piano performance, piano playing

Favorite you tube video picks for 2018! (carried over from 2017)

I slipped up and missed the deadline for my end of 2017 super You Tube picks–realizing a bit late, that readers were celebrating the New Year in different time zones. Piano lovers from Japan and Australia had already popped champagne bottles 18 or so hours before those of us partook on the West Coast–And with USA Central, Mountain, Pacific and Eastern Standard times causing out of synch drifts of celebration, my Big Five You Tube List fizzled at 9 p.m. P.S.T, Dec. 31, as the stroke of Midnight Times Square (E.S.T.) ball drop welcomed 2018!

Still, redemption lay in a timeless series launched by the New York Times with long columns of piggy-backed you tube videos, Classical in genre, that were time-monitored for their mind-blowing moments. They fleshed out feats of virtuosity; heaven-on-earth phrase turns; wailing trills and heart-melting cadences. A harpist, Amy Turk, was singled out for her miraculous transcription/performance of Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor, amassing over 4 million views!

It became my bonus heist pick, falling outside keyboard bounds.

In the Piano Universe

Luis Fernando Perez


The artistry of Luis Fernando Pérez (Spain, b. 1977) topped my list, though choices following, from various years, accorded no preferential order.

Pianist, Perez, was my most treasured “new” You Tube surfing discovery, though he’d been circulating through Europe for years as soloist, chamber music player, and recording artist, earning performance awards along the way. Yet even with prestigious IMG Management, Perez had not reached the pinnacle of “big Name,” billboard success, having instead chosen a more true-to-art journey, reflected in his passion for Spanish repertoire that he chose to play in selected concert venues. (Carnegie Hall, or the Walt Disney complex were not along his musical route)

Perez’s website had revealed touch-downs at European Festivals interspersed by a foray to Kansas for a Master class and performance. He landed in North Carolina for a recital, though his travels inevitably pointed back to Europe.

In 2014, Perez played in Bilbao, Nantes, Paris, Madrid, Valencia, Zaragoza, San Sebastian, Brussels, Saint Petersburg, Budapest, Warsaw, Tokyo, Lyon, and Toulouse, with no further Internet posted concerts on his site. Judging by a significant escalation in Internet exposure post 2014, his energies seemed redirected to the recording cosmos.

Bryce Morrison, published a 2012 review in Gramaphone that amply described the pianist’s abundant gifts.

“RISING TO PRISTINE GLORY: Luis Fernando Pérez is clearly among the most individual and gifted pianists of today’s generation.

“And, in his more recent disc of Granados’s Goyescas, his playing is audaciously personal and has an improvisatory freedom and coloration very much his own. He achieves a superb senseof contrast, of innocence and experience…”


Perez’s interpretation of Spanish music is compelling as “channeled” through his performance of Enrique Granados Valses Poeticos. His radiant singing tone; broad palette of “colors,” and poignant creation of emotional intimacy draw the listener into a deep and abiding relationship with the composer.


Seymour Bernstein: A newly discovered awakening to tempo and mood in the Schumann Arabesque

A previous blog gave details and background about Bernstein’s epiphanies:


Seymour’s performance speaks for itself with its effortless spill of melody bundled in harmonic warmth. There’s no tempo impetuosity, or pre-meditated, boundary-determined section transitions. It’s all woven together as pure poetry flowing from the heart.

David Fray: A humbling encore follows a concerto performance:

J.S. Allemande from Partita No. 6 in E minor

This is an inspired rendering, well-voiced by Maestro Fray.


Irina Morozova – Bortkiewicz Etude Opus 15, No 9

Heaven on earth playing with impeccable fluidity. No words suffice to describe.


George Li plays Haydn with his emblematic liquidity and singing tone.

The complete Haydn sonata in B minor was the divine opener to Li’s October 2017 recital at S.F. Davies Hall.


Finally, Happy You Tube Surfing to All in 2018!


