Pianist to Pianist

A collection of pianistic, pedagogical, methodical, musical, artistic, and cultural contemplations, concepts, observations, and concerns, from pianist to pianist, pedagogue to pedagogue, musician to musician and from a curious and critical observer.

Humanist education is the study of masterpieces and their creators, be it of religion, art, literature, sciences, government, politics, warfare, or thought. Humanist education is a foundation for and inspires cultivation of the creative process. Not taught thus, education remains a pursuit of know-how, literature remains...

We must practice practicing to develop a personal method which will yield the best results. The best possible way of practicing - efficient, aware, creative, artistic, systematic, etc.- may at first be very difficult and uncomfortable and by that feeling of vexation you might realize its effectiveness before results materialize. We must to learn to meta-practice.

When mental fatigue, inability to focus, distraction, etc. starts deterring you from productive practicing, take that first impulse of wanting to stop as a sign of doing the right thing. It's like muscle fatigue during physical exercise: we learn to recognize the right kind of pain that leads to improved conditions. The brain is trainable like a muscle and that includes the ability to train and improve focus. When you feel that you get to the limit of your capacity to focus productively, be it after 2 minutes or 2 hours, give it one more run!

We naively believe in the immortality of art. Nobody wants to see its decline, nobody suspects its demise, but immortal art is like the unsinkable ship. Which stages unfold? Ignorance, disbelief, denial (coming from there), distraction (that's where we are), frenzy (getting there), resignation, horror, and...

One has to in effect develop three kinds of piano technique: a Classical (simple clusters, Art song, orchestral transparency), a Romantic (complex clusters, Bel Canto singing, orchestral might), and a Modern (fists, elbows, paper clips). One builds on the other. When the techniques were established...

Fifty million and fifty thousand learn to play the piano today. 0.001% must statistically become really good - 50.050. Of these, one in 100 will be absolutely phenomenal in a decade. 505 absolutely phenomenal pianists: faster, better, cleaner, louder, softer, and with larger repertoire than anyone in the 20th century. And yet almost all of contemporary piano playing is third generation imitation at best. Originals such as Schnabel, Cortot, Horowitz, Richter ... surpassed by half a thousand super clones?

That does pose several serious questions about pianists in the 21st century. Liszt was an original pianist. Rachmaninov was an original pianist. Paderewski, Arrau, Cziffra, Gilels, Gulda, Gould, Evans were original pianists. Fleisher, Argerich, Sokolov, are original pianists. They all emerged from and perhaps evolved, even revolutionized and thus defined a culture of tradition and a tradition of culture.

The arm needs to be like a rope, not like a stick, and like the surface of liquid: flexible when slow and firm when fast.
The arm needs to be able to hover in balance and then to apply weight very quickly, to gather speed by inertia, like the flick of a yoyo or the dribbling of a basket ball.
The movement of the arm is always cyclical, wave like; never linear or static.

The wrist needs to be firm but flexible; like a twig, not like a stick.
The wrist functions like a suspension between the arm weight and the finger contact at the key; never as the initiator of movement.

The fingers are either like a conduits for arm weight, like a row of flexible pillars, or move independently from the stable hand dome ("die Faust", as Beethoven termed it).
The fingers should always lie relaxed and ready on the cluster.

When it is insinuated that Mozart and Paganini would dress and behave today like the jugglers and firespitters of the contemporary classical music scene (usually by the very same), that philistrous notion appears to me full of tauromachian waste. If these kind of entertainers were...