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Piano Instruction: Part FIVE, Beethoven’s “Tempest” Sonata, Op. 31 no. 2 Measures 93 to 158 (Development, Recitative, submerged pedal)

This is a hauntingly beautiful section of the first movement.

After the composer has devoted so many preceding measures to the key of A minor, he decides to travel at quick intervals through a series of different keys. Such fast-paced modulations occur primarily with the return of the crossed-hands portion of the piece, beginning in F# minor at double forte level. (FF) (measure 99)

But before we get to this intensified point, Beethoven re-introduces a Largo, following the SECOND ENDING, which draws on the opening broken chord ROLL. The harmonies through which he passes are quite mystical. (especially when a D Major rolled-out chord is followed by a diminished one starting on B#) The third and final rolled chord in F# evokes the gates of heaven opening. At this point, the player must experience a divine revelation so he can communicate it convincingly to the listener.

The same mysticism blankets a Recitative, measures 144-148; and 155-158 with a submerged sustain pedal which is in itself, an innovative harmonic event in a Classical period sonata.

In fact, the “Tempest” is a ground-breaking composition just because the composer explores new tonal and harmonic regions while expanding beyond conservative form boundaries.

My video instruction elaborates upon this commentary:


Part ONE: Beethoven Tempest Sonata in D minor

Part TWO Instruction

Part THREE Instruction

Part FOUR Instruction

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In the Piano Universe: Two You Tube Treasures not to miss!

Every so often, I stumble upon an uploaded You Yube performance that grabs my ears. In this instance, it was a Mozart encore offered by pianist, Mitsuko Uchida, that led straight to a compelling videotaped interview with her. With my antennae up and ready for more sparkle to light up my day, I was amply rewarded.

I must admit that when I surveyed first movement readings of K. 545, the “Drawing Room” sonata, I was less intrigued by Uchida’s interpretation (employing a clipped staccato) than by what I found as an afterthought to a concert she had given at an unspecified location. (her short notes, were refined in a portato-like rendering through a soulful Andante)

First, to celebrate an artist, who does not feel obligated to reel off a show-stopping transcription as a tour de force ending to a concert, but instead chooses a slow movement to cap the evening….

I remember how satisfying it was to hear Horowitz bless his audience with Schumann’s “Reverie” as the ultimate conclusion to his recital. (He would precede this offering with virtuoso displays, but not leave the stage without making a peace with himself and his listeners)

And so, Uchida, in this spirit played the second movement of Mozart’s well-known Sonata in C, which by serendipitous opportunity, led to a prized interview that provided an intimate glimpse of her inner thoughts, ideas and philosophy.

Be inspired:

Interview (It’s in English)


Compare readings of Mozart K. 545, Allegro

BIO from Uchida’s Official Website:”>”>

“…whatever she plays, you always sense that Uchida has thought through the reasons for everything she does, but always in the best interests of communicating what she feels is the emotional essence of the music. It’s a rare, and very precious gift.”
The Guardian

“Mitsuko Uchida is a performer who brings a deep insight into the music she plays through her own search for truth and beauty. She is renowned for her interpretations of Mozart, Schubert, and Beethoven, both in the concert hall and on CD, but she has also illuminated the music of Berg, Schoenberg, Webern and Boulez for a new generation of listeners. Her recording of the Schoenberg Piano Concerto with Pierre Boulez and the Cleveland Orchestra won four awards, including The Gramophone Award for Best Concerto. Amongst many current projects, Uchida has recently been recording a selection of Mozart’s Piano Concerti with the Cleveland Orchestra, directing from the piano. The Cleveland Plain Dealer wrote of their performances of K.466 and K.595 in April 2010, ‘Uchida turns in readings of such eloquence, one has no trouble understanding why they’re also being recorded for posterity’ and The Times wrote of the disc issued in October 2009, (K.491 and K.488), which won a Grammy award, ‘Did even the great Clara Haskil play Mozart’s piano music as wonderfully, as completely – with intelligence and instinct perfectly fused – as Mitsuko Uchida?’

“Highlights this season include performances with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra and Haitink, Vienna Philharmonic and Boulez, Cleveland Orchestra, Chicago Symphony, Philharmonia Orchestra and Salonen, and the continuation of the Beethoven concerti cycle with the London Symphony Orchestra and Sir Colin Davis. Uchida will perform chamber music at the Mozartwoche festival in Salzburg, with the Hagen Quartet in a tour of Japan, and with Magdalena Kožená in Europe. She will give solo recitals in Tokyo, Salzburg, Berlin, Paris, London, Chicago and New York.