Tchaikovsky Competition, Round ONE: My favorite performers and those undeservedly overlooked who never made it to Round 2

First a big congratulations to George Li, whose opening recital earned him passage to the next round. He’s scheduled to play today, Sunday, June 21, at 10:00 a.m. Pacific Daylight time. (1 p.m. EDT)

George Li today

Li’s Program:

Sergei Rachmaninov. Variations on a Theme of Corelli, Op. 42

Franz Liszt. Hungarian Rhapsody No.2 in C-sharp minor, S. 244 (cadenza by Sergei Rachmaninov)

Pyotr Tchaikovsky. Meditation, Op. 72,5; Valse de salon, Op. 51,1

Frederic Chopin. Variations “La ci darem la mano” from Mozart’s opera Don Giovanni, in B flat major Op. 2 (Jan Ekier edition)

Those who missed George’s opener, can revisit it on the Replay.

For consistency of high artistry through the opening recital featuring the works of J.S. Bach, (for Classical: Haydn/Mozart/Beethoven), Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff, Liszt, my selected pianists were George Li,(USA), Reed Tetzloff (USA), Alexander Ullman (Great Britain), Andrejs Osakins (Latvia), and Sergey Redkin (Russia).

Sadly, Ullman and Osakins were cut, though I feel their Replays are worth a listen.

I’ve described George’s performance as a “triumph” for its synthesis of emotion and intellect added to its mature musical dimension given the pianist’s tender age of 19.

And while competitor, Adrejs Osakins, had a heart-breaking stumble in his otherwise beautifully rendered J.S.Bach Prelude and Fugue, he retrieved his bearings in remaining works to a noble conclusion. (Osakins was cut from Round Two)

A catch fire, communicative pianist, Osakins joins George Li in the total immediacy, and ear-catching spontaneity of his playing with its varied colors and emotional shifts. He produces a gorgeous sound without offensive banging in FFs or sFzs, and his dynamic palette is rich and diverse.

The Latvian has risen well beyond myriads of notes played with flying fingers, to produce melt your heart playing when needed, and has thunderous interpolations with the right degree of passion. Sadly, he’s off the roster.

In summary, what stands out about Li and Oskins is their degree of risk-taking that creates excitement. If we listen to Perahia, Sokolov, or any of the pianistic giants, there’s the element of surprise amidst emotional peaks and valleys while impeccable technical/musical control feeds inspiration.

And finally, those performers who make us feel like we’re engaged in a here and now act of discovery, experiencing our first sunset so to speak, as metaphor, are for me the compelling musicians.

Andrejs Osakins Opening Recital on Replay



Sergey Redkin, a round two survivor, is yet another choice for notable artistry through his first round recital opener.

Control is a strong ingredient of his playing and perhaps he can surrender to the music a bit more here and there but overall his sound is engagingly gorgeous, and each period of composition was exceptionally realized. Without doubt, the pianist kept judges upright and awake during his first round recital particularly one in camera range, who periodically nods off during un-captivating performances.

Sergey Redkin


Reed Tetzloff, a Masters in Musical Performance student at Mannes, played a lovely recital, hallmarked by a magnificent rendition of Haydn’s Eb Sonata, Hob. 16/52. His musical sensitivity is keen and he’s a great communicator. With a permeating singing tone, nursed along by his Russian teacher, Prof. Pavlina Dokovska, he’s well on his way into the Second Round.



And finally, Ullman, who was refused passage to Round 2, is a sensitive musician and communicator. His tone and expression were worthy of recognition but perhaps the kind of playing that drew cheers for its shear volume was top priority for adjudicators.



Hopefully, revisiting performances through replays will give some of the overlooked pianists, the exposure they deserve.

The list of pianists who advanced to the Second Round

Sergey Redkin
Maria Mazo
Reed Tetzloff
Ilya Rashkovsky
George Li
Lucas Debargue
Lukas Geniušas
Daniel Kharitonov
Julia Kociuban
Mikhail Turpanov
Nikolay Medvedev
Dmitry Masleev




Arturo Bennedetti Michelangeli, chamber music, Classical music blog, Friedrich Edelmann, Munich Philharmonic, piano, Rebecca Rust-Edelmann, San Francisco Munich Trio

Poignant recollections about pianists, Michelangeli and Barenboim from the Munich Philharmonic’s principal bassoonist

Friedrich and Rebecca crop

As early Spring weather rolled into Berkeley last Sunday afternoon, I set out for Piedmont Pianos in Oakland to try out various grands, and to partake of the San Francisco Munich Trio. Friedrich Edelmann, bassoonist, and Rebecca Rust, cellist are a couple joined in marriage and music. They sometimes perform as a duo, or with pianist, Dmitriy Cogan.

