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A Passion For Piano
Robin Alciatore's Blog
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A new, revolutionary tool that allows you to learn piano pieces faster, broaden your repertoire knowledge, improve your interpretational skills or to simply immerse yourself in the refined art of classical piano music, has finally arrived!

The AST integrates Piano Street’s sheet music library with the leading video and music streaming services YouTube, Spotify and Naxos and allows you to listen to recordings of pieces while following along in the scores. The recordings are carefully selected by the Piano Street Team to ensure that the performances are of professional reference standard and provide a diversified selection in terms of interpretational styles.

The AST which is now available for all Gold members includes the six composers Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Chopin, Liszt and Brahms – 860 pieces in total. More composers will be added regularly throughout the year.

While Piano Street’s own recordings and recordings from YouTube are freely available in the AST the two streaming services Spotify and Naxos Music Library requires accounts with the services.

Login to your account and navigate to any piece by Bach, Beethoven, Chopin, Mozart, Liszt or Brahms and click the AST icon to open the interface in a new browser window:

Not yet a Piano Street member?
Try the two free samples available on this page.


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5 years ago |
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Music Education Expo takes place on 20 and 21 March 2013 at The Barbican in London. It is the largest national music education conference and exhibition in the UK, and it’s completely free to attend if you register in advance.

Piano Street will present some new features, including the unique audiovisual study tool (AST), at our stand L2 at the exhibition. We hope to see you there!


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Back in 1984, the Compact Disc changed the recording industry forever. Before that, the best quality sound came from very expensive half-speed master copies of 33 1/3 long playing records. These specially designed pressings used better quality vinyl and had deeper grooves. The cutting lathe cut the disc at half-speed which resulted in extremely accurate pressings. The truly best half-speed master pressings were the equal to Compact Discs. In many instances, they were better. Their main drawback, however, was the much higher cost. Compact Discs were easier and cheaper to mass-produce. Over the last 28 years, they have been the preferred medium for audiophiles. In this second decade of the 21st Century, downloading music is beginning to take over the mantle of “preferred medium”.

Today, classical music buffs who download music find MP3 files to be inferior to original, digital recordings in much the same way as later, cheaper vinyl pressings were inferior to half-speed master pressings. For the last few years or so, audio downloads were only available in compressed formats like MP3 or AAC. The compression removed small bits of the sound spectrum. Smaller speakers, such as those found in computers, cannot produce the removed sounds so there was usually no perceived loss. Despite this, classical music audiophiles refer to such files colloquially as “lossy files”. Pop music files have a smaller sound spectrum than classical music files. Usually, the lost sound is undetectable in these files, even on larger speakers.

Piano music is especially tricky since professional performers strive for a distinct sound. Differences between players are just the sounds lost in the compression process. Such compression makes similar, yet undeniably different, recordings sound the same. Audiophiles, therefore, are seeking a better option in downloaded music files. Free Lossless Audio Codec, or FLAC, provides that better option.

FLAC Format – No Loss of Sound Across the Entire Spectrum

In the winter of 2003, the Foundation perfected FLAC, and audiophiles rejoiced. Compression no longer required loss of sound or quality. FLAC operates in much the same way as Zip technology. The compression, however, is superior because Xiph specifically designed FLAC for audio files. FLAC belongs to a group of these newer technologies called “lossless” compression. Some audio players of today support FLAC in the same way as MP3, but not as many as MP3. FLAC does, however, work on many more audio players than competing lossless formats like WavTech.

FLAC is available in two different formats: 16-bit and 24-bit. 24-bit sound is the same as recording studio quality and is better than a Compact Disc. 16-bit sound is the same as a Compact Disc and, of the two, is the only one writable to a blank Compact Disc. The only way to listen to 24-bit FLAC files is on a computer or from a blank DVD. DVD quality discs support the extra information included in 24-bit FLAC files.

Where does one acquire FLAC files?

