“There’s a moral imperative [in a capitalist system] to succeed or give up, and succeeding means growing—bigger audience, more profits, bigger budgets. To keep making art that isn’t successful by a conventional definition is an affront to a capitalist ideology—unless it can be recategorized as a hobby, a consumer activity. …And, in my experience, that is truly terrifying to artists: if I stop pursuing my work as a business, does that mean I’m a hobbyist prosumer dilettante, and therefore not serious? That is death or exile, banishment, existential crisis.”—
“Every note in these six Partitas crackles with life: this may not please lovers of “objective” Bach: the sound is bright and brilliant but can be hard, and some speeds are eccentric: the whizz-bang Scherzo in the Third Partita makes the Gigue sound plodding. What won me over is a rhythmic flexibility that reflects the structure of these wonderful movements, like the little pause at the top of the second half of the Second Partita’s dazzling Capriccio.”—
Nicholas Kenyon reviewing Igor Levit’s new album in The Guardian.
Levit’s Beethoven disk was my favourite record of last year, so I can’t wait to hear this one!
If I must narrow it down, it would have to be my New York recital debut on April 14, 1986, in Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall for the Juilliard William Petschek Piano Debut Award–an annual honor given to a pianist. I remember looking out through the backstage to see all of my family, friends and colleagues go to their seats. It was like getting married to the instrument, formally, in New York, in front of everyone I know.”—
Jeffrey Biegel, pianist, interviewed by Frances Wilson
“For any of those brave pianists who dive into operatic repertoire, there’s an acute awareness of playing music that’s specifically not written for the piano. While some singers revel in how beautifully Verdi or Mozart or Strauss wrote for the voice, the pianist is, at that same moment, experiencing how poorly that same music feels under our ten fingers.”—
Great post on Schmopera about the characteristic piano pitfalls of various opera composers.
Piano Players: How do you play piano with both hands? It’s practically impossible for me. What’s the trick? o:
I used to think like this too, that there was some trick, like when you cross your eyes just the right way to see those weird optical illusion thingys in 3D.
Now I think it’s more useful to reframe the question: it’s not about “How do you play with both hands?” it’s about “How do you play with your whole body?” Yes you have two hands, but you only have one body, and if you can get it to be in the right places at the right times, you’re playing the piano!
This was another big breakthrough for me, learning that it’s often less about learning “the notes” than it is about learning how passages *feel*, physically, in your *body* in order to be able to master them. This is the way that playing the piano is more like training as an athlete than anything.
“The market for quality and uncompromising recordings of classical music is tiny. Modern recordings often stink of surgical spirit and are made of plastic because of excessive interventions by people who believe they are making them better by intervention, when they are achieving the opposite.”—Ivo Varbanov interviewed by Norman Lebrecht
via Slipped Disc
Over at the “All of Bach” project this week they’ve posted Siebe Henstra playing the C major prelude and fugue from the first book of the WTC.
He speaks very enthusiastically about the wonders of the fugue in the accompanying interview. Love music nerds!
(PS. I’ve posted about All of Bach before, but it might be news to some of you: every Friday they post one new work, and both the performances and the web presentation are beautifully done. They’re adding one work a week until they’ve done everything!)
Often I don’t work on a piece at home. I know what I want to do. I look at some fragments. I work on the craftsmanship, and on the piano. And then I play the piece for the first time in the concert hall. It’s very dangerous, and I wouldn’t recommend it to anybody. But for me it keeps the music fresh. The moment I start to practise something, I kill it.
It’s like a declaration of love. If you intend to tell a person in the evening that you love her, you don’t spend the afternoon in front of the mirror watching what your lips do when you form the words, ‘I love you.’ You don’t need to. And I don’t need to play the piece at home. I will tell them that I love them in the concert hall. And that’s enough.
“One of the great challenges of a pianist is that every other instrument …, violin to double bass, piccolo down through tuba, they have three things to think about: they have to think about how they attack the note; they have to think about how they support the note; and they have to think about how they stop the note. Most pianists just think of the first of those three, how they are going to attack the note, and not even all of them think about that. If they can expand their approach, new revelations will appear. You would be amazed how seldom one comes upon somebody who thinks in those terms or makes music on the piano in those terms.”—5 Questions to Leon Fleisher (Pianist and Conductor) | I CARE IF YOU LISTEN
“It is only by demanding the impossible from the piano that you can obtain from it all that is possible. For the psychologist this means that imagination and desire are ahead of the possible reality. A deaf Beethoven created for the piano sounds never heard before and thus predetermined the development of the piano for several decades to come. The composer imposes on the piano rules to which it gradually conforms. That is the history of the instrument’s development. I don’t know of any case where the reverse occurred.”—Heinrich Neuhaus The Art of Piano-Playing (via leadingtone)
“There is no end to the details one could strive for, but… the desire for perfection could also be a deadly weakness. Living comfortably in that paradox, without even knowing it, is part of being a musician. There’s a labyrinth of voices inside your head, a counterpoint of self-awareness and the remembered sayings of your guides and mentors, who don’t always agree. Sometimes you wish you could go back and ask your teachers again to guide you; but up there onstage, exactly where they always wanted you to be, you must simply find your way. They have given all the help they can; the only person who can solve the labyrinth of yourself is you.”—Jeremy Denk, pianist (via 404-notsound)