On March 1, they were part of a trio in an appetizing program that offered the works of Classical, Romantic and Contemporary composers. As icing on the cake, their finale was Max Stern’s moving composition, “Prayer” from Laudations, composed for and dedicated to Friedrich and Rebecca in 2013.

While the concert was a feast of fine playing, the true dessert following, was meeting Friedrich and Rebecca at Bacheesos Persian restaurant in Berkeley. They’d been invited by a Classical Music Meet-up Organizer, Alana Shindler, who staged the gathering.

To my immense delight, the couple shared many colorful experiences that spanned decades. It was an oral music history that I was determined to memorialize on video.

My wish came true when the pair graced my apartment and filled the air with even more poignant reminiscences.

Friedrich who was perched beside my iMac, in full screen image, recalled his 17 years playing in the Munich Philharmonic as Principal Bassoonist under the legendary baton of Rumanian born Sergiu Celibidache. Subsequently he’d worked with James Levine and other notable guest conductors: Giulini, Ozawa, Boehm, Solti and many others. His service to the orchestra totaled 27 years!

With a little prompting, Edelmann recounted stories about pianists, Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli and Daniel Barenboim who had been engaged by the Munich orchestra as concerto soloists. What was revealed was compelling and colorful, providing an enticing entree to Friedrich’s book, Memories of Maestro Sergiu Celibidache, published in Japan in 2009.

Interview with Friedrich Edelmann


The Edelmanns are now headed to Germany briefly, but plan to come back to the Bay area where they previously enjoyed the patronage of a music-loving grand dame.

“Gladys Perez-Mendez” adopted the couple and gave them beautiful quarters (gratis) in her Berkeley Hills home. Sadly, she passed away the day before their chamber concert last Sunday, so the duo is in need of sanctuary, or a HOST, to put them up several times a year when they come to California to play concerts, and give master classes.

If there’s a chance this writing will fulfill their wish for housing, then it will be the perfect outcome.

About Friedrich and Rebecca:


E-mail Address: Friedrich Edelmann edelmann@edelmann-rust.com
(Those interested in purchasing Edelmann’s book in English translation can contact him at the above address)

Article by Tony Sauro about the musical duo:


Alessandro Deljavan, Bohzanov pianist, classissima, classissima.com, piano competitions, word press, word press.com, wordpress, wordpress.com, you tube, you tube video, you tube.com, yout tube, youtube.com

Alessandro Deljavan is a Cliburn winner for me!

DeljavanOver at the Piano World forums, it’s the morning after selection of Cliburn Competition finalists, and many are aghast that a dynamic, soulful, and risk-taking pianist was overlooked.

Here’s what one poster said: “Competition winners are typically the reliable pianists somewhere in the middle when it comes to interpretation–those who don’t go out on a limb or offend the majority’s idea of good interpretation. Deljavan doesn’t fit this profile.” (He also included Claire Huangci in this category–to which I’m in agreement)

When I heard Alessandro Deljavan render the Schumann Fantasie, it felt as though he was the composer playing it. The pure fire, in the moment excitement, incredible virtuosity, left me breathless. It reminded me of hearing Gilels in Carnegie Hall when I was a kid. I nearly fell over the balcony in my unconstrained, impassioned embrace of such awe-inspiring artistry.

So very rarely does a pianist come along and rivet a listener to his every phrase. Too many are on the sidelines giving a “respectable” reading.

Flash forward to the competition ARENA in the Olympiad framing, and we have the judges penalizing the ones who may have a few note slip-ups, and go outside the M.M. (Metronome markings) These referees are fixated on petty details and not attuned to what counts.. COMMUNICATION!!!