The website, is currently the premier site for FLAC format files. Affiliated with BIS, leads the way in affordable FLAC pricing. Deutsche Grammophon has followed suit and also offers FLAC, albeit only 16-bit files. BIS and offer three different formats for purchase: 320Kbps MP3, 16-bit FLAC, and 24-bit FLAC. They are the first to offer all three in one location. Remember, too, that FLAC files are much larger than MP3s. One must plan accordingly and use proper discs, Compact Disc or DVD, for the selected format. has also solved the fair pricing problem. Other download sites, such as iTunes, calculate pricing by song or album., on the other hand, charges based on seconds of duration. The going rate is two-tenths of a cent per second for MP3 quality files and three-tenths of a cent per second for 24-bit quality files. This way, the customer pays only for what he or she wants to download. There are no restrictions such as “one must purchase the entire album for one track”.

One the site itself, one can listen to complete albums rather than just a short clips. To thwart download pirates, each track has a fail-safe that stops it every 30 seconds. One must then restart. One can sample entire symphonies, concertos, or sonatas simply and effectively.

Neither Windows Media Player nor iTunes currently do this without the need to install additional “plugins”, and even with these, they may only play 16-bit FLACs. FLAC is supported by many other media players, but it can be a daunting task for the new user to choose a suitable program. Get started with this guide from

Free FLAC track from eClassical exclusively for Piano Street readers – Yevgeni Sudbin plays Chopin F minor Fantasy:

Piano Street talks FLAC with George Olvik, CEO at eClassical

Piano Street: As a piano music enthusiast, why should I choose the FLAC-format instead of a MP3?

George Olvik: FLAC is full CD quality, MP3 isn’t. When choosing FLAC, you get the same that you could buy in a record store, the exact data that’s on the CD release. In MP3 files, some sound data has been left out to create a smaller file. If you can play FLAC files and have the extra space (about twice as much as MP3 320 kbit for 16-bit FLAC), choose FLAC, of course! I maybe should mention that at eClassical, you always get both MP3 and FLAC 16-bit if you buy any album. You can download whichever you want, or even both. Or download MP3 first, get a FLAC player at some time and later download the respective FLAC files.

PS: Today choosing music doesn´t necessarily mean that you buy music to own it physically and young people tend to consume music at a faster pace. Is the FLAC-format convenient in this quick consuming sense?

GO: As hardware gets cheaper and faster and broadband is everywhere I can for sure see that FLAC can be the format also for this customer group. A lot of these people invest a lot in their headphones and I think and hope that they will ask for higher quality in their music files.

PS: For pianists the piano sound is a very personal question which the un-compressed format always can guarantee. What do we miss out on in pure piano sound authenticity when listening to MP3?

GO: Typical MP3 artifacts are a noisier sound, unclear transients and some missing frequencies. These become of course more obvious the higher the MP3 compression, i.e. the lower the bitrate. Our MP3s are all at 320 kbps, the highest MP3 quality that is universally playable, so they will already sound pretty good. Piano music as MP3 files can have unclear attacks, the piano could sound less brilliant and some typical sonic features of the respective instrument might get lost. MP3 encoders typically leave out the highest frequencies, but even the lowest notes might sound thinner with MP3.

Generally, classical recordings often are have an unusual high dynamic range, but also more static passages, compared to other recordings. You can e.g. have just one piano note sounding for several seconds. Whilst uncompressed formats (or lossless compressed, as FLAC) just digitize the soundwaves that reach the microphone, MP3 saves the sound split up both “vertically” into frequency bands and “horizontally” in short segments of some milliseconds. An MP3 decoder must recreate the signal from these soundbits, and sound quality can change for each of them, depending on which frequencies are present at what level. I cannot imagine that this process will perfectly recreate what has once been an acoustic vibration – even if only very little compression has been applied. And the high dynamics in classical music can make pre-echoes occur more often.

PS: What will the future bear for FLAC distribution from a technical point of view?

GO: I think that streaming lossless audio, like FLAC, could be the thing. But it will need more bandwidth, of course. In home networks, it is possible to stream FLAC audio, and many music fans do it. But if the streams are going out over the internet, plenty of people still are on connections slower than 1 Mbps, and they will hardly be able to stream FLAC in real time. On the other side, it might also mean quite an investment for streaming services if they need double bandwidth for every customer that wants to stream lossless audio. But as said, with quicker connections everywhere, lossless streaming will for sure be possible one day.

