Tag Archives: Piano

Creative Juice #263

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Creative Juice #263

Beautiful things to look at, and hints for the creative lifestyle.

Video of the Week #324: Chopsticks

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Two of my favorite pianists being ridiculously sublime. Lang Lang and Jon Batiste.

Chopin

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Delacroix: Portrait of Chopin
Delacroix: Portrait of Chopin

Frédéric Chopin (1810-1849) was a Polish composer and virtuoso pianist who profoundly influenced music in the romantic era. He is one of the most beloved composers of piano music ever. His works are favorites of audiences and critics, and pianists beginner through professional level.

Vladimir Horowitz: Introduction and Rondo by Chopin:

He was born in Warsaw, and in 1831 moved to Paris, where he lived the rest of his life, except for travels. He never married, but had a long-term, often troubled relationship with the writer George Sand.

Lang Lang: Scherzo No. 2, Op. 31 by Chopin:

He was a renowned performer and a sought-after teacher. He maintained friendships with some of the top musicians of his day, including Franz Liszt and Robert Schumann.

Yundi Li: “Fantasie” Impromptu Op. 66 by Chopin:

Sickly for most of his life, he passed away at age 39.

Valentina Lisitsa: Etude Op. 10 No. 12 (Revolutionary) by Chopin:

His output, mostly for solo piano, was prodigious: 4 ballades, 27 études, 4 impromptus, 59 mazurkas, 22 nocturnes, 16 polonaises, 28 preludes, 4 rondos, 4 scherzos, 3 sonatas, 9 variations, 19 waltzes, 2 concertos, 19 songs, and many miscellaneous pieces.

Umi Garrett: Grande Valse Brilliante Op. 18 No. 1 by Chopin:

Video of the Week #307: Lenny Kravitz Designs a Steinway

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Carl Czerny: Pianist, Composer, and Piano Teacher

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400px-Czerny_2

Carl Czerny was born in Vienna, Austria, on February 21, 1791, to parents of Czech heritage. His father was an oboist, organist, and pianist. Carl showed musical talent early, beginning to play piano at age three and starting to compose at seven. His father was his first teacher. His first performance, at age nine, was the Mozart Piano Concerto No. 24.

When Czerny was ten, the Czech composer and violinist Wenzel Krumpholz arranged for the boy to meet Ludwig van Beethoven, who asked him to play the Pathetique sonata and Adelaide. He was impressed with the boy’s playing and agreed to take him on as a student. Czerny premiered Beethoven’s first and fifth piano concertos and maintained a friendship with him for the rest of his life.

At age fifteen, Czerny began teaching piano, basing his method on those of Beethoven and Muzio Clementi. His best-known pupil was Franz Liszt, who came to him with weird technique and awkward movements, but also with obvious talent.

After 1840, Czerny worked exclusively on composition, producing many books of piano exercises in addition to solo piano pieces, chamber music, sacred choral music, and symphonic works.

What Lang Lang says about Czerny’s exercises:

Vladimir Horowitz plays Czerny: Rode Variations

Grand Concerto in A minor:

Information for this article came from Wikipedia.

Video of the Week #247: B is for Beethoven Concert for an Elephant

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Pianist Paul Barton writes:

Mongkol is a 61-year-old former logging elephant. His captive-held life was spent hauling trees in the Thai forest. His body shape is deformed through hard labor, he lost his right eye and tusk in this brutal logging practice. Mongkol was rescued and brought to Elephants World to spend the rest of his days relaxing peacefully in freedom by the River Kwai. I discovered Mongkol is an extremely gentle, sensitive elephant who enjoys music, especially this slow movement by Beethoven which I play to him occasionally in the day and night.

a-to-z HEADER [2020] to size v2

Creative Juice #173

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Creative Juice #173

A feast for the eyes and the brain:

Creative Juice #164

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Creative Juice #164

Inspiring works of creative genius.

Video of the Week #223: How to Practice the Piano

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Today’s video has a limited audience. If you play the piano, are not a beginner, and would like to get to the next level quicker, the practice strategies in this video will be very helpful to you. It’s a little longer than what I usually post, but so worth your time.