“Mitsuko Uchida performs with the world’s finest orchestras and musicians. Some recent highlights have been her Artist-in-Residency at the Cleveland Orchestra, where she directed all the Mozart concerti from the keyboard over a number of seasons. She has also been the focus of a Carnegie Hall Perspectives series entitled ‘Mitsuko Uchida: Vienna Revisited’. She has featured in the Concertgebouw’s Carte Blanche series where she collaborated with Ian Bostridge, the Hagen Quartet, Chamber Orchestra of Europe and Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra as well as directing from the piano a performance of Schönberg’s Pierrot Lunaire. Uchida has also been Artist-in-Residence at the Vienna Konzerthaus, and with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, where she performed a series of chamber music concerts and a Beethoven Piano Concerti cycle with Sir Simon Rattle.

“Mitsuko Uchida records exclusively for Decca and her recordings include the complete Mozart piano sonatas and piano concerti; the complete Schubert piano sonatas; Debussy’s Etudes; the five Beethoven piano concerti with Kurt Sanderling; a CD of Mozart Sonatas for Violin and Piano with Mark Steinberg; Die Schöne Müllerin with Ian Bostridge for EMI; the final five Beethoven piano sonatas; and the 2008 recording of Berg’s Chamber Concerto with the Ensemble Intercontemporain, Pierre Boulez and Christian Tetzlaff. Uchida’s most recent releases are CD’s of Mozart’s concerti K.488 and K.491, and a second disc of K.466 and K.595, both with Uchida directing the Cleveland Orchestra from the piano; and an acclaimed disc of Schumann’s solo piano music, featuring the Davidsbündlertänze and the Fantasie.

“Mitsuko Uchida has demonstrated a long-standing commitment to aiding the development of young musicians and is a trustee of the Borletti-Buitoni Trust. She is also Co-director, with Richard Goode, of the Marlboro Music Festival. In June 2009 she was made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire.”

December 2011

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Scarlatti Toccata in D minor with rapid fire repeated notes: Melodic contouring, dusting the keys, and slow motion replay (VIDEOS)

Here’s my anti-anxiety solution to playing those demanding, rapid-fire repeated notes in Scarlatti’s D minor Toccata.

First, being a technology nerd, I never dreamed I could master a slow motion replay on iMac’s iMovie, but through trial and error, I managed a half-speed rendering of the opener. Naturally, I deleted my sadly depressing droning voice that would have curbed the enthusiasm of players geared up for the Scarlatti challenge.

Essentially, I framed the bullet-fire repeated notes in real time, then slowed them up on the re-take. (A golden teaching moment, perhaps?)

Regardless, if you have to face the music, deal with it like I did, one clip at a time. (Just a reminder to use fingers 3,2,1, 3,2,1 for the repeaters)

Major Bullet Points:

1) Think MELODY through the dizzying repeated notes. There’s no time to count how many you miss. (You’re only human, so cut yourself some slack)

2) Let your arms completely relax– poof, they’re on puppet strings, or maybe if you’re the domestic type, let them hang over a clothesline, pleasantly suspended.

3) In the same spirit, make believe you’re doing some house cleaning and dust the keys, shaking loose your wrists.

Now take good mental notes and store them in your MUSCLE memory box as paradoxical as this may sound.

A snatch of Scarlatti with slow-motion replay.


Don’t expect a beat up old clunker with squeaks, squawks, and stiff, sticking keys to do the job!

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The piano teacher as conductor–sometimes shaping gestures help a student phrase better (Video)

I couldn’t resist an opportunity to conduct my student playing the Bach Invention 13 in A minor today. She’s preparing two selections for a competitive Baroque event coming up in two weeks, and the second offering is the Prelude in C minor BWV 847.

Claudia, 11, rehearsed the Invention a few times with a few sideline prompts from me, but at some point she needed her teacher to coach her close up to extract desired arpeggio shaping.


Flashback to my student days

My New York City piano teacher, Lillian Freundlich, didn’t conduct the music I played, but she compulsively SANG over my feeble attempts to please her, making her point loud and clear that I needed more contoured melodic lines. (Wake up little girl and play from your heart)

I guess her approach became so embedded, that to this day I can’t resist singing when I practice, and obviously it spills over into my teaching.

But the conducting comes from another place within me—perhaps from a well of frustration that I don’t have an orchestra to direct.

So as the next best option, I find myself choreographing and singing at the same time which is great prep for a Broadway musical audition. At minimum I’m up for a place on the Chorus Line, hoping against hope to be picked.