PS: Finally, a personal question – as CEO for eClassical, do you ever listen to music through Spotify, Naxos Music Library or iTunes?

GO: Yes I do :)
I have an account on Spotify and I purchase music on iTunes every now and then. But I don’t use Naxos Music Library. My father tells me I should but I have enough of classical music to listen to on my harddrives…

Try out some FLAC recordings!

Deutsche Gramophon and Decca offers FLAC as download option.

Five recent releases from Deutsche Gramophon available in FLAC format:
Yundi – Beethoven – Piano Sonatas
Yuja Wang – Fantasia
Maria Joao Pires – Mozart – Piano Concertos 20 27
Ingolf Wunder – Chopin – Recital
Pierre-Laurent Aimard – Debussy – Préludes – Book I + II
Krystian Zimerman – Brahms – Piano Concerto No. 1

Recommended FLAC format albums from Decca Classics:
Nelson Freire – Brasileiro – Villa-Lobos Friends
Valentina Lisitsa – Rachmaninov – Piano Concerto No. 3


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In part one of a three-part special on building a career as a professional pianist, Piano Street’s guest writer Alexander Buskermolen spoke with Holland’s most prominent pedagogue, Professsor Jan Wijn (b.1934).

He has been responsible for training many of Holland’s top pianists such as Ronald Brautigam, Hannes Minnaar, Nino Gvetadze, Paolo Giacometti, Thomas Beijer, Paul Komen, Ivo Janssen and many others.

Jan Wijn has taught piano at the Conservatory of Amsterdam for more than 45 years, so he is the perfect authority to guide us in our quest for the perfect path in piano education leading to a successful career in music.

Alexander Buskermolen: Professor Wijn, to start off our conversation on building a successful career on the stage, could you name a few “ingredients” that all pianists should have in order to get accepted for studies in a professional music program? In what areas do you find certain differences among pianists?

Jan Wijn: First of all, it’s extremely important that these young musicians have a passion for music, and more specifically, a passion for playing the piano. There are many people who love music, but there’s only a handful that are sufficiently talented in playing an instrument. Only these very talented young pianists who ‘live and breathe’ (piano) music should aim for a professional music education.

The people who do get accepted at a conservatory should be very clear about their ambitions. Do they want to become performance focused musicians or do they want to become teachers? Even though many people will claim the first, here in The Netherlands we are in desperate need of the latter: well-educated and talented piano teachers. Performing in concert at the highest level, and pursuing an international career on stage is only possible for the extremely gifted pianists.

AB: You’ve been holding a teaching position at the Conservatory of Amsterdam for over 45 years, and you’ve been teaching for more than 50 years: How would you describe the entrance level at the piano department during this timeframe? And which aspects of piano playing have been more or less emphasized during these past 50 years?

JW: The level of entry at the conservatory, especially here in Amsterdam, has clearly risen to a new standard. To give you an example: about twenty years ago it was customary to play Cramer and Czerny etudes at auditions for admittance into a professional music program. Today we get to hear very well executed etudes by Chopin. Another example: the exam that 1st year students do in order to continue to the 2nd year, consists of pieces that would normally have been played for a Bachelor’s exam.

Both examples underline the ongoing process of better achievements at earlier ages. You see this in sports, in chess, in business and of course in music. Everybody knows the examples of child prodigies playing incredibly difficult music at the age of 12. For most of these exceptional talents, the focus has been on achieving a technically perfect execution of the music. It’s even rarer to find those child prodigies that possess both technical perfection and a deep musical understanding at a young age.

AB: Is there in your opinion a perfect path in piano education, starting off at the very first piano lesson, progressing on untill graduation from a professional musical curriculum?