Oh, and don’t forget to deduct points for FACE-MAKING! I must confess, to working on my Beethoven Pianos blog yesterday while listening to Alessandro–no image this time, and his playing soared well beyond any camera angle rendered at RING-side.

I can’t fathom in my wildest imagination why Deljavan was cut–sorry to be blunt—but I know he WILL move on to a great career regardless–same for Claire Huangci because they CONNECT with listeners and bring emotional depth to the competition, defying the NORM….

It’s been further emphasized that too many Gold winners at Cliburn have not progressed to major careers, so maybe this is a good omen for Alessandro and Claire (They join the Cliburn reject circle along with Evgeni Bozhanov who is thankfully out of the competition loop, serenading appreciative audiences world-wide)


Now for a serving of Deljavan who is uncannily a celebrated CHEF, cooking for everyone on the Cliburn set. You gotta love him.

Incidentally, if anything is predictable in this competition cosmos, I’ll hedge my bets that Alessandro will land the AUDIENCE FAVORITE award (so I’m off to cast my vote!)

An off the cuff interview with Alessandro


Official Website: Alessandro Deljavan


classissima.com, Journal of a Piano Teacher from New York to California, piano, piano competitions, Teh 14th International Van Cliburn Piano Competition, Van Cliburn, word press

Piano “Competitions”–Do we need them?

The word “competition” in the realm of music-making doesn’t work for me. Those who serve the poetry of music and view technique, not as athletically driven, but as a means to a higher artistic end can be offended by glitzy, media-hyped productions that show young Asian, American, Russian, etc. flowers of youth posing for thumbnail video sketches like Olympic hopefuls.

Some young entrants at multiple concours here and abroad, might consider a personal trainer, wardrobe adviser, PR person, and face-making coach to help them advance to the winners circle.

A cute smile, tilt of the head, or even tongue twisting maneuver might side-step going through the hoops, recital after recital, in pursuit of the GOLD.

A good media profile, culled months if not years before the BIG EVENT might land an aspirant a budding career. (as long as it’s technology bundled)

In this age of mp3s, quickie uploads, you tube playing flashes, blogs, vlogs, logs—pods, pads, and anything new on the horizon that will outdate the former, young pianistic talents have to adapt to changin’ media channels.

The good news, if one favorably views the NEW WORLD we live in, is that our current generation of gifted pianists are WITH IT, having a generous grounding in computers, originating in Kindergarten.

Hence, their websites are streamlined and hyper-linked to guarantee maximum exposure.

But back to competitions.

In the era of Van Cliburn, dating to his win in 1958, the environment was DIFFERENT. It was a resoundingly POLITICAL era.. Not to say that “Vanya” didn’t deserve to claim the Gold at the prestigious Tschaikovsky Competition in Moscow circa 1958, but the COLD WAR was raging and a thaw was a welcome, DRAMATIC, if not world-changing event. (And Cliburn rode the crest)

Cliburn Moscow

The tall rangy, sandy-haired TEXAN was at the right place during an opportune historical moment that bestowed an unheard of ticker tape parade for a musician in Lower Manhattan!!!!! (Who would believe??)

The Gold RCA generated Vinyl RECORD of Van and Kiril Kondrashin collaborating in Tschaikovsky’s Bb minor concerto earned the young pianist a life-long following and solid, financially secure life.

Would it be the same today for Van or any other first place winner of a high profile International Competition? It doesn’t necessarily follow. Too many current Cliburn entrants to the current 14th International convergence, have racked up victories all over the world, yet they’re still in feverish pursuit of another big PRIZE that might have enduring value. (throw in an appearance on ELLEN to assist!)

In that vein, consider the so-called prodigies, some of whom have won the undeserving, premature attention of ELLEN DEGENERES as they savor 15 minutes of fame at the instigation of pushy parents. In truth, some of these preemies need to stay home and practice for at least 10 to 15 years before banging their way to final cadences on the public stage. Maybe some day they’ll make it in the competitive arena!


