Monday, June 28, 2021
Wednesday, May 19, 2021
Playing the Piano with Great Pianists
No, I don't mean taking a masterclass. Or necessarily following the piano guy on PBS. What I mean is experiencing great music intensely by playing along with a recording of a great performance, even if you can only play a few scales and basic chords and can read music enough to sing in a choir.
I had a bit of piano in college, but despite an attraction (one could say obsession) that dates back to early childhood, I never officially learned how to play. I do in my dreams sometimes. Pretty often, in fact.
And lately, when I listen to great performances of Beethoven, the desire to run to the piano is almost irresistible. I wrote about this six months ago in a review of a recital by Jonathan Biss in Philadelphia. Why, I asked, don't more people run to the piano when they hear great music at home and bang out simple chords and the shapes of melodies? It's not hard to do.
While the pianist in the recording plays chords with 8 accidental-laced notes and 32nd note triplets in the upper range, why don't you trace some of the key notes on your own keyboard? You don't have to be perfect or even in tune. Just LET GO. Letting go is what makes the difference between tepid music heard at a distance and a heart-stirring musical experience that you can share with the artist of your choice.
I agree it's hard to get started. You do need to know a few pedagogical basics. And you have to stop worrying about what other people will think. Fear of people hearing us practice is the main reason adults do not touch their pianos, which are a hot link to the experience of feeling music intensely. This is for you, not a performance for others.
I have been thinking about this since the Biss concert, and tonight the impulse was overwhelming. Beethoven's Arietta, the second and last movement of his last piano sonata, had been raging in my head for days. I finally pushed back the key cover, sat down on the bench beside my laptop, and let the recording begin. After a couple of rough starts, I discovered the main notes (all in C major, thank goodness) and soon was weaving a simple echo to the pianist's masterful performance. I forgot about the neighbors, the open windows, the time. I was surrounded by music and felt I was part of the creative process. I was afloat on a sea of feeling such as I never experienced in a concert hall. It was ridiculously imperfect, but who cares? I was the only one listening and, believe me, it was the real thing.
(Alternative cover to Invictus by L.L.Holt, a novel about young Beethoven's discovery of music.
Friday, February 26, 2021
Thursday, February 25, 2021
A tribute to Beethoven by concert pianist Hao Huang
Pianist Hao Huang celebrates Beethoven in this performance of the piano sonata Op. 109 (slightly edited for time constraints). Thank you, Hao Huang, for this moving interpretation.
Beethoven Op. 109. Gesangvoll, mit innigster Empfindung. Andante molto cantabile ed espressivoPerformed By:Hao Huang Bessie and Cecil Frankel Chair in MusicS...
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