Archive for the ‘Composers’ Category

Connecting to the Audiences

April 5, 2011

In the past few weeks, I have been preparing for several performances, putting together program notes, rehearsing and teaching quite a bit. As I prepare for this upcoming events, I often question myself, “Should I talk about the pieces I am going to play?” I think it’s important for the audience to know a little about the work so they will be able to connect with the performer, giving of course the appropriate circumstances of the performance. I usually like to prepare program notes with insights about the piece and/or the composer and whenever necessary, in addition to talking and adding a few other thoughts that weren’t mentioned in the program.

So, today I encountered a very interesting article that explains why it’s important for classical musicians to talk to their audiences. If  popular musicians do it all the time, why does classical music have to be different? Why does it have to set itself apart? At the end, it’s all about sharing ideas, experiences and entertaining other people.

We in the classical music world need to learn how to talk to audiences for two reasons:

1. It helps you connect with those who have come to see your performance. Let’s face it, the traditional concert situation is more than a little awkward these days, with a room full of audience members who may be largely uncomfortable with the experience of going to see music live and, to make matters worse, keep quiet all the way through. They often feel like they’re supposed to merely observe, although they’re not certain what they’re supposed to appreciate. When you speak to them, you can break through that distance right away, and if they find you engaging, you can start the process of winning them over before you’ve even played a note.

2. Audiences for the most part really, really want to like classical music, to understand and appreciate it. But since it’s not a part of current popular culture, many people feel a kind of distance between themselves and the music, and perhaps more than just a little intimidated around the high culture that allegedly goes with it. Finding the right tone and words to introduce a work of music (preferably without sounding the slightest bit high-minded) can reassure the audience that they may just have the ability to appreciate the music on your program and want to look further into the world of experience that classical music can provide.

Regarding what you’re actually going to say, it’s always best to find the words that come from a place of genuine connection rather than what you feel you’re supposed to say. It might even be a worthwhile idea to talk about your own personal journey and how as a performer you connect with the music you’re about to play rather than throwing around complex musical terminology. Try it. Your audiences will thank you.

Click here to read the full article: “Why Talking To Audiences Is Essential When Playing Classical Music”


Happy New Year! And I’m back blogging again!!!

January 9, 2011

OMG It’s been a very long time since my last post here! The last few months have been incredibly busy, but very rewarding too! I have been teaching at full speed, playing concerts, started taking piano lessons again, rehearsing lots of new pieces and preparing for upcoming auditions and music festivals. A great way to start the new year, I think!

One of my resolutions for the new year, include do some kind of sport (the only sport I do now is to tickle the ivories… ha ha), learn to play jazz (oh, yeah!!), get back to reading interesting books, keep sharing my passion for music and arts (of course!), blogging, and a gazillion other resolutions (I’ll be lucky if I get to half of them… lol)! But I think among all of them, I would definitely  include doing something back to the community! I think Spokane has a great potential and I really would love to help nurture the arts and music community in some way or another!

In 2011, it will be five years since I moved to Spokane. These past five years have been challenging, definitely, but so rewarding!!! I went from having no prospect at all with a career in music, having no piano to practice nor teach, no money for college and having all my family and friends in the other side of the world, to graduating from college, being granted  for a full year with a brand new beautiful piano that I could have never dreamed of (not even on my most remote dreams), started my own piano studio with amazing students, married my loving husband, and had a chance to meet some new great friends along the way!

As hard it may seemed at times, in retrospect, I’m so thankful for my time here in Spokane. Not many people can say they do what they love, and please, I don’t intend to brag about it at all!  And don’t get me wrong, a musician’s life is hard! It requires a lot of hours of daily practice just to keep up with your level of skills, plus lots of hard work on teaching, composing, performing, and studying music in general acquire more knowledge and understanding of music on a much deeper level.

Nonetheless, I have learned a lot in my time here and I just wanted to share some of my thoughts! I am very excited for the 2011 with lots of great projects coming up! I’ll keep you posted!

I wish an awesome New Year to all of you!!!!

Danza Negra by Camargo Guarnieri

August 16, 2010

Recording on a Digital Piano

July 22, 2010

Recently, I have been experimenting with a lot different ways to record piano music. As much as I love the sound of an acoustic piano, I decided to experiment with the digital piano to see what kind of sound I could get with it. A few weeks ago, I blogged on the 200th anniversary of Robert Schumann, which you can read more about here. So, this week I decided to record a little of Dreaming from Scenes of Childhood by Robert Schumann.

