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A Big New York Debut Recital for Pianist, Marianna Prjevalskaya

Marianna photo

After many international victories and a stash of prizes, honors and recital appearances flowing out of them, Marianna Prjevalskaya, will make her debut in New York City’s cultural limelight.



“The event, presented by the Cincinnati World Piano Competition takes place Monday, February 23, 2015 @ 7:30pm.”

(“The Cincinnati World Piano Competition is one of the top piano competitions in the United States. Held annually, it aims to recognize and promote outstanding piano artistry and support the career development of young pianists.”)


By all accounts Prjevalskaya’s performance will surely follow those that have lit up the globe, making her name well-recognized in the cosmos of solo playing and chamber music.
(Enjoy an enlightening interview with the artist)


The pianist’s artistry first came to my attention when I serendipitously stumbled upon an Online beamed competition from Alaska. Despite the pitfalls of media transmission, Marianna Prjelvalskaya’s Haydn, Schumann, Debussy, and Scriabin, resonated over the air waves with impeccable beauty. Selections were rendered with period era sensitivity–having a permeated singing tone thread so emblematic of the Russian School of playing, yet infused with a wide panorama of colors and nuances that reflected Prjevalskaya’s Pan-European exposures. (Spain is her country of origin though her musical activity and educational background rise beyond specific borders.) In the midst of her international flurry of concerts, for example, the pianist manages to pursue advanced performance degrees on the East Coast, counting Yale and Peabody among her prestigious bastions of learning.

In keeping with a unique journey of individuality that characterizes the pianist’s blossoming career, I asked Maestra Prjevalskaya to add a personal touch to her upcoming recital, by providing a set of program notes:

First half:
Debussy Preludes Book II

Second half:
Chopin Fantasy Op. 49 in F minor
Rachmaninoff Variations on a Theme by Chopin Op. 22


“Debussy’s collection of preludes is a world of sensations and emotions– a uniquely inspiring experience that draws on the listener’s imagination and carries him/her into a transcendent state.

“The composer collects his own impressions from samples of poetry and illustrations to oriental, decorative objects, transforming them into fantastic images that create a tonal and architectural unity.

“As an entire set, these preludes are rarely performed, so it’s really an exciting experience for me to share the complete work with my audience. In the future, I plan to prepare the first book of Preludes as well.”


“Rachmaninoff’s Variations on a Theme by Chopin Op. 22 is one of my deeply beloved works. I personally think it is a hidden gem in the piano repertoire that unfortunately has been overshadowed by the composer’s other popular piano compositions. This particular set of variations exemplifies an infinite world of musical and technical possibilities that awaits exploration and savoring.

“Based on Chopin’s Prelude in C minor Op. 28, it’s a collage of contrasting emotions encompassing naiveté and anguish to exuberant joy. The theme becomes totally unrecognizable as the work unfolds, and it’s absolutely captivating to see, feel and experience with one’s own hands how Rachmaninoff creates a kaleidoscopic of textures with significant emotional depth.

“In addition to this work, I decided to include the very special Chopin Fantasy. Often viewed as fragile and vulnerable, the composer reveals his heroic face in a full-spirited creation. On a personal level, I felt it would be meaningful to give homage to Chopin before performing Rachmaninoff’s Variations.”


Without a doubt, Marianna’s concert is one not to miss, so gather the information below and purchase your tickets a.s.a.p.

Important Recital Details

Tickets are now on sale and may be purchased online at
To order tickets by phone, call Carnegie Charge at (212) 247-7800.

For more information about the event, please contact Laura Bock at or Marianna Prjevalskaya at

Marianna’s Website

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Yevgeny Sudbin, another Russian Pianist topples my day!

I had my heart set on working out at the gym before noon, but as fate had it, I was stopped in my tracks by the breathtaking artistry of Yevgeny Sudbin. (only 32 years old) And it was merely 24 hours after I’d cried over Nikolai Lugansky’s Schumann Intermezzo from Faschingsschwank aus Wien.

Could these two synchronized angels of the Muse share a gene for impassioned piano playing?

Regardless, I would sing like a nightingale about Sudbin, spreading his immense gifts far and wide.

Let’s start with the artist’s Scarlatti, a composer so very dear to me.

Three exemplary performances sweep the listener into a universe of beauty from the first measure to final cadence. Nuance, dynamics, impeccable phrasing, just the right touch, and tone to please. It’s manifestly clear that one of the pianist’s teachers was Murray Perahia. I can tell by the way in which the Baroque repertoire is communicated. Not too loud, too soft or frivolous in any way. A nice range of dynamics are bundled into the playing.

These examples are heartfelt:

Finally, a mouse tap to Sudbin’s official website fills in the missing details that surround his remarkable life and musical accomplishments.

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Practicing “Flight of the Bumblebee” in slow tempo (Rachmaninoff Arrangement of Rimsky-Korsakov)-Video

“Flight of the Bumblebee” was originally composed for orchestra. It was the Interlude of the opera, Legend of the Tsar Sultan (1900) by Rimsky-Korsakov. According to the plot, a prince becomes a bee and stings his villainous relatives.

The piece has been arranged many times over for various instruments including the piano. The edition that fell into my hands through an adult student was an arrangement by Rachmaninoff that had absolutely no fingerings.

