pianist, piano, piano addict.com, piano instruction by Skype, piano students, piano teaching, piano techique, pianos lessons, Pianostreet.com, pianoworld.com, pianoworldwide, staccato, staccato playing, teaching adult students, teaching scales, you tube video, you tube.com, yout tube, youtube.com

A Fear-less, Horizontal Approach to Staccato playing

Most piano students become DIS-connected when asked to play staccato. Their full blown trepidation wedded to DETACHMENT is so conspicuously on display during scale and arpeggio playing that a teacher must first devise mental cues to bring the student down to earth, in a comfortably secure traction with the keys.

It’s no surprise then, that LEGATO playing (smooth, note-to-note connection) may be the paradoxical entryway to staccato journeys across the 88s. In an octave-by-octave transit that essentially draws on a pianist’s ability to hug the keys, if not drag notes using touch-sensitive weight transfer, a resultant grooved, grounded, and gravitational centering will become the psychological and physical model for subsequent crisp releases. (It’s a natural transition that feeds relaxed and well-shaped staccato playing.)

In the following videos, two adult students respond positively to “horizontal” framings of their arpeggios and scales. They also make nice playing transfers from legato to well-contoured staccato.

Diminished 7th Arpeggio
(In slow and incrementally quicker tempos–Note that a slow-paced staccato rendering retains a horizontal dimension with teacher prompts.)

F#-minor Scale (Melodic form)

Emanuel Ax, Lillian Freundlich, mindful piano practicing, Mozart, Mozart Sonata no. 9 in D K. 311, ornaments, phrasing at the piano, pianist, pianists, piano, piano addict, piano addict.com, piano blog, piano blogging, piano blogs, piano instruction, piano instructor, piano lesson, piano lessons, piano lessons by Skype, piano lessons for adults, piano lessons in Berkeley California, piano lessons in El Cerrito California, piano pedagogy, piano playing, piano playing and the singing tone, piano practicing, piano teachers, piano teaching, piano teaching philosophy, piano teaching repertoire, piano technique, Shirley Smith Kirsten, shirley smith kirsten blog, Shirley Smth Kirsten, the undulating wrist, the undulating wrist in piano playing, trills, whole body listening, whole body music listening, word press, word press.com, wordpress, wordpress.com, you tube, you tube.com, yout tube, youtube.com

Revisiting an old piano piece learned years earlier

I find my current musical journey down memory lane to be joyful and challenging–especially as I cut and paste the Mozart Rondo: Allegro, K. 311 pages to fit comfortably on the piano rack. (Deja Vu, Haydn C Major Hoboken XVI35–Haydn pinned and unpinned)

I wrote to a musician friend during the height of my frustration. “This undertaking is far more complex than the former because my Mozart Sonata Urtext edition, Breitkopf and Hartel, has enormously big pages. Therefore, I must figure out a way, to fraction them, ply them, add parts of measures on my printer/copier, then attach, and re-attach.”

My shabby efforts produced the following:

Mozart Rondo K. 311 2

As comic relief I summarized the process:

“This is the most flagrant cut and paste job to date—the Urtext oversize led to one hour of fidgeting, fumbling, frantic fastening, failing, flailing, faltering, framing—piecing, plying, pairing, pressing, taping, tying and crying. What a waste of time!

“Now I have to memorize the first 2 pages–because even with the taping, tying, plying and sighing, there’s just no room to read across.”

Despite this tangential escapade, I’m drawn back down to earth, believing, if you lay a solid foundation in your earliest learning effort, then a revisit will tap into familiar landmarks, making your review more smooth sailing than you might expect.

Case in point.. Mozart K. 311, the very first sonata my teacher, Lillian Freundlich gave me to study–and one I’d waxed poetic about in my “Sentimental Journey” posting.

What I had learned about learning in my first sonata encounter, aided my re-connection.

1) Phrasing–first movement–Allegro con moto
Freundlich parceled out one or two measures–drawing 16ths back to quarters.. deep in the keys approach
Then moved to 8ths in doublets or pairs, finally extending out to 16ths..it was rhythmic groupings in synch a singing tone moved the piece into an artistic rendering, rather than a typewritten framing.

Incidentally, the singing tone, not surface, key skimming was my teacher’s conception of the Mozartean voice.

AND SLOW MOTION PRACTICE was at the core of developing and shaping all passage work.

2) FINGERING–good decisions were made way back–NO guessing in the dark, or dice throws– No fly by night accidents of fate..
The fingering was set down, like good housekeeping– A table prepared to specification.

3) Harmonic Analysis–The KEY signature was well imprinted. Flow of harmony, the same..
How did certain chords or modulations affect interpretation? (Part of phrasing/harmonic rhythm exploration)

4)Form and Structure–First Theme, second theme, Development, Recapitulation
What key for second theme?.. What happened in the Development section–what keys explored, (modulations), rhythmic devices?