I hope you enjoy!

Listen to Dreaming by Schumann here

Music for Everyone

July 15, 2010

Technology in our today’s fast-paced world have brought us limitless possibilities and tools, expanding our communication, networking and much easier access to information. It “is a “fantastic bridge between what anybody is able to do and you might want to express”, says MIT Media Lab music professor, cellist and composer Tod Machover.

He is the creator of Hyperscore, a computer program that enable non-musicians to compose music by using lines and colors, so people basically “draw” music to create different sounds. He says the program “is pretty sophisticated, but easy to use.” As an accomplished cellist and composer, Tod Machover has written six operas, with the debut of Death and the Powers coming up in September of 2010. He believes that today’s technology and music are very integrated, but sometimes technology can’t replace music and the feelings that come with it. “I love my Iphone, but it’s not an instrument, (…) and it doesn’t feel and sound as good as the sound coming out of my cello”, he says.

On the other hand, he believes that music comes from all around us and this kind of technology will allow its access to everyone. “It’s democratizing music because it lets everybody make their own music”, he says. Art can be used as a wonderful tool to educate and change lives, however “it should be available and understandable to everybody. It should be serious but not elitist”, says Machover

The advancements in neuroscience of music and different technologies could bring people to experience music in such ways that one would be able to interact and respond to music individually. This could be used as a Music Therapy a tool to help treat depression patients. “Specialists who are partly psychiatrists and partly composers and partly neuroscientists could help create that music and prescribe it, then shape and tweak it during a listening experience for maximum impact. That might be a dream now, but it will soon be possible, and this seems an enormous change in the potential of music to reach us in the most powerful way”, he says.

Hyperscore Official Website

For more information, click here

©2010 Spokane Piano Studio

“Liszt’s Manner of Giving Lessons” – Part II (continuation)

July 13, 2010

This blog is the last part of three posts about Siloti’s experiences and impressions on this master and teacher Franz Liszt, originally published on the book “Siloti’s Memories” by Meethven Simposon, and later printed on the The Etude edition of July 1920.

Liszt’s Manner of Giving Lessons”

Liszt’s lessons were of a totally different order from the common run. As a rule he sat beside, or stood opposite to, the pupil who was playing, and indicated by the expression of his face the nuances he wished to have brought into the music. It was only for the first two months that he taught me in front of all the other pupils; after I went to him in the morning when I was working at any specially big thing, and he taught me by myself. I always knew so throughly what I wanted to express in each piece of music that I was able to look at Liszt’s face all the time I was playing.

No one else in the world could show musical phrases as he did, merely by the expression of his face. If a pupil understood these fine shades, so much better for him; if not, so much for the worst! Liszt told me that he could explain nothing to pupils who did not understand him from first. He never told us what to work at; each pupil could prepare what he liked. All we had to do when we came to the lesson was to lay the piano at the piano; Liszt the picked out the things he wished to hear.

There were only two things we were not allowed to bring: Liszt’s 2nd Rhapsody (because it was too often played) and Beethoven’s Sonata quasi una fantasia which Liszt in his time had played incomparably, as was afterwards proven to me. Neither did he like anyone to prepare Chopin’s Scherzo in B-flat minor, which he nicknamed the “Governess” Scherzo, saying that it ought to be reserved for those people who were qualifying for the post of governess. Everything else of Chopin’s, particularly his Preludes, he delighted in hearing. He insisted on a poetical interpretation, not a “salon” performance, and it irritated him when the group of small notes were played too quickly, “conservatorium-fashion” as he called it” (The Etude, p.448).

“Liszt’s Manner of Giving Lessons” – Part II

July 12, 2010

This post is Part II of the original article from the July 1920 edition of The Etude by Alexander Siloti on his thoughts and experiences studying with Franz Liszt.

“To describe Liszt’s lessons in such a way as to give an idea of his personality would be impossible. It is necessary to see certain and certain people if one would have a clear impression of them. There were thirty or forty of us young fellows, and I remember  that (…) we looked small and feeble besides the old man, shrunken with age. He was literally like a sun in our midst; when we were with him we fest the rest of the world to be in shadow, and when we left his presence, out hearts were so filled with gladness that our faces were, all unconsciously, wreathed in rapturous smiles.