My first approach to learning this chromatically woven composition was to establish a good, workable fingering which took time, thought, and effort: (When the score is blank, experimentation and modification along the way are part of the process)

2) I then marked out the basic harmonic progressions in the bass through which the chromatic style passages above are woven.

3) Finally, I had planned to shape phrases in slow tempo being attentive to swells (crescendo) and dips (diminuendo) that reflected the bee buzzing around.

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The Artistry of Josef Hofmann, a Great Pianist of the 20th Century

When surfing the Net, I came across an enticing video link that led to a potpourri of outstanding pianists who hallmarked the 20th Century. Ten minutes into a lengthy You Tube offering, I was bowled over by the artistry of Josef Hofmann who played Rachmaninoff’s austere C# minor prelude like I’d never heard it.

(Hoffman’s only television studio appearance)

To this point, I’d kept a dusty copy of the the pianist’s short volume, “Piano Playing with Piano Questions Answered,” letting it pass into obscurity amidst a pile of old books I’d purchased on the sidewalks of New York. It was one of those editions with archaic syntax and layout, that I’d dismissed as a relic of the past.

Suddenly, as Hofmann became my overnight cyberspace heart throb I felt compelled to read every last word of his treatise on technique, interpretation, and anything related.

But before I had become awakened to this man’s artistry, many prominent musicians had uttered superlatives about Hofmann’s playing:

Piotr Anderszewski:

“Fantastic and beautiful technique.

“He played with complete naturalness, and was at one with the piano–no battle… just total happiness with the instrument.”

Georgy Sandor:

“Incredible pianist–the greatest of all– known for his musicianship, technique and ease of execution.”

From Wikipedia

“By his own admission, Sergei Rachmaninoff, in his 40s, prepared for a career as a concert pianist by practicing over 15 hours a day with the goal of attaining the level of Hofmann’s technique. When pianist Ralph Berkowitz was asked if Vladimir Horowitz had the greatest technique of all the pianists he had heard, Berkowitz replied that Horowitz indeed was the supreme master of the technical parts of performance, but one older era pianist was his equal – Hofmann.”

Here are some resonating excerpts I’ve selected from Hofmann’s book that tie directly to his performance:

About phrasing:

He quotes his celebrated teacher, Anton Rubinstein:

“When I played the same phrase twice in succession, and played it both times alike, he would say, “In fine weather you may play it as you did, but when it rains, play it differently.”

Attentive listening:
“Watch well that you actually hear every tone you mean to produce. Every missed tone will mean a blotch upon your photographic plate in the brain. Each note must be, not mentally but physically heard, and to this imperative requirement your speed must ever subordinate itself. It is not at all necessary to practice loudly in order to foster permanence of impressions. Rather let an inward tension take the place of external force.”

The Importance of Spontaneity:

“Do not practice systematically, or ‘methodically.’ Doing so is the death of of spontaneity, and spontaneity is the very soul of art.”

(Hoffman’s reading of the Rachmaninoff Prelude reflected a fresh and spontaneous approach)

“Art belongs to the realm of emotional manifestations, and it stands to reason that a systematic exploiting of our emotional nature must blunt it.”

Never Play with a Metronome

“The keeping of absolute strict time is thoroughly unmusical and dead-like.”

Piano Playing and the Musical Will:

“The musical will has its roots in the natural craving for musical utterance. It is the director-in-chief of all that is musical in us. Hence I recognize in the purely technical processes of piano-playing no less a manifestation of the musical will. But a technique without a musical will is a faculty without a purpose, and when it becomes a purpose in itself, it can never serve art.” (My emphasis)

More on Technique:

“Technique represents the material side of art, as money represents the material side of life. By all means achieve a fine technique, but do not dream that you will be artistically happy with this alone.

“Technique is a chest of tools from which the skilled artisan draws what he needs at the right time for the right purpose.

“There is a technique which liberates and a technique which represses the artistic self. All technique ought to be a means of expression. It is perfectly possible to accumulate a technique that is next to useless.”

Action of the Wrist:

When playing scales and arpeggios:

“An occasional motion of the wrist , upward and downward is recommended. The arm should be held so that the wrist is on a line with it, not bent, and by concentrated thinking you should endeavor to transfer the display of force to the fingertips instead of holding tension in your arm. The way I suggest will lead to developing considerable force through the hand and fingers alone and leave the arm practically limp and loose.”

When Playing a Tremolo:
Action of the arm: distributed over the hand, wrist, underarm, and if necessary, the elbow.


“Chords should always be played with a loose arm. Let the arm pull the hand above the keys and let both fall heavily upon them, preparing the fingers for their appropriate notes while still in the air and not, as many do, after falling down. This mode of touch produces greater tone-volume, causes least fatigue, and will have no bad after effects.”

The Thumb:

“The cause of the hand’s unrest in the passing of the thumb lies usually in transferring the thumb too late. The belatedness causes a jerky motion of the arm and imparts it to the hand.”

To Produce a Good Legato (connected touch)

“The most beautiful tone in legato style is ever produced by a ‘clinging and singing’ gliding of the fingers over the keys.”

Hofmann put his philosophy of piano playing into practice. With the sweep of his arms, suppleness of his wrists, gorgeous tonal palette and more, he became a towering performer of the 20th Century, with a legacy carried forward by his students, and generations that followed.