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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.


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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Rina, 5, plays “Little March” by Turk–10 months of piano lessons–and a flashback to my childhood

Rina marches forward making great progress. For a child of 5, her gains are remarkable. By comparison, my early piano studies were unremarkable.

When I embarked upon lessons at age 6, I lived in the Marble Hill Projects, (Bronx, New York) in a small apartment that had no piano. As a consequence, I had to take the elevator up three floors to practice at friend, Tanya’s place that had a stately old upright. Her Russian grandma, “BaBa,” whom I later learned was lobotomized, had been a concert pianist in the old country. When she played Chopin, the notes cascaded effortlessly from her fingers. I was entranced.

BaBa was a fixture at the piano bench so it was no easy task to grab just a few minutes at the keyboard. Her dazzling displays of virtuosity engulfed the living room space. My “Ding Dong” two-note Diller-Quaille melody died before the final cadence. The old woman shoved me aside, replacing her warm body where I had found a comfortable spot. I was embarrassed and stunned into silence.

Could I patiently wait for BaBa to excuse herself for a nap or to go to the bathroom? She looked brain dead away from the piano. Her two hearing aids insulated her from the world. Yet her soul poured forth through her fingers, making her a living, breathing musician.

At each visit with BaBa, I ended up complying with her wishes. Sheepishly, I retreated to the elevator that took me back down to the 9th floor.


Rina is more fortunate. She has a magnificent Yamaha console center stage in her living room and a wide space of time to practice. No one will interrupt her except for a reminder from mom that dinner is waiting. It’s been 10 months since her first lesson in August.

How time flies, measured by pieces studied. They come and go, but remain in the heart forever. A “Minuet” is followed by a “Little March.”

Rina plays, unabashedly.


Rina’s Progress after 6 months:

Flashback to Rina’s 9th lesson: