The Great Piano Scam

For those of you across the pond, tune in tonight to Channel 4’s First Cut series, when film-maker Susannah Price reveals the story behind the Joyce Hatto scam. Her documentary includes interviews with some of the duped critics and also an interview with Hatto’s partner, Barrington-Coupe, who speaks publicly for the first time about his role in the scam.

In case you missed it, here’s what happened in a nutshell:

At the time such lavish praise seemed perfectly reasonable, given that Hatto’s recordings were beginning to outsell even those of Alfred Brendel or Vladimir Ashkenazy. But one of music’s greatest shams was about to be spectacularly uncovered by a young American financier, Brian Ventura. He had transferred one of Hatto’s discs to his iPod before setting off that morning to his office on Wall Street. En route, he realised the name popping up on his screen was that of the Hungarian virtuoso Laszlo Simon, not Hatto. He immediately contacted Gramophone.

Suddenly, the music critics who had been drooling over the septuagenarian’s miraculous return from the cold ran for cover. Further forensic investigation revealed Hatto’s recordings to be ingeniously disguised fakes. Barrington-Coupe had used his technical expertise to plunder recordings by such unsuspecting virtuoso pianists as Paul Kim and Marc-André Hamelin, and reissue them under his wife’s name.

He had simply slowed down some passages, speeded up others, occasionally altered the balance between the treble and bass, and even swapped channels to reverse the stereo effect.

Read more here or here.

Namco Piano for DS

Namco Piano

Namco Piano

What a great way to get kids motivated! I wonder if there is a function to help you learn lines and spaces….

Published by Game Life and distributed by Namco, the title includes an eight note full-octave keyboard peripheral. The various game modes are designed to guide newcomers through their first steps into the world of piano playing, while more experienced pianists can try their hand at a number of classics.

Music from the likes of Mozart and Beethoven is included along with a number of contemporary tracks such as Bohemian Rhapsody, Bittersweet Symphony and Jingle Bells.

Create mode also allows for the recording of three minute compositions, with players then able to overlay a second recording over the top of the original. (from

How Many Mozart Pieces?

I started reading about the two new Mozart pieces that were discovered last week. They are currently in the possession of The International Mozarteum Foundation in Salzburg, Austria, and set to be performed on Mozart’s own fortepiano at the family’s old Salzburg residence in a press conference on August 2.

Then I found this:

In 2006, a year filled with celebrations for the 250th anniversary of Austria’s favourite son, another piano score extremely likely to be the work of young Wolfgang Amadeus was discovered in Salzburg.

In May of last year, experts also identified three mystery musical scores discovered at Poland’s historic Jasna Gora Roman Catholic monastery in southern Poland, as possible Mozart creations.

And this from September 2008:

A French museum has found a previously unknown piece of music handwritten by Mozart, a researcher said Thursday. The 18th century melody sketch is missing the harmony and instrumentation but was described as an important find.Ulrich Leisinger, head of research at the International Mozarteum Foundation in Salzburg, Austria, said there is no doubt that the single sheet was written by the composer.

Forget looking for another copy of the Declaration of Independence. It just might be easier to find another Mozart original!

Practice much?

Students often ask how much they have to practice. Now I have an answer for them. The magic number seems to be 10,000 hours.  Malcolm Gladwell, in his book Outliers: The Story of Success, quotes neurologist and music specialist Daniel Levitin:

In study after study, of composers, basketball players, fiction writers, ice-skaters, concert pianists, chess players, master criminals… this number comes up again and again. Ten thousand hours is equivalent to roughly three hours a day, or 20 hours a week, of practice over 10 years… No one has yet found a case in which true world-class expertise was accomplished in less time. It seems that it takes the brain this long to assimilate all that it needs to know to achieve true mastery.

And don’t think Mozart got away with less. According to Gladwell, music critic Harold Schonberg, Mozart “developed late,” since he didn’t produce his greatest work until he had been composing for more than twenty years.  Read The Artful Manager’s take on this here.

