NYC, Shirley Kirsten blog, Shirley Kisten, Shirley Smith Kirsten, shirley smith kirsten blog, Shirley Smth Kirsten, Sohmer upright, Sohmer upright piano, word press.com, wordpresss.com, youtube, youtube.com

Scenes from Manhattan

First day in the Big Apple:

These are popular picture postcard themes yet worth memorializing.

I took this photo set as I trekked from 34th Street and Penn station to the West Side ‘Y’ gym at 63rd off Central Park.

Bogged down with luggage, I approached Columbus Circle at W. 59th Street (off Central Park)

IMG_2332

IMG_2324(1)

Columbus Circle

IMG_2335(1)

IMG_2336

The Y Gym where I have a six-day guest pass

IMG_2337

Day two:

My visit with Elaine Comparone, harpsichordist (and pianist)

IMG_2375

Elaine discussed Baroque ornaments while displaying her impeccable artistry at the harpsichord and piano. Her riveting interview will be posted after my return to California.

IMG_2371

Today, Sunday (Day 3)

I’m going to my mother’s 100th Birthday celebration at her apartment on 218th Street in Manhattan.

Mom’s  place overlooks the Hudson River at the picturesque northern tip of Manhattan.

I’ll take the ‘A’ train to 207th and then climb a steep hill to Park Terrace Gardens.

Once arrived, I ‘ll be sure to capture the old Sohmer upright, my first REAL piano after I endured treacherous years practicing on an abysmal sounding Wieser (aka WHEEZER)

Sadly,  the Sohmer has deteriorated  from extreme temperature and humidity shifts over decades, so it’s now a living room centerpiece and photo gallery.

More to come….

J.S. Bach French Suite No. 5 in G, J.S. Bach French Suite no. 5 in G Major BWV 816, Jourhal of a Piano Teacher from New York to California, pianist, piano, piano addict, piano instruction, piano instructor, piano instuction, piano learning, piano lesson, piano lessons, piano technique, Shirley Kirsten, Shirley Smith Kirsten, shirley smith kirsten blog, Shirley Smth Kirsten, teaching piano to adult students, word press, wordpress.com, you tube, you tube video, youtube.com

Sequences and Phrase contouring in J. S. Bach’s French Suite No. 5, BWV 816

An adult student and I explored sequences in the Allemande opener of Bach’s French Suite in G as we parceled out the treble and bass lines. (Still another voice that danced from the alto to tenor range, was separately identified and practiced)

Bach French Suite p. 1

To craft beautiful phrases in the opening movement that limpidly flows in legato, the player has to understand how one set of measures relates to another, or how snatches of a particular idea, can be utilized in a “sequential” manner. Smaller parcels of a bigger idea can literally pile up as occurs in Part B, the more developed section of the Allemande.

As a refresher:

“In music, a sequence is the immediate restatement of a motif or longer melodic (or harmonic) passage at a higher or lower pitch in the same voice…At least two instances of a sequential pattern—including the original statement—are required to identify a sequence, and the pattern should be based on several melody notes or at least two successive harmonies (chords).” (WIKI)

I think the key word that underscores SEQUENCES is RELATIONSHIP. The player must be aware of the before and after in the course of music-making, fleshing out how one phrase relates to another that has a remarkable similarity or tie-in, and then he should devise ways of making musically sensitive connections. (Dynamic shifts are often utilized in the sequential universe)

J.S. Bach permeates his Allemande with Sequences. Threaded throughout the movement, their sensitive rendering is a big ingredient of expressive music-making and interpretation.

A lesson-in-progress focused on these very sequences and how to respond to them in a musical way.

duo pianists, Josef Lhevinne, Rosina Lhevinne, Shirley Smith Kirsten, shirley smith kirsten blog, Shirley Smth Kirsten, word press, you tube, youtube.com

Husband and wife pianists I have known and their legacy

This week’s practicing and You Tubing hearkened back to my student days in New York City. Lillian Lefkofsky Freundlich was my Rosina Lhevinne. She, like her Russian counterpart, was married to a high profile husband, Irwin Freundlich who doubled as her 4-hand piano partner.

