Virtuosity & Piano Artistry

In the sphere of piano performance or piano artistry there are few human activities where the necessity for extraordinary physical prowess is so closely aligned with the greatest intellectual and emotional capacities.

The virtuoso must possess a memory capable of maintaining thousands of pages of music in the mind and fingers, under the stress and distractions of public performance; the virtuoso must be cultured and self-aware, musically able to convey the great range of meaning embodied within a chosen repertoire; the virtuoso must project both physical excitement and emotional communication; and the virtuoso must experience life to the fullest while remaining cloistered with an instrument in a relentless quest to maintain his or her craft at its highest level.

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Optimize Your Piano Practice Time

Practice Tips for Developing a Solid Technique in Piano Performance

Practicing is both an art and a science. Every student of piano performance must remember that their achievement on the instrument will be the direct result of the amount of time and the quality of their practicing.

The art and science of practicing is not just time spent at the instrument but time spent listening to the music the student is working on, studying and understanding the harmonic analysis of the music as well as researching the time period and technical characteristics of the composer of the piece you are working on.

In addition to this, it is advisable for the student to prepare a weekly plan outlining the time spent on specific techniques, repertoire, sight-reading and review of old or previously learned repertoire.

Technique

The purpose of technique is to serve the pianist’s imagination and realize his/her interpretive ideas on the instrument. The pianist should be able to have complete control of their fingers. In order to achieve this we have to train them so they will do whatever we want them to do to serve the pianists imagination. Technique and interpretation are interwoven.

Listening

Just as technique and interpretation are interwoven, reading musical scores and listening to music are equally important and interwoven. The art of listening to one’s own playing can be acquired first by listening to other pianists. Piano students need to learn to listen to other performances on a deeper level, following musical ideas and subtle nuances which the student may or may not incorporate in their own performances.

Music Theory

Just as technique and interpretation are interwoven and listening and reading are interwoven, understanding music scientifically or music theory and memorization are deeply interwoven. The human mind can best retain things it understands, things that ‘make sense’. If we understand something musically, understand the musical structure of the piece the student is well on the way to memorizing and a solid performance. With this being accomplished the pianist is then able to use their technique to serve their imagination and deliver an inspired performance.

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‘St Francois de Paule marchant sur le Flots’ Franz Liszt

‘Among the numerous miracles of St. Francis of Paola, the legend celebrates that which he performed in crossing the Straits of Messina. The boatmen refused to burden their barque with such an insignificant looking person, but he paying no attention to this, walked across the sea with a firm tread’…Franz Liszt

The story is beautifully captured in Liszt’s music. The calm strength of the opening hymn-like music is throughout the piece pitted against the roaring and crashing of the waves (represented by rushing scales and tremolos), finally emerging victorious in a glorious fortissimo restatement at the end of the piece.

Funérailles – Harmonies Poétiques et Religieuses

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Harmonies Poetiques et Religieuses is a piano suite comprised of ten compositions, Liszt dedicated the suite to his companion princess Sayn-Wittgenstein.

I. Invocation

II.   Ave Maria

III.  Benediction de Deus dans la Solitude

IV.  Pensee des Morts

V.  Pater Noster

VI.  Hymne de L’enfant a Son Reveil

VII.   Funerailles

VIII.   Miserere D’Apres Palestrina

VIIII   Andante Lagrimoso

X.      Cantique d’Amour

Many innovative concepts are explored in this suite such as constantly changing meters, no key signatures in addition to emphasis on the tritone.  Liszt develops these innovations further in his later compositions.  Fifty years later Liszt once again returned to the exploration of atonality in his Bagatelle ohne Tonart (Bagatelle Without Tonality).

On the autograph manuscript of Funérailles,Liszt writes October 1849.  Liszt indicated it was an elegy written as a tribute to three of his friends who died in the failed Hungarian Revolution.  Prince Felix Lichnowsky,  Count Laszlo Teleki and the Hungarian Prime Minister, Count Lajos Batthyany. It was a colossal defeat to the Hungarian people.

Death of Chopin October 1849

The intuitive use of material from Chopin’s heroic Ab Major Polonaise Opus 53 leads to speculation that this piece was more than an elegy to the Hungarian people but also an elegy to his dearly departed colleague F. Chopin.