when it was time to sell them, they confronted the hard reality that as play-less instruments and artifacts of the past, that no one wanted them in the present or future. So what was purchased for $5,000 some years back would sell for $200 or less in the private party marketplace. Some of these age worn and ill maintained pianos might have had to be donated out to a favorite charity. As Terry Barrett poignantly said, “An antique piano was just a different animal.”

“Sam” Torcaso, owner of Chesterfield’s in Fresno, brought it home that the older uprights were just not selling and the whole marketplace of antique pianos was abysmal. She pointed to the bleak housing situation with foreclosures abounding and the dearth of interior decorators that would be consulted to design the insides of newly acquired homes as reflecting part of the problem. But despite her registered cynicism about the universe of antique pianos, she had always known to advise her customers to bring in a technician before they made any kind of “all sales final,” piano purchase at her establishment. This recommendation showed her respect and concern for those who would buy a piano from Chesterfields and then pass it to their children to learn on.

***
More stories from Dream Piano:

FUJIE had the patience to await the arrival of her dream Kawai K 15 studio upright model piano housed at California Piano,


https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2011/01/05/fujie-finds-her-dream-piano-but-buyer-beware/

and “Sharon Cooper” allowed me to include our clandestine tryst in the seedy parking lot beside Ag Hardware where a cash drop was made for a dream piano.

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2010/12/19/a-high-stakes-piano-finding-adventure-or-was-it-a-sopranos-tv-episode/

Not to forget Dan Bates, who stole off and bought a Petrof piano, while in the grip of his obsession over the Steinway 1968. May the best piano win!!

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2011/01/03/a-battle-of-two-steinways-a-yamaha-and-a-spoiler-petrof/

And who could forget the Dream Piano I fought for and won, a French Provincial Baldwin Artist Grand.
https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2011/01/19/fighting-for-a-dream-piano-hopefully-it-should-not-come-to-this/

On the last lap of my journey, I also stumbled upon “Victor Thasia” who was the first person I had ever met who changed his mind about selling his piano, and was ready to love and cherish it forever. Thanks for sharing your epiphany!

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2011/01/16/5007/

And what an opportunity came my way to record on a Dream Piano compliments of the Visalia Piano Gallery:

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2011/01/13/recording-on-a-sleeper-dream-piano/</a

To “Patricia Frederick,” of the Fredericks collection in Ashburnham, Mass., and Thomas Winter, early piano restorer, San Francisco, my sincere appreciation to you for having provided scholarly words of wisdom about period pianos. What a rare opportunity came my way to play a 19th Century Dream Piano that turned up at the American Cancer Society Discovery Shop.

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2010/12/27/the-fritz-of-vienna-chopin-reincarnated/

And another period piece that was beautiful on the outside but proved to be a pathetic tonal disaster!


https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2010/12/28/the-ghost-of-fritz-was-i-dreaming/

Concluding Bonus Chapter:

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2011/01/19/dos-and-donts-for-piano-buyers-and-sellers-dream-pianos-last-chapter/

Extra: York’s World War II Musical Memoir
https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2011/01/06/yorks-wwii-story-in-writing-and-on-video/

More People to Thank:

Terry Barrett, RPT, Fresno gave countless hours detailing pianos for me and helped me write about them from a more technical perspective. While he sometimes disagreed with York about the significance of moth damage and the value bridle straps, he contributed loads of piano related information that enhanced my stories and also assisted sellers in learning more about their pianos.

Finally, I would like to acknowledge all those piano students who gave me my first opportunity to help them find their first real, 88 note, playing pianos. “Michelle” now happily practices on a lovely Baldwin, 1970’s console that had its first tuning, and tweaking by YORK, and my youngest pupil, “Claudia” enjoys her resonating Yamaha studio upright 1992 that I found in the former, Old Hilton Hotel in Fresno where a salvaging company was selling it. I remember how I had managed to get there just at the right time before word got out that two practically new pianos were accumulating dust in a second floor banquet room. Oddly, the Yamaha sat for too long after it was purchased and couldn’t get down the elevator to the ground floor until inspections were made and certification papers filed with the County. In the end, when the piano descended to the first floor level for transport, it was shipped gratis to the base of steps leading to the new owner’s second floor apartment. That’s when a challenge arose! “Elaine,” Claudia’s mother could either pay a whopping $400 to move the piano up two flights of stairs or enlist the help of able bodied neighbors. I wish I could have been there to see how they managed to turn the corner on the landings and push the 700 plus pound piano into the apartment. It must have been quite a sight to behold!

Some piano owners had been luckier than others in moving their pianos. York had told me that the Salvaging company owner, who sold Elaine the Yamaha, tipped over a Kawai piano while he was steering it into another banquet room. “The whole thing just came crashin’ down all at once,” he said. I had dispatched him to give the Yamaha a once over appraisal before it was purchased, and according to YORK, “it passed with flyin’ colors.” While he was at the hotel, he happened to look at the action assembly of the neighboring Kawai console and discovered that the hammers were over-sized and not fitting right. York always knew his stuff when it came to pianos and their interiors. He was also an ace evaluator of piano finishes and could rub the tips of his thickly padded fingers against the grain and ascertain what percentage was veneer.

