On the topic of memorizing, here are four things I always knew, but finally started implementing now that I have such limited practice time.

1.  Memorize hands separately. Tedious but it works. (If you don’t the patience for both hands, at least memorize the L.H.)

2.  Memorize the fingering, especially in fast tricky passages.

3.  Be sure you know your where your phrases begin and end.

4.  Play the music in your head often.


More on memory…

Just came across Maria Thompson Corley’s post about memory in the Broad Street Review. She writes about how she gradually learns to trust her instincts again after years of insecurity following a serious car accident at age 17.

In the end, it wasn’t a sudden, life-changing incident that freed me from my fear. Rather, it was a long, steady process. Perhaps as I was forced to cope with things far more crucial than missing a passage in a piece of music, I learned to trust my inner resources. Maybe as I prayed for clarity in other situations, some of that trickled down to my music making. Maybe it was simply my tenacity.

This was just what I needed to read today…

Anderson Roe Piano Duo

The Anderson and Roe piano duo performs Mozart… and Stravinsky, Gershwin, Radiohead, BeeGees, etc.

Greg Anderson and Elizabeth Joy Roe are turning preconceived notions about ‘piano duets’ on their heads with their innovative and exciting transcriptions, videos and live performances.

My Piano Music Stack

Piano repertoire goes through style changes just like fashion. What’s all the rage one year might not appear on any recital program the next year. I remember one audition where I announced I’d be playing Debussy’s L’Isle Joyeuse and one of the jury members rolled his eyes and asked his colleagues “Again? How many times have we heard that one today?”

These days my practice time is limited and I’m always on the lookout for new short pieces of substance.  This is one reason why I love to listen to emerging artists – for their repertoire choices.  For example, this performance of James Rhodes playing Bach’s transcription of Alessandro Marcello’s Concerto for Oboe and Strings in d minor has gotten me hooked on this beautiful piece.  I can’t believe I hadn’t heard it before this. Thanks to the Petrucci Music Library I was able to download the PDF and play it and add it to my piano stack.

What else is in the stack? Of course there are the ever-present Chopin Nocturnes, Waltzes, Etudes and Impromptus – in preparation for my upcoming Chopin Salon recital. But I’ve also added some Schoenberg and Berg songs in anticipation of our next Theramin and Piano event, a couple of Etudes by Moszkowski, (to get the fingers moving, again thanks to James Rhodes), a waltz by James Ricci, and the beautiful Rachmaninoff Etude Tableau Op. 33 No. 2 (just because I love it!)

Hiromi Uehara

A lucky friend of mine attended a concert with Hiromi Uehara and Robert Glasper  in San Francisco this weekend and had nothing but good things to say.  Hiromi closed the program with Place to Be. I wish I could have been there.

Breaking down walls in classical music

In case you missed it, there’s a buzz in the air about the future of classical music. What can we do to get more people out to concerts? Are we “beating a dead horse” by insisting that our children take traditional piano lessons? Does anyone really want to hear me play that (Beethoven, Bach, Mozart, Schubert…) piece when they could download Horowitz’s performance?

Alex Ross (The Rest is Noise) spoke at Wigmore Hall this week for the annual Royal Philharmonic Society lecture.  This appeared in the Gramaphone article

As for solutions, Ross was keen to emphasise that he hadn’t arrived at the Wigmore with a set of prescriptions. However, he did make two suggestions. Interestingly, neither was linked to clapping. The first was that the invisible wall between the performer and the audience needed to be broken down, and that the way to do that is for the performers to talk to their audiences. His second suggestion was for the concert hall lights to be dimmed, in order to encourage the audience to focus on the stage rather than on their programme notes or other distractions. He also suggested that, were we to axe the rules, we would by no means descend into chaos; instead, audiences would simply work out what felt right, and most of the time they would be.

I’m happy to say our recent Theremin & Rubberball Piano performance was a good example of breaking down that wall . We performed part of the program by candlelight and there was plenty of informal give and take with the audience members. I’m looking forward to more ‘relaxed’ performances at The Music Studio, such as this Jazz Salon with Dave Leonhardt coming up on March 19th.

But this is just the tip of the iceberg. Every day I’m reading about creative and talented new performers, fresh new ideas, and timely marketing advice for classical musicians.  Stay tuned, as upcoming posts will feature more pianists that are taking their performances in new directions.

Chopin’s Birthday Party in Warsaw

Warsaw is celebrating Chopin’s birthday with a 170-hour birthday party and round the clock performances of his music. It’s estimated that about 25,000 people will be attending the party this week.

You could have heard jazz star Grazyna Auguscik as she improvised over Chopin melodies, or an unknown young pianist playing nocturnes at 3am to curled-up couples and solitary night-owls. Nearly 300 musicianssigned up to play at “The Longest Birthday”, the idea for which came from the doubt surrounding the composer’s actual date of birth.

Church records put it at 22 February, but Fryderyk Chopin and his family always said it was 1 March. In any case, it was 200 years ago, and Poles are determined to celebrate. The government has designated 2010 Official Chopin Year, and a “celebrations committee” is co-ordinating events around the world.

(read the entire article here)

Another big draw in Warsaw this month is the opening of a new multimedia interactive museum in the center of Warsaw. Culture Minister Bogdan Zdrojewski hailed it as “the most modern biographical museum in Europe and even the world.”  The museum is housed in the Ostrogski Palace, home of the Fryderyk Chopin Institute which was renovated and expanded to house the new exhibit.  Read more here and here.