Sequences? Melodic symmetries and asymmetries. We circled what remained the same, and what changed.

All of the above fast forwarded on a consciously unconscious level into the present easily tapped out of a sub layer of knowing.

Last week I’d recorded K. 311, Allegro con brio– And after a few days of revisiting, I had mildly adjusted fingerings to conform with the brisk tempo.

Then moving on to movement 2, I remembered the importance of Mozart’s vocal line, the need for a lush, deep in the keys singing tone so well imbued by Lillian Freundlich. (NO to a frilly, top-layered, superficial approach)

Awareness of harmonic flow/rhythm, marked out in my score from years before, helped me retrieve the long lost movement and bring it back to life in short order.


The Journey continues

Rondo: Allegro, K. 311

Currently, I’m face-to-face with this rapid movement which seems easier to navigate the second time around, but for what I consider a particularly tricky section:

A set of trills in the Left Hand set against a rapid flow of 16ths begs for a crossed hands adjustment but it’s just not feasible.

Mozart rondo k 311

Seymour Bernstein, pianist, teacher and composer, points out that pianists have been known to heist sections of music.. reconfiguring passages, that cannot be easily executed as written.

Emanuel Ax, concert pianist, fleshes out this very issue in a Beethoven documentary. He demonstrates how the composer made it nearly impossible to play a section of his second sonata, first movement, with the right hand only fingering indicated in the score.

Ax posited that perhaps Beethoven considered his personal fingering to be a “cosmic joke” contrived “to annoy everybody!”

Nonetheless Ax, demonstrated how most pianists will divide the passage between hands.

Did I veer off topic?

Not exactly as this side excursion related to my tackling difficult passages with an innovative approach, if applicable.

In the Rondo section attached, the trill in the left hand will be a potential finger-jammer, so post video, I made the choice to play GAGF#, followed by F#GF#E, EF#ED etc.

(In the instruction below I navigate the section through a set of steps and practicing routines:)

Decisions like these made in the course of primary learning experiences, tend to surface again in composition revisits. They certainly further musical development.

Finally, the old, reliable, baby-step, ground up work, done during an original exposure to a composition, is the best gift a student can bestow upon himself as he reconnects with a former love.

LINK


https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2012/01/08/piano-technique-and-repertoire-does-making-fingeringhand-adjustments-constitute-a-swindle/

The Value of Practicing behind tempo, in slow motion
https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2012/12/26/piano-learning-and-technique-the-value-of-practicing-in-slow-motion-or-behind-tempo/

"Tales of a Musical Journey" by Irina Gorin, classissima, classissima.com, Elaine Comparone, Harpsichord.org, how to improve memorization at the piano, Irina Gorin, piano, piano addict.com, Seymour Bernstein, Uncategorized

The Haydn Piano Sonata in C, UNPINNED, and matters of Memorization

Well, it’s still not memorized yet, but the clips and staples mounted far too high on the rack, have been undone. I no longer need a giraffe’s neck to play through the sonata’s many first movement pages. The music has descended to eye-level.

Incidentally, my feeble excuse for using music was my relatively recent exposure to this work–It would take a while to absorb it minus an unreliable cut and paste exhibit.

And this brings up the subject of memorization, and whether it advances a composition’s performance. Many would attest that owning this masterwork without reliance on the score, would free the spirit and soul?

Or maybe not?

Here’s feedback from a few well-known music teachers/performers:

Irina Gorin: (creator, Tales of a Musical Journey, Books I and II–her own unique approach to teaching piano to beginners and on)

“For me performance with music looks a lot like practicing. I’m used to performing by memory, and I require from all my students that they perform from memory, unless there are some really big problems. But, so far, in 30 years of teaching, every single student of mine was able to perform from memory. There are tons of articles written about memorization and different tricks to help with that. I don’t think I have anything new to say.”

I interjected that Sviatoslav Richter, the great Russian virtuoso, often performed in public with music as exemplified in these videos:

Haydn Piano Concerto in D, movement 1


Handel Suite in D Minor

If I close my eyes, I enjoy these readings, without any distraction of watching the artist’s eyes glued to the score. And what difference should this detail of production make? It was Richter’s philosophy, in any case, that he “played for himself and not the audience.” His personal pleasure was transmitted outward.

To which Gorin responded:

“Richter had music only in a few very last years of performing, and he was over 70 years old. His late performances were not his best. Also, there are different types of performances” formal and informal. I would not mind sheet music if played for a circle of friends or home video, but the big stage is a different story. IMO :)”

Not to be argumentative, but pianists are put to a higher standard in this realm than instrumentalists such as flautists and clarinetists. The latter routinely march onto the stage with the music and no one much cares.

Certainly music critics, on pedestals of power, don’t specifically fault a performer for playing with the score.

A well-reviewed pianist, Leon Fleisher, played Book I of the Well Tempered Clavier with music propped on the rack at the Fresno Keyboard Concerts Series.