JW: It’s very difficult to describe one specific path considering the fact that all students have their own backgrounds, talents and weaknesses. In general you need to be lucky enough to start your lessons at a young age and with an excellent teacher. For all the different parts of your musical path you need to have the right teacher who can accompany you to, in the end, to musical independence. Ideally the first piano teacher will provide for a broad basis in which all fundamental elements are represented, such as reading notes, rhythmical precision, feeling for different styles and of course general piano technique. After this first, quite demanding acquaintance with the piano, normally it’s time to change teachers. If the student is both talented and ambitious, the aim should be to find a teacher who teaches the ‘young talent classes’. Such a teacher can fully prepare the student for a professional study in music. He/she will be able to make good choices in repertoire, especially to enhance the student’s technical capabilities and also mentally prepare the student for a career in music.

A second possibility, though not occuring that often, is to find an excellent teacher, if the student is lucky enough, in the vicinity of their home, which enables the teacher to work with the student all the way up to the audition at a conservatory. In The Netherlands we unfortunately do not have a set structure to offer to our young gifted musicians. This has to do mainly with politics and the low priority that musical education has these days. The ‘Russian model’, so to speak, that is used in Moscow is something that I believe will not work over here. There’s a different mentality when it comes to educating gifted children. In a way it’s a pity, but I just don’t see it happening here. Yes we do have a lot of musical talent in our country, but great international success is very rare. For example, in the past thirty years, only two Dutch pianists made it into the finals of the Queen Elisabeth Competition. Rian de Waal in 1983 and more recently, Hannes Minnaar in 2010. No Dutch pianist has ever won at the Chopin or Tchaikovsky Competition… (Editor’s note: Jan Wijn himself won first prize at the International Piano Competition at Orense, Spain in 1960.)

AB: Are you teaching every single student with a personal tailor-fit goal in mind?

JW: When I started teaching some 50 years ago, I held on to certain dogmas about piano playing and repertoire. If I look back on my career as a teacher, I now see that these fixed ideas have been replaced by a more holistic approach: with each individual student I simply choose which area needs attention in their development. It’s like growing flowers and plants: sometimes they just need a little bit of water or fertilizer, the growing they just do by themselves.

AB: If you had to make a list of obligatory composers that should be played during the first couple of years of piano lessons for a child, which composers would be on that list?

JW: Before I make such a list, I think it’s good to divide the children into two groups: the ones that just want to play music for fun, not focusing on specific challenges and flawless results, and the other group obviously being the ones that have the ambition to pursue a career in music, or at least want to try to achieve the best results possible in terms of piano technique and ‘correct’ musical execution. Let’s focus on this second group.

Two absolutely essential musical styles are the polyphonic and Viennese classics. This means playing J.S. Bach (and contemporaries) and Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven. In an earlier stage of development you can play the sonatinas of Kuhlau and Clementi. The composers Stephen Heller and Walter Carrol I love to incorporate in the piano curriculum. With all of these composers the challenge is to play them as cleanly as possible, and with all the correct phrasings and style elements. Even though striving for clean and beautiful playing, I’ve seen that many of the gifted students I’ve worked with (mainly the boys) are very eager to play the big, virtuoso repertoire: Chopin’s Fantasy, Liszt’s Etudes, Tchaikovsky’s 1st Piano Concerto, etcetera. I feel that every once in a while you should ‘throw them in the deep’ and let them find out how this music works and relates to the other pieces they’ve played. However, after such a project they definitely need to go back into this disciplined approach of fine fingerwork and clean playing of the compositions mentioned before.

AB: Are there any dogmas that you uphold from a methodical or piano-technical point of view? Maybe in terms of positioning, repertoire, mentality, studying by heart, etc?

JW: Even though many of us pianists have been raised with certain ideas about the position and shape of the hands and the way to sit at the piano, I’m very careful with stating one ‘best way’ to do so. There’re many examples in music history where pianists (or other instrumentalists for that matter) have developed a unique and highly individual approach to the instrument. The most well know example probably is Vladimir Horowitz. His fingers were flat and ‘flappy’, but it worked out extremely well for him. Another example is Feuchtwanger, who is a self-taught pianist, but after receiving piano lessons at a later age, he got completely confused about his technique. Technique in my opinion is mostly personal.

