“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.”

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

The Collaborative Pianist's Guide to Practical Technique

   At last! A collection of studies extracted from the collaborative pianist's repertoire—sonatas and art songs—to replace all those mindless Czerny and Hanon exercises.                               
      Collaborative pianists need all the same technical skills required of soloists, and some would argue that they need to be able to play mezzo forte and under. If you doubt this, look at cello sonatas of Rachmaninoff and Chopin, violin and cello sonatas of Brahms and songs by Strauss and Wolf, all of which are contained in this volume along with all the other major composers of duo repertoire. 

     In the past, much confusion swirled about regarding the best avenues for achieving a reliable piano technique. Exercises of diverse and sometimes destructive patterns were readily available, and for many pianists they were considered indispensable. Despite the research—also readily available—of physiologist Otto Ortmann ("The Physiological Mechanics of Piano Technique," 1962) and others, teachers continued to dish out Czerny and Hanon exercises to naive students eager to develop "strong and "independent" fingers. They were barking up the wrong tree. (For more on this topic see "Piano Technique Demystified: Insights into Problem Solving," 2nd Ed.) 
     I advise pianists to put away Czerny and Hanon exercises and, regardless of technical approach, apply themselves to these passages from music they intend to play—collaborative works by master composers—as building blocks for technique and musicianship. Lessons learned here on the relationship of song text to expressive pianism are applicable not just to art song but to both instrumental duos and solo repertoire.

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