Tag Archives: Piano

Valentina Lisitsa

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Photo by Michael von Aichberger

Born in Kiev, Ukraine, in 1973, Valentina Lisitsa began playing the piano at the age of three. She enrolled at the Lysenko Music School for Gifted Children and later studied under Ludmilla Tsvierko at the Kiev Conservatory. In 1991 she won the Murray Dranoff Two Piano Competition together with Alexei Kuznetsoff. The couple married the following year and moved to the USA. In 1995 Lisitsa made her New York debut at the Mostly Mozart Festival at Lincoln Center. Since then, she has performed extensively around the world. Her career received a huge boost from a home-made video, shot by her husband in 2006, of Valentina playing the 24 Chopin Études, which the couple posted on YouTube. Subsequent YouTube videos expanded her following, and that’s where I first discovered her. I was dazzled by her technique and the sheer speed at which she renders concert favorites.

With more than 95 million YouTube views and over 439,000 subscribers to her channel, Lisitsa is among the most frequently viewed pianists on YouTube, using digital innovation to champion classical music and performance. Impressed by her YouTube success, the Royal Albert Hall, in an unprecedented step, opened its doors for Valentina’s London debut on June 19, 2012. In that year Valentina Lisitsa signed an exclusive agreement with Decca Classics, and her Albert Hall recital was immediately available as both CD and DVD for pre-order on the night of the concert, her first of many recordings under the label.

Lisitsa is at ease in a vast repertoire ranging from Bach and Mozart to Shostakovich and Bernstein. She has a special affinity for the music of Rachmaninov and Beethoven and continues to add to her vast repertoire each season.

A Photo a Week Challenge: Music

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A Photo a Week Challenge: Music

My offerings for Nancy Merrill’s Photo a Week Challenge:

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Lang Lang

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Lang Lang

Lang Lang was born on June 14, 1982 in China. He began piano lessons at age three and performed his first public recital at age five, when he won first place in the Shenyang Piano Competition, the first of many competitions he would win.

When Lang was 15, his father took him to America, where he began studying at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. In a couple of years, he took the classical music scene by storm with his exuberant, highly emotional performance style. If you watch his facial expressions, his enjoyment of his own playing seems almost obscene. And maybe rightly so. His phrasing is sumptuous, his technique unassailable.

The BBC did a documentary on Lang Lang’s life:

Lang Lang is also committed to teaching. I love how he interacts with young Ricky Kam:

You can even watch a series of short lessons Lang Lang has posted on YouTube.

Photo credit: World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2010 Davos (cropped) used under World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2010 Davos (cropped) Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license

Creative Juice #93

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Creative Juice #93

Wonderful articles that will leave you inspired.

Creative Juice #86

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Creative Juice #86

Indulge in the arts:

My Love/Hate Relationship with Rachmaninoff

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My Love/Hate Relationship with Rachmaninoff

Once again I am working on the Rachmaninoff Prelude in C# Minor.

I first “learned” it as an eighth grader. I was never able to play it fluidly, instead stopping over and over to decipher the ledger lines. I think Sister Mercy, my piano teacher, decided the most merciful thing to do was assign me a different piece.

I revisited it every few years as an adult, resolving that this time I’d master it, but finally giving up.

It’s now come into my hands again, and I alternate between loving it and despising it.

If you don’t know the prelude I mean, here it is, from a piano roll Rachmaninoff created himself; the visual is the actual sheet music.

The piece has three sections: a slow introduction, a frantic middle section that moves in triplets, and an ending similar to the beginning that is marked tempo primo, although Rachmaninoff’s piano roll plays it faster.

Years ago it occurred to me that I could listen to the piece on YouTube. I was shocked to discover that the melody of the first and third sections in not the bell-like chords, but the deep bass octave three-note motifs. Each of those sections also includes a run of nineteen overlapping chords, in which the right thumb sometimes crosses over the left, then under the left.

The agitato section in the middle has the most beautiful Russian harmonies in chromatic arpeggios—that is, they’re beautiful as you’re learning them at a slow tempo. Played as intended, the first notes of each triplet form a step-wise motif of four or two notes; the rest of the notes disappear in mud.

Mom's piano

The final section recalls the beginning, except it’s more complicated. Now the pianist must read four staves instead of two, and the third staff changes from bass clef to treble clef and back to bass clef again. Each hand plays four-note chords that are quite discordant. I often recheck my chords only to find that I forgot about an accidental that occurred earlier in the measure, but sometimes the sour-sounding notes are absolutely correct. Some of those chords are virtually impossible for a small hand to play—a wide stretch between the second and third fingers, with an e# next to a f# with the index finger and thumb in the left hand. Honestly, who writes chords like that? To understand how I feel, look at the drawing of the hands below Rachmaninoff’s name in this illustration.

I think you need a creative solution to playing these impossible notes:

(Actually, I am impressed that Joo can even correctly position those sticks.)

Have you mastered the Rachmaninoff Prelude in C# Minor? Do you have any tips for me? Please share in the comments below.

Creative Juice #62

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Creative Juice #62

Thirteen articles to help you get your creativity on:

  1. Cute little paintings.
  2. A trip to the Guggenheim Museum in New York City.
  3. What playing the piano does for your brain.
  4. Wildlife photography in black and white.
  5. Beautiful waterfalls.
  6. Lovely ceramics.
  7. What happens when you let seniors wear costumes for ID picture day.
  8. I love this artist’s sketches.
  9. Award-winning quilts. (Click on the small images for enlargements.)
  10. Instead of aimless surfing, read these websites to increase your knowledge.
  11. Quotes to ponder.
  12. Amazing paper sculptures by Nguyễn Hùng Cường.
  13. Something you can do to exercise your creativity.