Martha Argerich is among the most inspiring pianists of our era and has given us decades of great performances. Her expressive and lyrical playing sets a high bar for all others playing this instrument. In a New York Philharmonic Orchestra program notes, Ravel was quoted, "The G-major Concerto took two years of work, you know. The opening theme came to me on a train between Oxford and London. But the initial idea is nothing. The work of chiseling then began. We've gone past the days when the composer was thought of as being struck by inspiration, feverishly scribbling down his thoughts on a scrap of paper. Writing music is seventy-five percent an intellectual activity." Perhaps that can be an inspiration to a composer or arranger who hasn't yet found the "muse" for a piece that allows them to quickly expel it to paper, but is slowly working through ideas and crafting their own masterpiece. American jazz was the inspiration behind this piece for Ravel and it is filled with both great excitement and beautiful lyrical themes that Argerich performs masterfully!
Glen Gould was a master interpreter of Bach. He had a great talent at understanding and performing the polyphony of Bach's music. Gould brings out clarity of voices. Gould also put a lot of thought into his performances and trying to interpret them as Bah would have played them. They weren't written for the legato sound of the piano and Gould plays the piano in a style reminiscent of the harpsichord or clavichord which these pieces were written. There are a lot of good Bach performances on recording, but Gould's performances remain among the very best.
Alexander Scriabin wrote this beautiful short piece when he was only 16 years old. The piece is filled with deep emotion and a gypsy-like expressive and weeping melody. Another performance that makes Evgeny Kissin one of my favorite pianists.
Oh my! 2019!! I am looking forward to a great new year of blogging about things that inspire me with piano playing, teaching, and listening to others. I hope you had a great season of holidays as we wrapped up 2018. My personal November and December flew by like a whirlwind as in addition to celebrating Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years and all the performances that season entails, I was married on New Year’s weekend! It was a wonderfully fun time, but kept me from writing.
With the new year, I am very excited to get back at it and have a number of articles in mind regarding piano teaching, practicing, and accompanying. Three topics that I am digging into and learning about and will begin the year with are:
A lot of great ideas and discussions ahead, but to start the year, I will share this great video of what is easily one of the most popular and recognizable piano concertos: The Grieg Piano Concerto! This is often one of the first piano concertos a pianist plays and is played beautifully and expressively in this video by Khatia Buniatishvili. Enjoy this performance and watch for new posts this January!
A piece that is undoubtedly one of the most recognizable and loved piano pieces of all times, the Moonlight Sonata--as we usually refer to it--wasn't titled that by Beethoven. The first edition of the piece was titled, Sonata quasi una fantasia which translates to, "sonata in the manner of a fantasy" or even "sonata played as if improvised." The "moonlight" name came from the German music critic, Ludwig Rellstab who described the first movement as moonlight shining on Lake Lucerne. The moonlight description stuck, and today it is thought of as the Moonlight Sonata.
Daniel Barenbaum performs this piece beautifully and expressively and the "fire" in the third music is very exciting.
It was a recent online discussion I had about 21st century piano composers that drew my attention to David Chesky's piano concertos. Chesky molds the inspiration of his eclectic stylistic interests and experiences into his composition. This concerto is inspired by the frantic pace of his adopted home, New York City. You'll hear jazz and classical ideas and inspiration in this exciting work.
Dave Brubeck heard this rhythm played by Turkish musicians on the street and was intrigued by it. When talking with one of the musicians he was told, "To us, this is what blues is to you." That is where the title came from and the foundation for the piece. The Turkish melodic hook sounds almost classical to our ears and then the piece moves into a great blues feel. Also check out the recording on Brubeck's album, Time Out.
Banned at times in the WWI era for criticizing the Soviet regime, yet admired by Stalin himself. Maria Yudina's playing mimicks her personality. Free, somewhat rebellious, muscular, and reinventing. It is fitting that she recorded this at a time in 1962 a year Stravinsky was finally invited back to the U.S.S.R. after 30 years of having been banned himself. Yudina is a pianist worth listening to and in addition to Stravinsky, has brilliant recordings of Liszt and Bartok
Before Spotify, iTunes, and compact discs. Even before the 33 1/3 rpm LP's were the 78 rpm record discs. In the 1930's Horowitz recorded many of these with short pieces such as Chopin mazurkas and etudes, Mendelssohn's Songs Without Words, and other shorter works by Debussy, Poulenc, Rachmaninoff, Schumann, and others. Perhaps the very best is the 1930 performance of the Paganini-Liszt-Busoni Etude in E flat. The control over technique is astounding. This is the etude that Arthur Rubinstein heard Horowitz play in 1926 and wrote about in his memoirs: "I shall never forget the two Paganini-:Liszt etudes, the E flat and E major ones. There was more than sheer brilliance and technique; there was an easy elegance-the magic that defies description." Horowitz was a technical monster, but along with this technical mastery is a simple elegance that is unmatched.
The term "child prodigy" is thrown out fairly often and there are countless examples of very talented young children performing far above their level. That is exciting, but there is something that excites me much more and that is witnessing a child prodigy grow throughout their life into an even more mature and accomplished musician. Evgeny Kissin is one who fits that description. Recognized as a prodigy at a very early age, you can find his very wonderful performance of the Chopin Piano Concerto No. 1 as a 13-year-old here. As he has become older, he has developed into a masterful musician, having passed through a stage of machine-like technical ability into musical expression that draws new emotions with each note. Enjoy this performance and explore his other recordings.