Yesterday marked a special event in my life--a rekindled tie to an Oberlin Freshman dorm mate made possible by Anita, my 92-year old, 4-hand piano partner. A twenty-year donor/subscriber to Philharmonia Baroque (PBO) a celebrated Bay area-based orchestra, Anita had placed its glossy program brochure on the coffee tray right at our mid-point playing break.… Continue reading My duo piano partner sparks an Oberlin reunion with a long lost classmate!
Sometimes we learn a floating, flowing path to beauty through the unfortunate school of HARD knocks. To this effect, I recall my esteemed Oberlin Conservatory piano teacher dealing in mindless, stressful repetitions of meaningless exercises that caused joint pain and unremarkable displays of flat-lined, tightly squeezed playing. His teaching, to an extreme level of adherence… Continue reading Piano Technique: No Pain, Much Gain
“The habit of counting correctly but playing unrhythmically develops easily in the beginning and is too often overlooked.” – Richard Chronister (A Piano Teacher’s Legacy, Ed. Edward Darling) http://www.amazon.com/Teachers-Selected-Writings-Richard-Chronister/dp/0976116308 I love this quote, because many students count out beats quite methodically but without musical meaning. Their metrical repetitions serve little purpose if the goal of… Continue reading “Counting Correctly, but Playing Un-rhythmically”
Grigory Sokolov grabs a deserved spotlight in this bedazzling performance of Schubert's Klavierstucke No. 1 http://youtu.be/zuwi9W3A3tM Bruno Sainmangeon, producer and documentarian captured Sokolov in the same acoustically favorable Berlin space that Murray Perahia chose to deliver the memorable Bach Partita in E minor: http://youtu.be/ELShZDVjoFw Add in Perahia's most recent tour de force in Japan: Beethoven's… Continue reading Chiming in the New Year with my favorite piano performance picks!
I remember my days at the Oberlin Conservatory pumping out meaningless Schmitt finger exercises, often holding notes down, while a selected persecuted finger had to brave the pain is gain ritual. (tap, tap, tap, tap, and move on to the next unlucky digit) Looking back, it was a wasted effort which had NO relationship to… Continue reading Piano technique is about flexibility not finger strength
It's not easy to plan a one hour piano lesson to include ear training, solfege and transposing. (They belong together, bundled with Theory, and enrich the learning environment) At the Oberlin Conservatory, Theory, Keyboard Harmony, and Eurhythmics were taught separately. Our piano teachers (applied study) adhered to their rigid routine, rarely fitting solfege, sight-reading, improvising,… Continue reading Ear Training and Transposing are intrinsic to piano lessons (examples from an Adult lesson in progress)
Friendship is forever. Coming back to New York City was living proof of it.
Rina, 5, has embarked upon her 7th month of study and is scaling my staircase before settling down to the piano. I've used this routine to imbue a sense of music's topography before a keyboard transfer. It's working. Videotaped samples: On the stairs: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c2dkza8FehU At the Piano: (with a preliminary five-finger position legato roll between… Continue reading Rina’s Lesson-in-Progress: From the staircase to the piano (Reinagle Minuet in G) Videos
Many piano students who practice Debussy's Arabesque no. 1 tend to grab and articulate notes, rather than let them flow from energy streaming down relaxed arms into supple wrists. Reliance on fingers-down playing becomes the panacea for accuracy, while it sacrifices poetic musical expression. In the video below, I demonstrate how phrases can be sculpted… Continue reading Piano Technique: Playing beyond the fingers to sculpt beautiful phrases (Debussy Arabesque no. 1)
From WIKI: Abby Whiteside (1881–1956) was an influential American piano teacher. She challenged the finger-centric approach of much classical piano teaching and instead advocated a holistic attitude in which the arm and torso are the conductors of a musical image conceived first in the mind and soul. This quote is riveting: "Why spend dull hours… Continue reading Abby Whiteside and playing beyond the fingers as a point of departure (Videos)