How to Practice the Piano: Avoiding Play-Related Injuries

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How to Practice the Piano: Avoiding Play-Related Injuries

When I was a little girl and just beginning piano lessons, my teacher spent what I considered an inordinate amount of time talking about posture and hand position. At eight years old, I was much more interested in making music than getting posture and position correct.

But when I retired from teaching and began seriously practicing piano again in my mid-sixties, I found that my hands ached during and after practice. I chalked it up to arthritis.

The repeated chords in the third movement of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata were particularly troublesome. I realized I was tensing my fingers and pounding the piano. But how else could I play that passage?

I was also revisiting the Schmitt exercises, and I found some that specifically dealt with eliminating tension by moving the hand from the wrist, keeping the arms still. Exercise 48 works with thirds and sixths, repeated and scales; exercise 51 works with repeated octaves and scales in octaves. I applied that technique to measures 25-29, 43-52, 121-125 and 138-147 of the Moonlight Sonata, third movement, and it helped.

Over 50% of professional pianists experience play-related injuries at some time in their careers.

 

Rachmaninoff

Sergei Rachmaninoff

I saw a list of famous pianists who suffered from injuries, and Sergei Rachmaninoff was mentioned, which I consider poetic justice. How many pianists were destroyed by the unplayable chords in his Prelude in c# minor? I have small hands. How do you play a full, wide chord without stretching your fingers to the breaking point?

I polled some of my pianist friends on Facebook, and their best suggestion was rolling the hand from left to right, letting go of the lowest note and keeping it sounding with the sostenuto pedal. That’s a new skill for me, and it will take lots of practice until I can do it well. I didn’t even know I had a sostenuto pedal until recently.

Realize that the editor’s fingering markings in your music might not work for you. I’d always assumed they were the only correct way to play the passage. However, it’s subjective. Experiment with different possibilities, especially on chords of less than five notes in either hand.

Playing piano with tension in the body (hands, arms, shoulders, back, butt, legs) causes damage. So does playing while slouching. If you’re having pain, that’s a sign that something is wrong. Stop. Playing through the pain can have long-term adverse effects.

Elizabeth Mueller Grace discusses the role of posture and alignment in preventing injuries:

Beth Grace works with a student to correct alignment errors.

Muscle memory is a boon to pianists, in that it enables us to memorize music; but it’s also a curse, because it makes bad habits in our practice are so very hard to unlearn.

Dorothy Taubman developed an approach to playing the piano that eliminates damage caused by improper alignment. She identified four errors that cause structural damage: twisting the hand, collapsing the wrist; overspreading the fingers; and overcurling the fingers.

An introduction to the Taubman Approach:

I would love to learn the Taubman Approach for playing dense, spread-out chords, but the only way is to take lessons from a Taubman-trained instructor, or to take the Taubman workshops yourself. Or you can stream Taubman Approach videos for $14.99 per month. I have not done any of these, but I’m thinking about them.

Sources and related reading:

https://majoringinmusic.com/preventing-resolving-piano-injury/

http://thepianoteacher.com.au/articles/the-taubman-approach-to-piano-technique/

http://www.pianocareer.com/piano-practice/how-to-deal-with-piano-practice-related-hand-injuries-and-muscle-pain/

http://pianomap.com/injuries/index.html (read all 7 sections)

http://pianomap.com/taubman.html

https://takelessons.com/blog/piano-guide-injury-prevention Scroll down to “Knowing When to Stop: Common Injuries and How to Avoid Them.”

http://www.wellbalancedpianist.com/pianoinjury.htm

http://www.wellbalancedpianist.com/bptaubman.htm

https://www.nytimes.com/1981/06/14/arts/when-a-pianist-s-fingers-fail-to-obey.html

https://www.richmanmusicschool.com/articles/pianists-pain-prevention-tips

https://medium.com/real-world-music-theory/how-to-play-large-chords-that-are-too-far-for-your-hand-8d6b72d5bc2b