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.

Einen Höhepunkt, in bereits dichter Struktur, kann man durch den strategischen Einsatz des linken Pedals vergrößern. A culmination, in already dense structure (i.e. complex patterns, vertical density, many notes), can be augmented by the strategic application of the left pedal. Vitaly Margulis (1928 - 2011)...

The state of flow, an inspired performance, Kairos, is the highest pursuit of a concert artist. It seems that we are willing to abandon musical, melodic, harmonic, formal, and topographical synesthetic memory – once we feel secure – In search of the flow, a state of effortless attention, satori.

But consider this: We certainly agree that Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, and Liszt were performing with the absolute abandonment of an inspired flow. Can we imagine that they were not absolutely aware of and completely certain about rhythmic patterns, harmonic systems, key signatures and names, interval contours and with the foresight of improvisation? It is reasonable to assume that they were. Much of the music they performed was their own – original compositions – and they were all category-shattering improvisers.

In order to master the flow we need a rich retrieval structure.

The improvement, development, and progress of a closed system needs influx of energy, be it a lightning bolt, a Bunsen burner, or – in the case of technical skill – the focused application of a good method. The proper amount of the energy is critical: too little and nothing happens; too much and the system can be destroyed. Certain chemical compounds react to the “Goldilocks” right amount of energy influx with destabilization and following reorganization on a higher level.

Analogously: The cultivation of technical skill at the piano sometimes needs a very particular kind of work at the foundation of technique – dissipative practice: certain things need to be unlearned, certain habits must be replaced by better habits, many things need to be added. The ability to play a passage, a piece, or the piano will be destabilized for a little while. There is no alternative. Keeping away from performance repertoire for that little while is unfortunately necessary. But practice with purpose will result in reorganization on a higher level. Too little – 3 hours – and nothing happens; too much – 30,000 hours – and something happens, even though it’ll be most likely futile; but the right amount will yield improvement, development, and progress.

"Aus dem Geiste schaffe sich die Technik, nicht aus der Mechanik. Wir beten die Götter der Musik an am Altar der Tastatur." "Technique shall be created from the spirit, not from mechanics. We worship the gods of music at the altar of the keyboard." Franz Liszt (1811 - 1886)...

When you practice in an advanced state of the repertoire: play as long of a line, as much of the piece as possible; try to continue the musical narrative with dynamic expression and without the slightest mistakes, in slower tempo if necessary for as long...

When you warm up before a performance, don't just warm up your fingers: warm up your ears, your musical mind, your artistic soul! When you rehearse alone before a concert, you can and perhaps should play at a slower tempo, but under no circumstances should you...