When Irwin passed away in his late 60s quite suddenly, as had Josef Lhevinne at about the same age, Lillian, came into her own as the great teacher she had been all along though she’d been otherwise hidden in the shadow of her spouse.

freundlich

Ena Bronstein, another powerful mentor of mine, was married to her duo partner, Philip Lorenz. Both were Arrau students, and Philip had edited the Beethoven sonatas with Arrau giving him his 15 minutes of fame. But Ena was the more expressive pianist though she dealt with second tier status until the marriage dissolved.

ena

Back to Lillian, my most influential piano teacher…

It just so happened that after watching the riveting documentary about the legacy of Rosina Lhevinne, I pulled up three works Lillian gave me to study at about age 15: Mozart’s Sonata in G, K. 283; the Chopin Nocturnes in Bb minor, Op. 9, No. 1 and E minor, Op. 72 no. 1.

The Chopin E minor had always been a sleepy piece, until I woke up to the burst of passion that Rubinstein and Ashkenazi delivered in their readings tempered by tasteful rubato.

As a reminder to myself, Andante in Italian meant walking and not at a snail’s pace.

Lillian Freundlich had selected the perfect Andante and Larghetto in Chopin’s vernacular that begged for a singing tone and fluid phrasing.

With Mozart’s Sonata, she focused on the operatic dimension of the composer’s works, singing throughout my lesson.

Finally, a musical retrospective that’s framed with Rosina Lhevinne’s inspiring words.

Rosina and Josef Lhevinne

“…discover the world through study, kindness, imagination, and through the integrity of your own quest.”

***
About Lillian and Irwin Freundlich
Irwin and Lillian Freundlich Collection

http://www.lib.umd.edu/ipam/collections/irwin-and-lillian-freundlich

“Irwin Freundlich (1908 – 1977) was an internationally recognized piano educator who taught at the Juilliard School in New York for more than 40 years.

“He studied piano with James Friskin and Edward Steuermann at the Institute of Musical Art (parent school of the present Juilliard), and took further studies in musicology with Paul Henry Lang and Erich Hertzmann at Columbia University.

“In 1935, he became a member of the faculty at Juilliard and continued to maintain a heavy teaching schedule there in the piano department. He was the co-author with James Friskin of “Music For Piano: A Handbook of Teaching and Concert Material,” published in 1954 and currently available from Dover Publications.

“His students have concertized throughout the world and have been prize winners in numerous prestigious national and international competitions, such as the Naumberg and Leventritt in New York, the Van Cliburn in Texas, the Mozart in Austria, the Busoni in Italy, the Enescu in Romania, the Liszt-Bartok in Hungary, the J. S. Bach in Washington, D. C. and the Kosciuszko in New York, among many others.

“For thirteen summers (1953 – 1965), Irwin Freundlich held master classes on the campus of Bennington College in Vermont. He also performed recitals and conducted master classes, seminars and workshops at many institutions of higher learning throughout the United States, as well as serving on important juries for national and international competitions. He appeared in many recitals of music for one piano four hands with his wife, Lillian Freundlich.

“Lillian Freundlich was a distinguished member of the Piano Department at the Peabody Conservatory of Music and was also a member, at times, of the faculties at Juilliard Summer School, the Oberlin Conservatory of Music and the North Carolina School of the Arts. Aside from her performances with her husband, Lillian Freundlich also performed solo recitals in the U.S. and Europe.”