On the subject of interpreting music on the other hand, I uphold very strong ideas. In my opinion, there’s a lot of musical dishonesty going on. With this I mean that even young pianists make alterations to the score when it comes to dynamics or articulation. Also, the tendency to play the left and right hand unevenly is something I find very disturbing. For me it represents a misplaced feeling of security on stage. Staying close to the score is something I think is essential for an honest performance.
It’s a known fact that current concert life is very demanding. In the past pianists could make a career with a relatively limited list of repertoire. These days, pianists are expected to perform a vast amount of different styles and compositions in a short amount of time. How do you prepare your students for this aspect of their artistic development?
Obviously it’s important that during studies at the conservatory, the students acquire as much repertoire as possible. This will form the basis of their future concert career. However, one of my former students, Hannes Minnaar, has created a very workable situation. He has limited the repertoire for recitals per season. He’ll therefore play one solo program and one or two chamber music programs allowing time, then, to be able to study new concertos and play them with several orchestras during the season. The bottom line here is that you shouldn’t try to do everything at the same time, but choose your concerts and repertoire well. Play what is close to your heart and suits your style.

AB: You mentioned one of your most successful students, Hannes Minnaar (laureate QE Competition 2010). He has studied with you for approximately six years. Can you explain his ‘sudden’ international success, looking back at his time in your classroom?

JW: One of the aspects of Hannes’ piano playing is that he’s able to read the scores extremely fast. He can therefore learn new scores easily and quickly, an advantage in today’s performance industry that is not to be underestimated. Besides that, Hannes has a natural curiosity for (new) music. Of course all the necessary work has been done properly to ensure his technique is flawless. But success at competitions entails simply a lot of hard work and a bit of luck. In this sense, his personality, his style of playing and choice of repertoire are to his advantage (for instance in the final round of the QE Competition 2010, Hannes played Saint Saëns’ 5th Piano Concerto). There is never a guarantee for success, but it’s very rewarding to see many of my students doing very well on the international concert stages.

AB: Could you name one or more aspects of musicality that you have learned from your students?

JW: In general I could say that by listening to my students, I learn that there are many approaches to musicality and ways of interpreting scores. It’s not something that my students say or point out directly, but it’s the consequence of being their teacher and listening to them as they play. I simply learn to be a better teacher by accepting the fact that their playing, in a way, is a reflection of my teaching methods.
Of course every once in a while I’m surprised to find new fingerings or tricks through a student. To be honest I need to say that I used to be very skillful in finding little tricks to faciliate easy solutions for big technical challenges. Also, one of positive consequences of working with very young and talented musicians is that their energy is infectious. Their approach to music and life in general often works as a personal energy boost. It keeps me young!

AB: To conclude our conversation, could you give some practical tips to the readers of Piano Street about practicing at the piano? Maybe something about starting to work on an ambitious piece such as a concerto or romantic sonata?

JW: On working with such a demanding composition, there’s nothing wrong with just muddling through the entire work for a couple of days. In this way you can get a bit more acquainted with the notes. Of course you probably will have heard the piece on CD, during a live concert or on the radio. But this reading/playing through helps you to determine which passages are most demanding and requiring the most work.

After these first couple of days it’s likely you’re a bit annoyed with the fact that you cannot play those beautiful passages, and will give you the right spirit to start working on the piece in a more serious and strict way. During this process, it’s extremely important to stay focused in an analytical way. Sooner or later (sooner is more likely) you’ll run into technical challenges that require a plan on how to cope with these difficulties. Based on my experiences on working with talented youngsters, it is this process that needs the guidance and support of a good teacher.
In the end, studying all these major compositions is a process that starts with working from ‘outside to inside’, and then back ‘outside’ again. This will take time, energy and a lot of persistence. Finally, if you study correctly, all the hard work will definitely pay off.


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The Grammy without pedal that Schiff didn’t win

András Schiff is one of the world’s most prominent proponents of the keyboard works of J.S. Bach and has long proclaimed that Bach stands at the core of his music-making. His 2012 recording of Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier (for the ECM New Series label) was nominated for the category “Best Classical Instrumental Solo” at the Grammy Awards 2013. He did not win the Grammy this time but had there been a category for “Best Classical Piano Solo Without Pedal”, we are pretty confident that Schiff would have won it.