Murray Perahia, my personal musical hero, and poet of the piano, avoided the prodigy loop for early recognition, and did the LEEDS Competition in the UK back a few decades. His win sparked a great, enduring career, but times were qualitatively different then. Young talented musicians picked and carefully chose a PRESTIGIOUS competition to enter and didn’t have to run around to scads of them. They hoped ONE victory would CAPTURE enough attention to stop their FRENZIED pursuit.

Consider as well the judges at these competitions: Many have taught a truckload of entrants or are linked by the next generation to teachers who might have taught mentors of these newbies, and by further association to piano-playing pedagogues in the OLD COUNTRY.

Veda Kaplinksy, Chair of the Juilliard Piano Department and a frequent jurist, excuses herself from voting for her own students at the Cliburn Competition and Lord know where else? But how could she realistically manage to keep track of the complex lineage of professorial forebears without doing a current genealogy search on the WEB.

Seymour Bernstein, pianist, teacher, author, has now become so incensed about the competition milieu and its impure environment that he sent out an all points bulletin registering his discontent with the whole atmosphere that pits pianists as rivals, while he expressed outrage that one of his favored entrants, Sara Daneshpour, was not a chosen semi-finalist. (her website: http://www.saradaneshpour.com/)

With Seymour’s permission, I’ve memorialized his riveting statement, “NO COMPETITIONS”

Dear friends,
I have concluded something that I wish to share with everyone on my mailing list: the Cliburn Competition has revealed the greatest young performers among us. Of course there are other qualified performers who were not chosen for non-musical reasons: either they haven’t won a major competition, or they never performed with a major orchestra, to mention only two reasons.

This is my conclusion: The word “competition” must be eliminated. The Cliburn Competition is rich enough to expose these phenomenal young artists to the world for one reason only: they ought to be heard as models of human achievement on the highest level, and they ought not to have to compete with one another.

The worst aspect of competitions is the assumption that jury members are qualified to judge who is the best among the competitors. This is impossible given each person’s varied tastes. I, myself have adjudicated at major competitions where a pupil of mine was among the competitors. While I was not allowed to vote for that pupil, my colleagues knew that I taught that contestant simply by reading the bios of the competitors. Some jury members will want to support me and my pupil, while others, compelled to uphold fairness at all cost, may vote against my pupil.

In addition, I have known jury members to support a competitor who studies with a close colleague. Finally, jury members are not beyond the possibility of falling prey to sexual attraction. Considering the human factor, visual attractiveness may override objective listening.

Considering these factors, let’s vote for abolishing all competitions. Let’s have these performers share their artistry with us for no other purpose than to inspire us with their accomplishments, thereby spreading the essence of the divine art of music to a world sorely in need of it. Let’s all write to the competition board and suggest this for future Webcasts.



My comment: While I agree with Seymour’s assertions, my underlying thesis is that our culture should properly nourish and sustain musicians, and not force them into competitive environments.

Many Juilliard grads, for example, when researched a decade after their graduation could not make a living at what they loved, cherished, and nurtured since childhood. (Competitions, notwithstanding)


In conclusion, until we get off the instant message, mp3 driven train, abandoning LIVE concerts, and drinking the KOOL AID served up by sound byte-ing advertisers, (the not so hidden persuaders) we’ll always have aspiring pianists taking an alternate route, far afield form their first love, just to put bread on the table.

And what a loss to a society that should embrace those who have something SPIRITUAL to offer in a world plagued by violence and all the rest we should abhor.


Seymour Bernstein speaks even louder about Piano Competitions and the need for CHANGE:


Star Telegram, questions jury ties to competitors at Cliburn Competition


Memories of Van Cliburn


The 14th International Van Cliburn Competition


click ON DEMAND LINK to hear performances of all entrants

legato playing, piano playing, piano technique, staccato playing, word press, word press.com, wordpress, wordpress.com, you tube.com, yout tube, youtube.com

Piano Gym: Routines that build technique (Videos)

In the Olympiad era, bespectacled piano teachers and their students are assumed to be lockouts, pouring over eclectic music manuscripts in sheltered studios of higher learning. We’re viewed as eternal bench-warmers, leading sedentary lives; practicing archaic music for hours at a time in a monastic rhythm.