Cliburn Winners Tour Schedule

The Cliburn winners have begun their national tour. This summer gold medalists, Nobuyuki Tsujii and Haochen Zhang, will be performing at the Aspen Festival on July 23 and 25. Silver medalist, Yeol Eum Son will perform with the Pacific Symphony Orchestra on August 8th and finalist Di Wu will appear at the Bear Valley Music Festival July 31-August 3. The complete schedule through October is available here.

And in case you missed it, or just want to hear them again, the finalists performances are still available here.  I’m (re)listening to Nobu’s Appassionato right now.

Grasshopper Minds

Dr. Seymour Papert, mathematician and co-founder of MIT’s Media Lab, coined the term “Grasshopper Minds” almost ten years ago referring to the short attention spans and quick parallel processing of what we now call Gen Y, Gen 2.0, or the Millennials.

The following is from a paper, “Teaching Generation Y“, by Professor Susan Eisner of Ramapo College:

Having used technology throughout their lives, Gen Y operates both faster and differently than previous generations. Its video games accustom it to “twitch speed,” MTV (its favorite cable channel) accustoms it to processing 100 images per minute, and special effects films accustom it to ultra-rapid action. The result? Gen Y’ers are skilled at parallel processing. They are accustomed to randomly accessed information, instead of linear thinking…. Achievement and winning are important. Experiences without obvious payoffs are frustrating (2003)….Gen Y has a populist sense that anyone can be a star, and feels that there is no one right answer. Gen Y-ers tend to naturally challenge what is being said, and have a “prove it to me mentality.”

How has this new generation affected the way the old generation of piano teachers teach? Many have updated but simply incorporating Music Ace and midi technology in the music studio doesn’t seem to be the answer.  And we definitely don’t need more Czerny exercises. Telling a student to simply practice is like speaking to them in a foreign language. However, today I discovered that Philip Johnston, of has some timely advice in his book Practice Revolution.

Play Me, I’m Yours

30 pianos have been placed throughout the city of London over the past three weeks as an interactive art/music installation, the work of artist Luke Jerram. The pianos have been placed on city streets, in train stations, parks, and markets for anyone to play or decorate. This has brought out all types of pianists and music lovers. The video above is the green decorated piano on Carnaby Street. I love how this girl gets the crowd singing the Monkees!

According to StreetPianos the pianos will be in place until July 13th, after which time they’ll be donated to local schools and community groups. However, I did see under upcoming events, Annalie will be playing at Carnaby Street tomorrow (7/14) at 5pm so it’s not too late to join in.

Stop by the website to see lots of photos and films of pianos in all the your comments, films and photos about the pianos.

Chopin and Yundi Li

I was reading about Yundi Li this morning, about how he was dropped by Deutsche Grammophon and one Google search led to another until I landed on this video of 18-year old Li performing at the 14th International Chopin Competition in 2000.  A creature of habit, I usually only get my Chopin from Rubinstein or Martha Argerich (the winner of the International Chopin Competition in 1965). But now I’ll add Yundi Li to that list. I love the effortlessness quality to his playing. There are no ‘airs’ about him, and did I mention, he’s only 18!

Songwriter, Josephine Cameron, has an excellent post on her blog about Yundi Li and Chopin’s composition. She came across this quote at Chopin Music – George Sand writing about Chopin’s writing process:

“His creative work was spontaneous, miraculous. It came to him without effort or warning… But then began the most heartrending labour I have ever witnessed. It was a series of attempts, of fits of irresolution and impatience to recover certain details. He would shut himself in his room for days, pacing up and down, breaking his pens, repeating and modifying one bar a hundred times.”

And this from Chopin, himself:

“Simplicity is the final achievement. After one has played a vast quantity of notes and more notes, it is simplicity that emerges as the crowning reward of art.”

I think Chopin would approve of Yundi Li!