After fifty years in close relationship with Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier, András Schiff has developed a kind of personal secret code with these works, like pet names shared between a loving older couple. Bach carefully laid out the preludes and fugues in books 1 2 of his WTC: 24 of each, in every possible key, major and minor. Schiff thinks of each piece as having not just a key but a particular character that he sees as color. In his recent Bach project program notes he writes:

The Grammy nominated album

The Grammy nominated album

“To me, Bach’s music is not black and white; it’s full of colours. In my imagination, each tonality corresponds to a colour. The Well-Tempered Clavier, with its 24 preludes and fugues in all the major and minor keys, provides an ideal opportunity for this fanciful fantasy.
Let’s imagine that in the beginning there was innocence, and therefore C major (all white keys) is snow-white. The last piece of both books is in B minor, which is the key to death. Compare the fugue of Book 1 to the Kyrie of the B-minor mass. This has to be pitch-black. Between these two poles, we have all the other colours: first the yellows, oranges and ochre (between C minor and D minor), all the shades of blue (E-flat major to E minor), the greens (F major to G minor), pinks and reds (A-flat major to A minor), browns (B-flat major), grey (B major) and finally black.”

As opposed to before, Schiff now entirely avoids using pedal when he plays Bach. He seeks to emulate the character of the keyboard instruments Bach himself would have known: the clavichord, harpsichord and various hybrids of his day had no means of sustaining the sound and the harpsichord could not make dynamic inflections within a phrase.

“The pedal is to the piano as the vibrato is to string players. Both must be applied with care, control and in moderation. Clarity is essential with Bach, the purity of counterpoint and voice-leading must be self-evident, never muffled or confused. Thus a discreet use of the pedal is not forbidden as long as these rules are observed. The question remains whether it is beneficial to the music to look for easier solutions. A perfect legato on the piano is an impossibility, and one can only create an illusion of achieving it. To attempt this with the hands alone is much more difficult but it’s well worth trying. Bach certainly didn’t want his music to sound easy; it’s demanding for players and listeners alike.” – András Schiff, Florence, 2012.

Samples at

Read Schiff’s full article on pedalling:
Senza pedale ma con tanti colori? (Without the pedal but with plenty of colours)

Schiff´s Bach project in New York Times:


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MySpace used to be the place to go to share one’s life. At the beginning of the social media era, it was the only game in town. Musicians quickly realized that it was a practical method of sharing one’s work at zero cost. One could get one’s music to a great number of people extremely quickly, and those who listened to the tracks could comment immediately. Musicians, therefore, got instant reviews and opinions on their work and could make appropriate changes and improvements. As Facebook supplanted MySpace as the “go to” social networking site sometime in 2005, MySpace’s popularity as a music sharing site also began to wane. The musical community began searching for its replacement.

The search was largely fruitless until an innovative site launched in Sweden in 2007. SoundCloud offered more features than MySpace. Its superior concept allowed musicians to share on a site specifically designed for music sharing. MySpace was, after all, a social networking site with a music sharing feature. SoundCloud transcended that by being a pure music sharing site. In fact, its main benefit was that musicians could upload their tracks with unique URLs. Along with listeners, they could then embed them in either Facebook or Twitter for a much broader distribution. Users can now even create widgets on their personal blogs or websites that will automatically tweet each uploaded track. SoundCloud co-founder Alex Ljung stated in a 2009 interview for Wired magazine, “… In the same way that we’d be using Flickr for our photos, and Vimeo for our videos, we didn’t have that kind of platform for our music.” SoundCloud filled that niche.

Yuja Wang at Soundcloud:

More than 8,000,000 users populate SoundCloud’s airwaves. They prefer the free-of-charge, intuitive, streamlined interface on SoundCloud to the license-driven content on Spotify or MOG. Recently, SoundCloud has branched out. It now provides podcasting and live recording, foreshadowing a future with complete music libraries percolating through the cloud. Joining with Ljung, SoundCloud users describe this groundbreaking website as the Flickr of music.

SoundCloud gives talented pianists that fall just short of genius a place to ply their downright worthy musical wares. Although one might think the wide open format gives players a place to upload junk, discerning users identify such junk quickly. In fact, the comments feature gives users the ability to succinctly post their opinion on any track. Those who intentionally upload junk invite ridicule.