LINKS:

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2011/12/07/an-ageless-pianist-and-her-historic-concert-i-was-there/

breathing and piano lessons, classissima, Mozart, Mozart Sonata in Bb K. 281, Mozart Sonata in Bb K. 281 Rondeau, piano, piano addict, piano blog, piano blogs, piano instruction, piano lessons, piano lessons by Skype, piano lessons for adults, piano lessons in Berkeley California, piano lessons in El Cerrito California, piano practicing, piano student, piano technique, playing the piano, playing the piano with a singing tone, practicing difficult piano passages, practicing piano, practicing piano in slow tempo, practicing piano passages with rhythms, practicing piano with relaxation, Shirley Smith Kirsten, shirley smith kirsten blog, Shirley Smth Kirsten, Skype piano lessons, skyped piano lessons, Steinway piano, Steinway pianos, supple wrist in piano playing, teaching a piano student about melody, teaching an adult student, teaching piano, teaching piano to adult students, teaching piano to adults, the art of piano playing, whole body listening, whole body music listening, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, word press, word press.com, wordpress, wordpress.com, you tube video, you tube.com, youtube.com

Piano Practicing: Breathing into phrases and blocking out passages (Mozart Sonata, example)

I’ve picked the first two pages of Mozart’s Sonata in Bb Major, K. 281, last movement, Rondeau, Allegro to explore breathing and blocking techniques in the learning process. (These principles can be applied to practicing music from a variety of eras)

Starting a composition is often taken for granted. Sometimes students will land on a first note, for example, with the force a belly plop into a pool. Others will forget there are opening notes, (as the 4-16ths upbeat of Mozart Sonata K. 333 in Bb) They’ll breathe a sigh of relief, once they’ve managed to elude them, moving with alacrity to longer, spaced-out notes.)

Yet, this very “sigh of relief,” can be utilized as a relaxed stream of expressed air to usher in a pleasing opening note or notes.

Naturally, breathing into phrases with ease should be ongoing as a composition flows, so biofeedback becomes a vital practicing ingredient. (I recommend that students keep a journal of awakenings)

Blocking

Blocking out passages to obtain fluidity is a simultaneous part of the learning spectrum. Thinking in “groups” of notes, especially with fast passages, encourages “fast melody,” instead of chaotic crowds of notes without shape, meaning or contour. Knowing the geography of notes, therefore, is an organizer that helps smooth out phrases (Relaxed arms and supple wrists accompany)

The first video below spotlights the aforementioned practicing areas, adding an awareness of dynamic contrasts/ weight transfer, and the use of solfeggiated syllables (do, re, mi, etc) to follow and absorb voices. (Separate hand practice and voice parceling within a slow, behind tempo frame are recommended)


Play through
(still behind tempo)

Mozart k281 rondeau p 1

Mozart k 281 rondeau p 2

LINK

Chopin, Warm-ups and the Art of Breathing

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2012/06/30/piano-warm-ups-and-the-art-of-breathing-video/

Central Park, FAO Schwarz, shirley smith kirsten blog, Shirley Smth Kirsten, Verdi Square, word press

Photo memories of my December 2012 trip to NYC

DSC05314A native New Yorker, I rarely found myself at the Statue of Liberty, but yes, to Central Park, and gentle walks though Fall and Spring paths. My last visit to the home land, was this past December when I sauntered with my daughter, Aviva, along the periphery, taking favorite photos of the lake, and surrounding trees.

DSC05318
DSC05317
Next, here’s Aviva, near 59th Street and Columbus Circle

DSC05320

My daughter sampled the BIG Keyboard at FAO Schwarz

429463_4524987015936_196480460_n  Aviva on Keyboard

Illumination of Verdi Square–on 73rd street, a stone’s throw from where I used to live on 74th and Amsterdam. I peered over at Needle Park before Verdi was honored.

DSC05308

DSC05310

My NYC High School of Performing Arts that was gutted by a fire, but remodeled and dedicated with a plaque. (no longer a public school) P.A. merged with the High School of Music and Art to become Fiorello Laguardia H.S. located in the Lincoln Center neighborhood.

DSC05353

DSC05351

My touchdown at Seymour Bernstein’s West Side apartment

dscn0636  seymour 1

A visit with Elaine Comparone at her Harpsichord palace:

best harpsichords and chandelier

Not to forget a delightful lunch with pianist, Irina Morozova at the Time Warner building. (Happy Birthday, Irina!)

It seems all other events were anti-climaxed by the aforementioned.