Would he have played better without the page turner peering over his shoulder? In some instances, the answer might be a resounding, yes!

I watched an awkward page turner push an Urtext album into accompanist, Martin Katz’s lap in Carnegie Hall. The soloist was either Milstein, violinist, or Shafrin Cellist. Ironically, MY MEMORY FAILS ME! Yet I do recall Katz carrying on gloriously without music to the final cadence. (A good example of MEMORY having come to his rescue!)

Seymour Bernstein explored this very subject in his popular book, With Your Own Two Hands, Chapter 10

Sub-heading, “Why Memorize?”

“There is something very important to be gained from memorization that many musicians themselves may not be aware of. Apart from freeing a performer in musical and technical ways, memorization, per se, despite current opinion to the contrary, actually sharpens the mind.” (He quotes, by analogy, students of ancient Greece who had to memorize all their texts and recitations as a key to mastery in public speaking AND to hone their minds)

Back to the piano: “Some performers are distracted by any visual contact with notation, and therefore prefer to play without a score. Better to risk forgetting, they feel, than do anything that might interfere with their involvement in the music. Other musicians have a complete sense of freedom only when the score is before them.”

Bernstein went on to discuss recording sessions, where he asserts, the decision whether to use music or not, resides with the recording company. He cites a case in point:

“I had been invited to record a recital for the BBC and was somewhat surprised to find in my contract, a stipulation that a page turner be present in the studio. The reason, of course, was that the BBC quite simply did not want to waste more time than was necessary with retakes owing to memory slips.”

In tune with Bernstein’s reflections, I noted a videotaped recording session memorialized on You Tube where Vladimir Horowitz has the mandatory page turner sitting beside him at a reading of Mozart’s Concerto No. 23. (Carlo Maria Guilini conducts)

**

Elaine Comparone, renowned harpsichordist, shared her own valuable insights about memorizing: portraitelainecomparone2

“Memorizing is as physical as mental but it’s not at all an intellectual process as such. Once you memorize a composition, then those tools are useful for preparing it for performance– kind of as an adjunct practice tool. But the piece has to take hold of your subconscious as well as your conscious mind via your fingers and your ears.”

This statement dispels myths about over-reliance on the analytic ingredients of score, making one further probe the depths of a memorization process.

***

(As usual, thoughts and ideas are welcomed from the teaching and student community about a controversial area of performing)
See PIANO WORLD.com thread related to this topic:

http://www.pianoworld.com/forum/ubbthreads.php/topics/2022450/1.html

And on this note, here’s my personal confession about memorization in performance that may ring familiar. It’s in the form of a letter sent to a piano teacher:

“One of the big issues for pianists is the psychological dimension of memorization, and sadly, many teachers equate a student’s inability to memorize with his failure to properly organize or analyze the score according to theoretical and structural content in his protracted learning process. (harmonic rhythm, modulations of course included in this universe)

“But as COMPARONE points out, this type of analysis is not enough.

“I once played a recital, that began without music on the rack.. it was being recorded for airing later on Valley Public Radio. It opened with the rather straightforward first Scene of Childhood, “Of Foreign Lands and People.”

“I knew that piece in my sleep, yet I don’t even know what I played for the first phrase. At that point my music was taken out and put up before me, with my page turner standing by.

“Am I to feel any less of a musician because I play with music? Did this mean that I hadn’t studied my pieces thoroughly, as you know my learning emphasis is ground up, baby-step, layering. (and impart this approach to all my students)

“I gave one of the most inspiring performances of my life at Temple Beth Israel WITH music, and I couldn’t imagine ever having played for two hours without my music.

“I guess I’m writing this because each musician must decide for him/herself what works, and what produces the highest performance standard at any given time that he is capable of.

“So it follows that I refuse to be hard on my students if they cannot play without music. I still say it’s a tradition-bound construct that does not universally apply across the board to ALL musicians. (flautists, violinists, cellists, and the like)

“Recently, I watched violinist, Sarah Chang perform Beethoven sonatas with music, and I enjoyed her performance just the same which affirms my opinions in this universe of discussion.”

***

Pertinent LINKS

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2013/01/21/a-well-known-haydn-piano-sonata-is-pinned/

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2011/06/17/memorization-at-the-piano-how-to-improve-your-skills/

IRINA GORIN:
https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2012/03/24/irina-gorin-creator-of-tales-of-a-musical-journey-shares-her-thoughts-about-braving-a-new-piano-teaching-universe/

SEYMOUR BERNSTEIN, author, With Your Own Two Hands
with_your_own_two_hands

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2012/12/06/my-nyc-visit-with-seymour-bernstein-pianist-teacher-author-and-composer/


http://www.seymourbernstein.com


ELAINE COMPARONE:

http://www.harpsichord.org

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2012/12/04/a-visit-with-elaine-comparone-at-her-harpsichord-palace-in-new-york-city/

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2013/01/07/vibrant-music-making-at-rest-or-at-play/