The newest SoundCloud build includes many features familiar to Facebook users. There is a “like” button, an upgrade to available apps, and a powerful, comprehensive group feature that was something loyal Soundcloud fans demanded.

In short, SoundCloud is a terrific place to upload music to be heard on a large scale. It is an equally good place to hear well-crafted content if one is simply a listener.

Dive into the cloud with these selected listening tips:


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British concert pianist Joyce Hatto had a breakdown on stage in 1976 and did not play again in public for 25 years. In her late 70s, she apparently made a miraculous comeback. She was playing complete cycles of Rachmaninoff concertos, Mozart sonatas, Beethoven sonatas, Liszt Transcendental Etudes, and many other compositions. She was hailed as the greatest British pianist of the 20th Century. After she had died in 2006, however, it came to light that not all was as it seemed. Watch and see how the situation developed.

Read more:
Joyce Hatto – Wikipedia


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During 2012 many Debussy recitals were played all over the world, but do you know who played the first all-Debussy recital ever?

Marcelle Meyer (1897-1958) was a major figure in the creation of new music from her participation in Erik Satie’s Parade in 1917 until her early death in 1958. She championed the works of Satie, Ravel, Debussy and Stravinsky, as well as the French Group of Six composers (Les Six), all of whom she knew personally. Her fluid phrasing, great dynamic range and lovely tone are just three of the hallmarks of her rare and individual playing.

“Marcelle Meyer was, without a doubt, one of the most important pianists of the 20th century. She was a woman of tremendous influence. The favourite pianist of Les Six, she is featured as the central figure in a portrait of that group and Jean Cocteau by Jacques-Emile Blanche. She played the private premiere of La Valse with Ravel at the other piano, and worked with Debussy himself on his Préludes and gave the first ever all-Debussy recital. When Stravinsky met her, he said, “Ah yes, Ravel spoke to me about you,” and she subsequently performed in the premiere of Les Noces, and Petroushka, without rehearsal and completely to the composer’s satisfaction. Milhaud and Poulenc were among the many other composers who respected her and with whom she performed. Given her involvement in early 20th century piano music and her much admired playing, it seems strange that, to date, no biography has been written about this outstanding woman.”
- Mark Ainley

In her day Marcelle Meyer was the doyenne of French piano. Cortot admired her and she performed with the likes of Ravel and Couperin. She had a vast repertoire that extended from the Baroque to contemporary composers like Stravinsky and she left a considerable recorded legacy.

In 2007 EMI released an absolutely complete edition of Marcelle Meyer’s studio recordings, remastered from scratch, utilizing the best possible source material and modern technology.
EMI France’s 17-CD set Marcelle Meyer: Ses Enregistrements 1925-1957 has elicited great recognition in the media and has won major music awards such as Dipasson d´Or in 2008.

Marcelle Meyer met Debussy at the premiere performance of Erik Satie’s Parade, for which she was the pianist. To give you an idea of the production: the mise-en-scene was by Jean Cocteau, the sets were painted by Picasso, and the choreography was by Leonide Massine, with orchestra conducted by Ernest Ansermet – the 20-year-old Marcelle Meyer was the pianist. Debussy was present at this event, which took place in 1917, just under a year before he died.

Meyer is said to have been coached by the ailing Debussy in how to play his Preludes, and certainly her playing is unique in its combination of impressionistic colours and timing. Meyer also studied with Ricardo Viñes, who had premiered several of the composer’s works, and she clearly had insight into his art. While she recorded the two books of Debussy Preludes in 1957 – a recording that was unissued until 1989 – she (had previously) also committed three of them to disc in 1947, among them an incredible “La terrasse des audiences au claire de lune” in which time seems to stand still. Hear Meyer play this Prelude below followed by “L’isle Joyeuse”.

Meyer plays Debussy:
La terrasse des audiences au claire de lune
L’isle Joyeuse

Meyer plays Ravel:
Jeux d’eau
Gaspard de la Nuit (Ondine)

Meyer plays Stravinsky:
Trois Mouvements de Petrouchka


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