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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)

Carnegie Hall, Chopin, Cincinnati World Piano Competition, Debussy, Marianna Prjelvalskaya, Naxos, piano competition, Rachmaninoff, Weill Concert Hall, you tube.com

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 http://www.carnegiehall.org
To order tickets by phone, call Carnegie Charge at (212) 247-7800.

For more information about the event, please contact Laura Bock at laura@cincinnatiwpc.org or Marianna Prjevalskaya at info@prjevalskaya.com

Marianna’s Website


you tube.com, youtube.com

Staccato scales: Staying on the PLANE without a bumpy ride

Most students become very disconnected when traveling through a staccato scale so their journey from lift-off to landing is often bumpy.

In the E minor Natural form, for example, a redundant E, F# occurring in every octave will fool a player into thinking he’s got to brace for ELEVATION that makes his hand jerk forward on the seemingly higher black note.

e minor staccato

Psychologically and physically, the student will have lost his “center” of gravity in this lunge, deterring a smooth, even, horizontal passage from octave to octave.

On this particular journey of crisp, detached articulations, an adult pupil worked on braving obstacles that impeded him from enjoying a turbulence-free roll-in to final resolution by applying specific practice routines that included clustering or “chunking.”

piano blogging, you tube.com

Pianist, Christyna Kaczynski-Kozel, a local “classic” with an International profile


Christyna Kaczynski-Kozel is a credit to many nations. She’s spun around Canada and the Continent, savoring ties to great music mentors, one of whom was a towering figure in the conducting world. In a thread of scintillating and informative conversation, Christyna paid tribute yesterday to her most influential teacher, Sergiu Celibidache.


About the conductor: (WIKI)

“Sergiu Celibidache (Romanian: 11 July [O.S. 28 June] 1912 – 14 August 1996) was a Romanian conductor, composer, and teacher. Educated in his native Romania, and later in Paris and Berlin, Celibidache’s career in music spanned over five decades, including tenures as principal conductor for the Munich Philharmonic, Berlin Philharmonic and several European orchestras. Later in life, he taught at Mainz University in Germany and the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania….”


Christyna’s abode, high up in the Kensington Hills, overlooks the Golden Gate span over the East Bay.


It’s a glittering musical sanctuary dotted with her husband, Michael’s contemporary art.


His paintings partner with stunning Italian lithographs, like this eye-catcher.


Naturally, the living room centerpiece that upstages all, is a magnificently resonant Hamburg Steinway which richly expressed the Baroque ornamental landscape of composer Domenico Scarlatti. It was Christyna’s appetizer to an engaging interview.


The Sonata in B minor, K. 27, just happens to be the opener of a program the pianist will present at the Berkeley Piano Club on Saturday, June 28th at 4 p.m. (2724 Haste St) Mozart, Chopin and Debussy selections will round out the recital.

Without further ado, Christyna’s riveting words and demonstrations at the Hamburg in “concert” with her precious reminiscences of Celibidache follow a nostalgic flashback to a performance rendered by her very gifted musician parents. (The late, Mary Maltaise, Contralto, and Czeslaw Kaczynski, Pianist)


Part 1–A Conversation with Christyna Kaczynski-Kozel

Part 2

Christyna’s concert reminder:
The Berkeley Piano Club
Saturday, June 28th, at 4 p.m.
2724 Haste
Berkeley, CA
Tickets purchased at the door
Or reserve a seat by e-mailing Christyna:

Mozart Andante K. 545, you tube.com

Harmonic rhythm awareness and blocking help phrasing

Besides having at least a rudimentary understanding of chord progressions, it’s advantageous to be able to “sing” internally, or in full voice, as you accompany yourself through a cantabile movement.

A good example, is the Andante of the supposedly “easy” (facile) Sonata of Mozart, K. 545, which is, to the contrary, a challenge to play beautifully.

In this snippet which was sent to a SKYPE student as a supplement, I play chord blocks to my rendered treble melody, dipping or resolving at points suggested by the flow of harmony, or intensifying across measures that defy the cliche that downbeats are automatic destination points. In fact, Mozart creates an emotional twinge, as he places a vi chord on the second beat (usually weak) of two parallel measures, fleshing out the melodic G.

Mozart Andante K. 545 revised
I must admit that my fixation with phrasing intertwined with harmonic movement has been bolstered by my hours absorbing the artistry of mezzo soprano, Joyce Di Donato.

Her Masterclasses, especially, provide invaluable insights about phrase sculpting and contouring with direct application to piano playing.

As pianists, we are singers, too, bridging the distance between our fingers and a complex hammer mechanism–needing the broad breaths, pauses, and streams of intensity relieved by resolution.

Here, Di Donato, impeccably phrases a TRILL, which one can apply to Mozart’s ornaments in Sonata K. 545

Out of the Closet Thrift Store, piano for sale, you tube.com

Adoption in the old piano universe

Today’s good deed was my hands on effort to place a gorgeous sounding old upright in a deserving home.

Emerson piano in Berkeley

And judging by the attention this Emerson vintage piano eventually received after I played it for well past an hour at a Berkeley thrift store, there may be hope that an old veteran like this, can upstage a digital newcomer.

Emerson hammer view

Going for just $75, this seasoned senior is resonant and easy to the touch.

Take a listen. and you’ll know instantly it’s a musical treasure.

About the Emerson piano





Brigitte Engerer, music, piano pedagogy, Piano Street, Rada Bukhman, word press.com, wordpress, wordpress.com, you tube video, you tube.com, yout tube

Favorite Tchaikovsky piano pieces and their pedagogical value

Tchaikovsky painting

I made a promise to myself well before the New Year, that I would learn one new Tchaikovsky composition each day from the composer’s Op. 39 Children’s Album. (24 tableaux) Not that I’m recommending to piano students that they assimilate new music at lightning speed, but for me the challenge was to make a spurt of growth without sacrificing quality in my quickened journey. In fact, often an early reading is like experiencing the first sunrise with a childlike gaze.

The Back Story

Rada Bukhman’s gift to the music world, The Magic Link, had arrived for Chanukah with its colorful bouquet of program-driven piano miniatures that were sensitively juxtaposed offerings of Peter Ilyich and Robert Schumann.

Rada Bukhman The Magic Link

In a heartbeat, I bonded to Tchaikovsky’s pieces, perhaps because my *DNA (Russian background) increased my affection for the composer’s emotion-packed music, yet, simultaneously, I appreciated the teaching value of each and every tender musical morsel.

The following selections from the Op. 39 collection received my latest embrace, winning me over with their grace and beauty.





The Organ Grinder Sings

Italian Song

Morning Prayer

From a teaching perspective:

Each musical tapestry requires a vivid imagination coupled with a singing tone repository. Bigger than finger energies, a supple wrist and relaxed arms allow for a legato (connected touch) when needed, and a diversified staccato (crisp notes in contrasting dynamics) as well as tenuto execution (detached, press lift approaches with a leaning emphasis).

Finally, a tasteful rubato (flexibility of time) and sensitive use of the sustain pedal apply to both dance and song forms, fleshing out their character and emotion.

Addendum: A performance of Op. 39 that made the most overall indelible impression on me, came from the late Brigitte Engerer who sang like a nightingale with imagination and artistry.





*My Family’s history and genealogy