Finally a pic looking down from one of the hotels in the Columbus Circle area:

DSC05324
LINK:

2011 visit to NYC
https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2011/09/29/musical-memories-of-new-york-city-and-my-impending-trip-back-home/

***
http://www.harpsichord.org

Baldwin Acrosonic piano, Chopin, Chopin pedaling, Chopin Waltz in A minor no. 19, classissima, classissima.com, El Cerrito California, pedaling at the piano, phrasing at the piano, piano addict, piano blogging, piano blogs, piano instrruction, piano instruction, piano lesson, piano lessons, piano lessons in Berkeley California, piano lessons in El Cerrito California, piano studio, piano studio in El Cerrito, piano teachers, piano technique, piano technique and breathing, Piano World, piano world-wide, pianoaddict.com, pianoworld, pianoworld.com, playing piano, shirley kirsten pianist, shirley s kirsten, Shirley Smith Kirsten, shirley smith kirsten blog, Shirley Smth Kirsten, slow mindful practicing, slow piano practicing, studying piano, The art of phrasing at the piano, the art of piano pedaling, The El Cerrito Hills, whole body listening, whole body music listening, word press, word press.com, wordpress, wordpress.com, you tube video, you tube.com, yout tube, youtube.com

Into the Hills with the Sound of Music –a Baldwin Acrosonic “acoustic” sings

The video attached to this writing validates the beauty of music-making on a well-maintained, though 1940s vintage era acoustic piano.

Baldwin Acrosonics were the Cadillacs of the spinet and console variety pianos. They had a noticeable innovation compared to their sister-size instruments. (A deeper sound chamber, especially noted in the consoles that measured 40″ or taller) Baldwin Acro’s standard 36″ spinet was still a resonating musical treasure, if properly cared for. The pianos were manufactured starting in 1936.

“Coined from the Greek word, “Akros,” meaning supreme, and the Latin, “sonus,” meaning tone, the trademark Acrosonics were famous for their tonal clarity, power, and *Full- Direct Blow action.” (Bluebook of Pianos.com)

*This action sits on top of the keys instead of being a drop action where the action connects to the key by a rod or some other “indirect” method.

***

An Acrosonic with fluted legs, sequestered in a gorgeous El Cerrito Hills home lived up to its singing nightingale reputation, in the good company of “Haddy” Haddorff, one of my pianos, now in the good care of a well-regarded Central Valley piano teacher. (Both instruments have an immaculate set of ivory keys)

images haddorff

The Hills Acrosonic, purchased at DC Pianos in Berkeley, is accompanied by a sturdy adjustable concert bench.

And while many of my students own digitals, if they can possibly locate an acoustic of this variety in excellent condition, I would say, Go for it!

Acrosonics are easily found on Craig’s List, though a piano teacher and technician should be taken along for an assessment.

Just listen to this one and make up your own mind.e bay hills acro

The occasion was a make-up lesson on site at my students’ home. (We were working on Chopin’s A minor Waltz, No. 19, Op. Posthumous)

More often I’m found in a separate El Cerrito Hills location that houses my Baldwin Hamilton 1929 grand, another vintage charmer.

piano room where I teach El Cerrito

Finally, look at these lovely representations of Baldwin Acrosonics, striking for their beauty, inside and out:

images Baldwin Acro

piano_22  Acro 2

"Tales of a Musical Journey" by Irina Gorin, Chopin Waltz in A minor no. 19, classissima, classissima.com, Irina Gorin, phrasing at the piano, pianist, piano, piano blogs, piano instrruction, piano lessons, piano lessons for adults, Piano Street, piano studio, piano studio in El Cerrito, piano study, piano teacher, piano teaching, piano technique and breathing, pianoaddict.com, Pianostreet.com, pianoworld, practicing piano, practicing piano in slow motion, practicing piano in slow tempo, practicing piano with relaxation, relaxed arms in piano playing, scales, scales and arpeggios, separate hand piano practicing, Shirley Kirsten blog, shirley s kirsten, Shirley Smith Kirsten, shirley smith kirsten blog, Shirley Smth Kirsten, slow mindful practicing, slow piano practicing, teaching Beethoven Fur Elise, teaching Fur Elise, teaching piano scales, teaching piano to adult students, teaching piano to adults, teaching piano to young children, whole body listening, whole body music listening, word press, word press.com, wordpress, wordpress.com, you tube, you tube.com, yout tube, youtube.com

The piano learning process at all levels of study

In spite of my having studied piano for decades, each learning experience is filled with challenges that I must approach with a glut of patience. A new composition has its own form, architecture, harmonic rhythm, fingering that requires a big reserve of self-acceptance in a deadline-free frame.

To the contrary, many of my students, who are 95% adults, have a built-in timetable plaguing them from day one. “How long will it take me to learn this piece?” They demand certainty about reaching a tangible goal on a fixed schedule. The End result is what most matters.

Since we live in an information age, strategies of mastery are in vogue along with a mandatory guarantee of knowledge acquisition in so many weeks. “Quick,” “easy-fix” consumption are the Millennium’s catchwords. CD sets are compiled and promoted to learn piano “in a flash.”

***

I have a pupil, who epitomizes the insecure student, searching for a micro-wave cooking equivalent for learning piano.

She’s an accomplished writer and retired lawyer. On more than one occasion she’s confessed to doing “everything well” except for piano. “I just don’t understand why my wrist can’t roll forward, why I stumble, stutter at the piano.”

If she stepped back and thought about how many years she’s been writing and practicing law as compared to playing the piano, she’d acquire instant insight about her personal quandary.

Irina Gorin, inspired piano teacher and author of Tales of A Musical Journey has often said, “We’re not born playing the piano…. we have to learn to physically relate to the instrument.”

That’s why she starts her kids young, using silly putty to dip tiny hands into. They experience “touch” as deep, densely probing, and sinewy, to produce the singing tone, not a poked out, pencil point sequence of notes. Dipping into jello is Gorin’s metaphor, nicely channeled into the keys:

The time old analogy of crawling before walking applies, yet so many adult students, will obsess about how long they have been working on a piece without the advances they expected of themselves.

Yet, if I think about the students who have made the most gains this year, it’s been those who accepted the baby-step paradigm without precondition. They learned to love the journey with its precious awakenings along the way.

Examples:

A pupil is shown working on a section of Beethoven’s “Fur Elise,” absorbing a sound image before translating it into physical expression at the piano. She practiced separate hands, behind tempo. Call it mindful practicing; attentive listening. They belong together.

***

An adult student embarked upon the Chopin Waltz no. 19 in A minor.

Sight-reading was not a parcel of our work.

It was delving into the fundamental bass, measure by measure in slow tempo.

What was the relationship of one note to the next as each was played? Lean on some, relax others.

“Feel,” “hear” and know at the same time.

Then practice the melody at snail’s pace, but with a singing tone–no delay in contouring. The shapes must seep in from conscious to unconscious.

The student explored wrist motions to curve and shape lines. These poured out of her scale work.

Where an arpeggiated figure appeared, all her caring and conscientious practicing of buoyant broken chords, bristled with relevance.

In graduated steps, the after beat sonorities were separated, and played with a “spongy” feel. We thought of a “lighter” third beat. Not a parade of downbeats.

In time the layering process followed as melody, fundamental bass, and after beat chords came together.

As I look back on this step-wise progression and its implications for the musical development of the Waltz, I can say with confidence that the student eventually played it with a wonderful sense of personal mastery and joy bundled together.

Patience and self-acceptance at every stage of the learning process was our paradigm.

If considered a mantra, it becomes a reminder of what teachers and students need to embrace.

LINKS:

How Long Should a Student Stay with a Piece?

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2011/05/12/how-long-should-a-piano-student-stay-with-a-piece/

Quality Spot Practicing by an adult student, “Fur Elise.”

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2012/04/14/quality-spot-practicing-by-an-adult-student-beethovens-fur-elise-video/

The Value of Slow Practicing

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

Out of a Rut with Quality Spot Practicing
https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2011/04/03/piano-instruction-out-of-a-rut-with-spot-practicing/

RECOMMENDED READING


Just Being at the Piano
by Mildred Portney Chase