But these are missperceptions.

Most pianists are members of the piano gym club, training day in and day out to master complex motor movements and feats of coordination that rival the rigorous prep of elite Olympic athletes.

For example, try playing a perfectly smooth and sculpted A Major Scale in crisp soft staccato, without a note popping out among 64 ascending and descending in rapid speed.
Mental image assist: the “trampoline effect.”

Maybe it’s not the same as climbing a ski slope, and then heading downhill at 150 miles an hour, but just the same, tackling a scale or arpeggio at max tempo, can be more than a joy ride. It requires great physical and musical mastery. And that’s where you separate the men from the boys.

How about a hopping routine, with a zig/zag motion of the arms, that accelerates as the underlying beat is quickened.

In the Olympic spirit, I’ve showcased three lesson-in-progress snippets of an adult student notching up her technique in the space of 15 minutes. It’s a world’s record for her.

The enumerated challenges:

1) Playing fast, crisp staccato notes, 4 octaves up and down.

2) HOPPING in thirds, with a zig/zag motion of the arms.

3) Gliding through an A Major arpeggio before detaching the notes in brisk tempo.


From Chords to Gym and Back


Piano Push-ups and Dead Weight:


Piano, Performance and Gym Routines…


Piano Workout Plus:


Bach Invention, Bach Inventions, Daniil Trifonov, Fresno California, J.S. Bach, J.S. Bach Invention 13 in A minor, J.S. Bach Prelude in C minor BWV 847, Journal of a Piano Teacher from New York to California, MTAC Baroque Festival, Philipp Lorenz Memorial Keyboard Concerts, pianist, pianists, piano, piano blog, piano blogging, piano blogs, piano instruction, piano instructor, piano lesson, piano lessson, piano pedagogy, piano practicing, piano teachers, piano teaching, piano technique, Piano World, piano world-wide, pianoaddict.com, Pianostreet.com, pianoworld, pianoworld.com, Shirley Kirsten, Shirley Kirsten blog, shirley s kirsten, slow mindful practicing, slow piano practicing, studying piano, teaching piano, teaching piano to children, word press, word press.com, wordpress, wordpress.com, you tube, you tube video

A Music Packed Saturday and Sunday! (Video) and NEW PHOTOS!

The MTAC Baroque Festival and Daniil Trifonov’s recital at Fresno State cap this weekend’s events, giving our city a warm cultural embrace amidst its Bulldog-driven sports fever!

First on the line-up, Claudia, 11, will play the Yamaha concert grand piano at the University’s recital hall today.(The Steinway is sequestered) She’ll offer two Bach selections: Invention 13 in A minor, and the Prelude in C minor, BWV 847.

A competitive gathering where about a third of the participants will be selected to perform at the Regional concert, it required a final-lap lesson pep rally:

As an extra inning warm-up, Claudia will have FIVE-minutes of GETTING TO KNOW THE STAGE PIANO at 11 a.m. this morning when I’m a last-ditch effort, side-liner coach.

From then on, it’s an interminable wait until kick-off at 2 p.m. (Too many students on the roster in a triple-header spilling into the late afternoon)

Scoreboard results “to be e-mailed in a day or two.”

Since CAMERAS are banned from this year’s real time proceedings, here’s a photo from Festival 2011 where Claudia performed Bach Inventions 1 and 4.

P.S. Here are a few pics I managed to snap just now during Claudia’s rehearsal:

Update: Claudia played her pieces exceeding well, and made a big leap in musical growth since last year’s Festival appearance.

The latest photos:


Tomorrow, Sunday, Daniil Trifonov, will sweep into Fresno, performing the works of Schubert/Liszt, Schubert, Debussy and Chopin on the Philip Lorenz Memorial Keyboard Concerts series.

From the flyer:

“Gold Medalist, 2011 Tschaikovsky International Piano Competition and winner of the 2011 Rubenstein International Piano Competition, this twenty-year-old Russian artist has already appeared in major venues in Europe, Asia, and the United States including New York’s Carnegie Hall.”

Stay tuned for post-concert coverage.