“Music is a moral law. It gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, a charm to sadness, and life to everything. It is the essence of order, and leads to all that is good, just and beautiful, of which it is the invisible, but nevertheless dazzling, passionate, and eternal form.”

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Pianist's Guide to Practical Technique

     I am happy—no ecstatic—to be able to  report that the "Look Inside" feature finally is available at Amazon for the complete volume. For those of you who have expressed interest, please have a look and let me know what you think. Volumes one and two contain the same material, so I didn't press the Amazon team to include those in the Look Inside program.
      Just to recap, this is the collection designed to help pianists develop technique, musicianship and repertoire without using valuable practice time for "studies" by Czerny and his colleagues. So, you can put away studies by Czerny. Put him and the others into a closet and turn the key. Instead, use these passages from music you intend to play—music by master composers—as building blocks for technique and musicianship.    
     Suppose for a moment that we don’t accept the notion that a good piano technique requires strength training, or that it is even really possible to “strengthen” the fingers to any noticeable degree, in the way that authors of yore would have us believe. Those concepts indeed have long ago been discredited. Suppose, too, we discard the notion that independence of fingers is a physical action and not instead a musical objective. Well, you might ask, for what then do we train? Let's use our knowledge of how the hand was designed to work in order to train for refined coordination. 
     In this volume you will find ample material for just such a study. Here are threads of Bach Inventions, early Haydn episodes and mainstream Mozart. Here are passages from the grandeur of late Beethoven and the Romantic exuberance of Schumann and Chopin. Here are morsels from standard repertoire that, if used as part of your daily regimen, will at the very least provide a colossal head start on the building of skills, musicianship and a catalog of music you want to perform.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Lang Lang at the Phil: I Rest My Case

     If you've been following this blog for awhile, you know how I feel about unnecessary tension in the hands. You also know that, although there are many technical approaches to making music at the piano, it is possible to play virtuosically without exaggerated extensions in the playing apparatus. This latter approach I call a natural one, using the body according to its design. By that I mean stretching or pulling to extremes has no place in a fluent and efficient technique. It's what I prefer.
Sergei Prokofiev.
     The technical sensation Lang Lang appeared in Los Angeles recently, offering up the Prokofiev 3rd concerto. He played it, apparently, with considerable flair, as expected, though Mark Swed, the Times critic, thought he seemed somehow bored with it. I didn't hear the concert, but I've heard Lang Lang on other occasions and I can report that he is a technical phenomenon. (I can't imagine how a pianist could be bored with this piece. I have to admit, though, that once as I was sitting on a competition jury, having heard several Prokofiev 3rds in a row, I decided then and there never to hear it again.)
Lang Lang at the L.A. Phil. Photo by Lawrence K. Ho
 in the L.A. Times.
 In his review, Swed made the following observation: 
"His technique looked like a spectacular acrobatic embellishment of Chico's exaggerated finger work in Marx Brothers movies. That, too, may wind up a big deal. A physician in the audience quipped at intermission that he hopes the Chinese superstar has a good pension plan. Hands cannot sustain that kind of playing for long."  I have to agree. 
     Side note: Look at Prokofiev's hand on the keyboard above.