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A deep immersion in Schumann’s Wiegenliedchen, Cradle Song No. 6, Op. 124

Who would have thought that a Romantic era character piece of short length could have so much to savor on multi-tiered levels? Relentless triplets with double stemmed quarters, seemed at first glance to direct the player toward a horizontal rendering of a conspicuous melodic thread that's reinforced by the highest notes in the Right Hand.… Continue reading A deep immersion in Schumann’s Wiegenliedchen, Cradle Song No. 6, Op. 124

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When Upbeats have a new meaning and importance

For most piano students, an upbeat is considered a lighter springboard to a more predominant DOWN-beat, as if the UP in music should always be taken LIGHTLY. (except in Jazz framings where syncopations are characteristic of the genre.) *** We can universally agree that in the patriotic Star Spangled Banner, the dotted 8th/16th upbeat is… Continue reading When Upbeats have a new meaning and importance

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Schumann’s “Almost Too Serious” (Kinderszenen No. 10) requires get serious, step-wise practicing

When I first looked at a "seriously" complex page of dizzying tied-over (syncopated) notes in Schumann's "Almost Too Serious," (Fast Zu Ernst) I had a knee-jerk avoidance response--that is until I tapped into a permeating melodic thread that I isolated and wooed from its conspicuous alliance to myriads of off beats. In other words, I… Continue reading Schumann’s “Almost Too Serious” (Kinderszenen No. 10) requires get serious, step-wise practicing

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What’s Frightening about Schumann’s “Frightening? ” (Kinderszenen, Op. 15, no. 11)

What convinces most pianists that Schumann's "Furchtenmachen" (Frightening) is an expression of fear or perhaps more specifically anxiety, are the markedly impulsive sections that contrast with lyrical, reflective ones. And not to be overlooked, are the interjections of syncopated SF's (accentuated outbursts) that are quite STARTLING and must be well communicated in measures 21-24, as… Continue reading What’s Frightening about Schumann’s “Frightening? ” (Kinderszenen, Op. 15, no. 11)

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Schumann’s ‘Rocking Horse’ comes with a spring forward wrist

Schumann's Kinderszenen album, (Scenes of Childhood) includes a child-inspired Rocking Horse piece that enlists spring forward wrist motions to help frame its character. If the pianist tightens up and tries to realize third beat accents with a tight jolt of a stiff hand, then it's all over for the player who will tire quickly while… Continue reading Schumann’s ‘Rocking Horse’ comes with a spring forward wrist

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Intermediate Level Piano Repertoire: Album for the Young by Robert Schumann

I took a musical journey down memory lane yesterday, rekindling scenes of childhood as I read through a set of "old" Romantic era compositions. These weren't Robert Schumann's illustrious KINDERSZENEN, but colorful character pieces wrapped into the composer's Album for the Young Op. 68. (As I've said time and again, why give students arrangements of… Continue reading Intermediate Level Piano Repertoire: Album for the Young by Robert Schumann

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Piano Instruction, Don’t wake the “Sleeping Child,” Schumann Kinderszenen, Op. 15 No. 12

Often contemplative, lyrical pieces like lullabies, are bigger challenges to play than lightning bolt fast and furious etudes, final sonata movements etc. "Sleeping Child" is its own poster child for fostering relaxed breaths, flowing musical poetry, and bigger energies beyond the fingers. It's essentially a task not to wake the baby, with obtrusive, unwanted accents.… Continue reading Piano Instruction, Don’t wake the “Sleeping Child,” Schumann Kinderszenen, Op. 15 No. 12

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Piano Technique: Exploring contrasting emotions when practicing a piece (as Daniil Trifonov, pianist, recommended in his videotaped interview)

I put into "practice" one of Trifonov's recommendations, as I mentored a second year piano student this evening. We started the lesson by playing "happy" and then "angry" consecutive staccato thirds. ("Hopping" from Dozen a Day) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VaGlz5pKDZI Eventually after completing our scale and other technical routines, we applied the emotion shifts to the opening of… Continue reading Piano Technique: Exploring contrasting emotions when practicing a piece (as Daniil Trifonov, pianist, recommended in his videotaped interview)

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Piano Practicing: Re-doing and Refining

Studying piano, playing through the great piano literature, requires revisiting, re-doing and refining our work. This undertaking should not carry a value judgment that what preceded was poor or inadequate. Those adjectives do not belong to the process of learning. After all, we do not fault babies for crawling before walking because we realize it's… Continue reading Piano Practicing: Re-doing and Refining

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Performance Anxiety and the Pianist

For too long performance anxiety was a taboo subject, always swept under the rug. I remember grappling with paralyzing jitters during my years at the New York City High School of Performing Arts. My piano teacher at the time, a seasoned professional, would always say the same thing: "Honey, the music is bigger than you… Continue reading Performance Anxiety and the Pianist