Worse case scenario, as the saying goes, Those who can’t perform, teach. (which is ridiculous) It should be revised as, those who teach CAN perform– dancing and singing all over the place in their private studios.

So having cleared the air, owning up to my teacher-driven eccentricities, I offer an impromptu choreography and a few grunts that sprang out of Bach’s exuberant Invention 13.

The point was well taken. Claudia decided to imagine that she’s the conductor of her own duo, a two voice instrumental, as she ascends the stage to play her pieces.

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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

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

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The Old World playing, like fine wine, of Livia Rev, Hungarian pianist and teacher (see her teaching segments on the pliant wrist)

So now I am into documentaries about piano teachers/performers who leave an eternal imprint on their students and upon the world. Livia Rev is one such special person who belongs in the good company of Irena Orlov, Irina Gorin, and Rosina Lhevinne. Note the frames on Bela Bartok, and Ms. Lev’s connection to– a letter signed by Bartok to Livia. And some bravos about her teaching.

You don’t have to know Hungarian to appreciate the content of this moving profile.


I stumbled upon a you tube film about Livia two years ago: “Portrait of Lívia Rév pianist / teaching / 90th Birthday”– It showed her teaching a student in Hungarian, and in one riveting segment Lev takes her pupil’s hand and demonstrates the freedom of the supple wrist. She literally rotates the hand around, and then dips the wrist. These frames support the unconventional–they do not regale a frozen wrist or inflexible hand–Edna Golandsky, are you listening? (Taubman followers curiously rule out the “wrist break”) It’s counter-intuitive.

See the following pertinent segments in this short film that apply to piano technique and the wrist.

2:28 to 4:28 as Livia Rev is teaching

and 5:04 to 5:14 A big dip of the wrist in a technical display by the pianist, herself.

One can’t go against nature and refuse to “break” the wrist. I apologize for my over-emphasis.

About Livia at the website:

LIVIA REV (b 1916)
Hungarian Pianist

“Livia Rev is one of the pianistic marvels of our age. She was born 95 years ago in Budapest, Hungary. She was a child prodigy. She studied at the Franz Liszt Academy of Music, at the Leipzig Conservatory, and at the Vienna Conservatory. She has performed the world over as a soloist with conductors of the stature of Sir Adrian Boult, André Cluytens, Jascha Horenstein, Eugen Jochum, Josef Krips, Rafael Kubelík, Hans Schmidt-Isserstedt, Constantin Silvestri, and Walter Susskind, a veritable who’s who of the great conductors of the 20th Century. She teaches, gives master classes, and is still currently playing the piano.

“In her prime, Livia Rev was one of the world’s greatest interpreters of the music of Chopin. The recordings of the 24 Preludes Opus 28 are among the finest the writer has ever heard, and as he wrote these words, he was tempted to place them at the top of his list.”

Like the writer, I favored Livia’s Chopin as exemplified in this reading: Chopin Nocturne in F Major

Even more musical ambrosia is offered in these Chopin Preludes recorded in 1988 when Livia was 74:

If there are any fluent Hungarians out there, please render a translation for the impatiently waiting Internet audience.


Livia Rev’s Official Website. She currently resides in France.

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Piano Technique: “Butterfly” by Grieg, a revisit (playing and exploring the rolling, rotational motion) videos

I can see the butterfly in my mind’s eye in its flight of fancy. But I wish it were as easy to play, as to imagine.

Relaxation is the key word here, but not to the point that the 16th-notes become like glissandi–a faint gloss over the keys. First in slow practice tempo you would rotate your right hand in a circular, counter-clockwise motion, as the left hand has its “rolling” effect to feed a roll-out between the rolling hands. (an abundance of rolls)

And despite what appears to be a dizzying display of chromatically woven 16th-notes, the litheness of the butterfly should be preserved.

In the middle section, side to side hand rotation works best in the right hand, while the left continues its roll over the octave span.


The Background

A Norwegian Romantic era composer, Edvard Grieg wrote ten sets of these colorful, descriptive miniatures with illuminating titles. “March of the Dwarfs,” “Little Bird,” and “Butterfly,” among others particularly appeal to children because of their lush harmonic tapestries and engaging melodies.

“Butterfly” is a heart flutter with an improvised quality. It epitomizes Romantic music from the mid 19th Century with its fluid, rubato style of playing (flexible time)

Words cannot adequately express how beautifully Grieg weaves this Butterfly mosaic that uplifts the spirit while it touches the heart.

Analysis of harmony and movement: in back tempo