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Artful piano playing: Rising above the notes by “feeling,” singing, and “shaping” phrases

Burmguller’s “Sincerity,” Op. 100 is the perfect vehicle for spinning limpidly beautiful phrases. But how does the pianist go beyond what appears to be strings of 8th notes that can easily sound typed out.

To avoid the ponderous, vertical approach to these semi-quavers, a set of baby-step preliminaries can nurse along a heartfelt, well-“shaped” musical outpouring.

In my attached video tutorial I suggest “singing” phrases before playing them to get the “feeling” of their contour. (The student and teacher can also conduct from phrase to phrase, noting harmonic rhythm as it influences “lean” and “resolve” relationships from measure to measure)

The motions that merge with a sound ideal can be further explored and noted in journal form. (RELAXED BREATHING frames all music-making)

In the physical realm, I advocate relaxed arms, supple wrists and a continuum of energy without kinks along the way. (Make sure elbows and wrists aren’t tense) Keep shoulders relaxed and transfer upper body weighted energy into the keyboard.

A reservoir of mental and physical images plus a fine-tuned ear will no doubt support a seamless legato that permeates Burgmuller’s “Sincerity.”

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My play through:

Instruction:

Sincerity p1

Sincerity p 2

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A Purr-fect sedative for a Cat

After a long day of teaching and house hunting, I settled down at my Steinway grand piano to play Burgmuller’s “Harmony of the Angels.”

An enchanting character piece in the Romantic genre, it’s the perfect sedative for humans, cats, dogs, even birds who skim the branches of my fertile fig tree for a treat each August.

Late last night Aiden soaked up the lush harp-like figures of this musical gem from his cushioned seat beside my upright piano. The cover is soft enough to lure him from his favored nesting place at the Haddorff console. Only when the piano room is insulated with heat, my furry feline will return to Haddy, the “singing nightingale” where he’ll cool his belly on its polished wood surface.

The morning after, the wandering minstrel finds a new home on the Steinway piano bench:

Music that calms

“Harmony of the Angels,” when played as a prelude to Rina’s early piano lessons, was the perfect accompaniment to her floating movements across the room. With her fluid arms and wrists moving gracefully in soft curves, she enjoyed an entree to the main course– a feast of melodies at the primer level, rendered with a beautiful singing tone.

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For my adult students, this divine musical creation is a favorite that has drawn videos of lessons-in-progress.

From California to London, England, its undulating figures bathe players in rich sonority, if their wrists are “spongy” while arms melt phrases in wave-like motions.

In this videotaped instruction, an adult pupil and I explore an early layer of learning that focused on legato flowing hands, supple wrists, and relaxed arms. (Chord blocking was enlisted to acquire a “feel” for the keyboard landscape as the piece unfolded)

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