The old man had done just about everything where it came to pianos. He tuned, repaired, refinished, and moved them. He was quite the master of all trades and he allowed me a share of his knowledge under careful supervision!

Finally, thank you to those who might not have gotten into the pages of this book but who added to my knowledge about pianos of all shapes, sizes, and vintage. I am beholden to “Martin Sigley,” a brilliant player piano restorer who loves what he does like a poet who crafts every word as a jewel. I was so impressed by his little shop that housed an old Behr Player and an “Angelus Orchestral,” and how intensely he worked. The world should regard him as a heaven sent angel. In a universe that values big cars, and expansive, designer homes, there is sadly little room to think about old world type restorers who will someday vanish without the appreciation they deserved in life.

In conclusion, a warm and grateful hug for my 96 year old mother, Jessie Taft Smith who sat relentlessly on the phone in the wee hours of the morning and listened to each Dream Piano chapter as it unfolded and voiced hard fought criticism that drove some periodic changes in my writing. I couldn’t have done it without her.

PS Additional acknowledgments: Peter Wolf, recording engineer, Wolf Sound, Fresno, CA
Bill Sayre, owner, Fasttraxx recording studio, Fresno, CA Heyner Oviedo, Fresno Piano,
The late Anne Meux, Fresno, CA

arpeggios, Classical era, classical music, Classical period sonata, counterpoint, El Cerrito, El Cerrito California, humor, Mozart, Mozart sonata in C K545, MTAC, music, music history, musicology, New York City High School of Performing Arts, Oberlin Conservatory, New York City High School of Performing Arts, pianist, piano, piano instruction, piano lesson, piano pedagogy, piano room, piano scales, piano society, Piano Street, piano student, piano teacher, piano technique, Piano World, pianoaddict.com, Pianostreet.com, pianoworld, pianoworld.com, Rondo form, scales, Shirley Kirsten, Shirley Kirsten blog, Shirley Smith Kirsten, Steinway and Sons, Steinway grand piano, Steinway M grand piano, Steinway piano, talkclassical.com, Teach Street, technique, Theory, Uncategorized, video performances, word press, wordpress.com, you tube, you tube video

Piano Instruction: Mozart Rondo: Allegretto, 3rd mvt. Sonata in C, K. 545

In this instructional video I analyze the form and musical content of Mozart’s Sonata in C Major, K. 545, Rondo: Allegretto, Third movement. (I play behind tempo to make the commentary and musical phrases more understandable)

The Rondo, more often than not, is the form used in the last movement of a Classical era Sonata. (The Classical period roughly encompasses the years between 1750 and 1830) The Rondo is usually a brisk, lively and energetic movement that brings a sonata to a definitive conclusion. It is in the home key of the piece.

In the Sonata, K. 545, Mozart composes a light-hearted final (third) movement evocative of the Opera Buffa, or comic opera.

Form: A B A C A Coda

The “A” section, or Rondo in the bright C Major tonality, with a two eighth note short upbeat to a slightly more prolonged 8th note downbeat is the basic motif of the movement, and will come back interspersed with a B and a C section. The “B” section is in the Dominant key of G Major, while the “C” section goes into the Relative minor ( A minor) This A minor section has a Development-like character, and is more prolonged as it delightfully meanders and then winds its way back to the Rondo “A” section that is in the home key of C Major.

In the A minor or “C” section, Mozart uses an inversion of thirds to 6ths, and dances from one hand to the other, with inverted counterpoint. (He flips over the voices, so that the listener experiences the motif or Rondo idea in the bass range, with a 16th decoration in the Treble and in reverse) The devices of inverted intervals and inverted counterpoint are significant characteristics of this “C” section of the final movement.

Through a pivot chord, using A minor, as a double identity Vi chord in C Major going to its Dominant, G B D, the movement weaves its way back to the “A” section Rondo in C Major followed by a Coda (added concluding section) using Dominant and Tonic progressions in broken chord fashion to the very last splash of articulated, unisons that bring the movement to a resounding, and definitive ending. At the end of this work, I feel like I’m in the orchestra pit, conducting those last measures as the curtain goes down in the opera.

Feedback is always appreciated. If you have ideas to share about this effervescent movement, please post.

Links to Piano Instruction first movement (in three parts)

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2010/12/29/piano-instruction-harmonic-rhythm-and-phrasing-part-1-mozart-sonata-in-c-k-545/

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2010/12/29/piano-instruction-part-two-harmonic-rhythm-and-phrasing-mozart-sonata-in-c-k-545/

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2010/12/30/piano-instruction-part-3-harmonic-rhythm-and-phrasing-mozart-sonata-in-c-k-545-shirley-kirsten-piano/

Second movement, Analysis and Instruction:

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2011/01/07/piano-instruction-second-movement-mozart-sonata-in-c-major-k-545-video/