The lesson took place three times a week – on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays – from four to six o’clock. Anybody who wished could come and have a lesson without paying a farthing. Liszt remembered his own desire, when quire a boy, to enter the Paris Conservatory, and the refusal to admit him on the part of the director (Cherubini) because he was a foreigner. This refusal, he said, made such an impression on him that he voweled to himself that if he ever became a great musician he would give lessons without taking any payment. It was practically a condition that men should come to the lessons, not in frock coats, but wearing lounge jackets, and that ladies should be simply dressed – the idea that the poorer pupils should not feel uncomfortable besides the richer ones” (The Etude, p.447).

©2010 Spokane Piano Studio

“Liszt’s Wonderful Hospitality” – Part I

July 12, 2010

The following are thoughts extracted from the July 1920 edition of The Etude by Alexander Siloti on his experiences studying with the composer and pianist Franz Liszt.

“I packed up my belongings – not for my new quarters, but for Russia – and, taking with me Chopin’s Ballade in A-flat, I went to Liszt for my lesson. As I approached the house the same sinking sensation which I had experienced at table came over me again,  and I went into my lesson as to a final ordeal before I started back in Russia. Liszt said good-morning to me very kindly. There were about twenty-five pupils present. Somebody played something – I do not remember what it was – then came my turn. I sat down and began the Ballade, but I had only played two bars when Liszt stopped me, saying: “Si, signore, si, signore,” said Liszt in Italian, smiling a trifle maliciously. I continued playing, but he stopped me several times and played over certain passages for me. When I got up from the piano I felt bewitched. I looked at Liszt, and was conscious of a gradual change in myself. My whole being became suffused by a glow of warmth and goodness, and by the end of my lesson I could not believe that, only two hours before, I had packed my things and wanted to run away. I left Liszt’s house a different being, and was convinced that I should stay and study with him. All my trouble – that feeling of loneliness and helplessness, arising from my ignorance of the language – as if it at the touch of a magic hand. I had become all at once a man who knew his own mind; I realized that there was a sun to whose rays I could turn for warmth and comfort” (The Etude, p.447).

Liszt was undoubtedly consider one of the great pianists in the history of music. His vast knowledge and music skills were obviously present through his virtuosic playing and his teachings. He inspired his students to not only become better at piano playing, but to enrich their lives and become better people through music. This is an example that all music teachers should embrace. Music should not be about knowing how to play “the notes”, but it should be a channel to better comprehend the world around us and to express our feelings, thoughts and our souls.

Very Rare Music Publications from 1905-1920’s

July 11, 2010

A few months ago, one of my students gave a collections of antique scores and music magazines from the about  1905’s and 1920’s that he had found in a garage sale. The pages were very warned out and fragile,  but I have found these incredibly fascinating with lots of great insights on how people understood and taught music almost a century ago. Among these rare publications, there was The Etude, which was a U.S Magazine  with its first publication in October 1883, and its last publication in 1957. The articles in this magazine were targeted to both musicians and amateurs, including subjects varying from music history, pedagogy, gossips and piano sheet music.

One of these collections of The Etude (July 1920) tells us about Liszt’s teaching style by one of his own pupils, Alexander Siloti, who was considered one of the great Russian pianists and masters of his time. Since the article is quite long, I will be dividing the next posts for this blog into three parts, with Part I talking about “Liszt’s Wonderful Hospitality” and Part II, about Liszt’s Manner of Giving Lessons”, and Part III on Liszt’s Manner of Giving Lessons” (continuation). The original article were excerpts extracted from the complete authorized English translation of the book “Siloti’s Memories”, by Meethven Simposon.

Stay tuned for more updates in this post about interesting thoughts and facts on the great pianist and composer Franz Liszt! 😉

Traumerei by Robert Schumann

June 9, 2010

“Traumerei” by Robert Schumann is undoubtedly one of my favorite pieces from all time.  It was in fact one of the pieces that made me want to play the piano, but it still brings me to this day the same impressions and feelings as if I was hearing it for the first time. It has a very simple melody, which reoccurs many times throughout the piece. Nevertheless, it is this simplicity that makes it so remarkable.

Robert Kapliow, on his program What Makes it Great, has a very interesting short article exploring this beautiful work.

To mark the 200th anniversary of Robert Schumann’s birth, pianist and composer Rob Kapilow takes a look at one of Schumann’s most quiet, introspective and most popular pieces — “Träumerei,” often translated as “Dreaming,” from the set of 13 solo piano pieces called Kinderszenen, or Scenes from Childhood. The piece stakes everything on one moment of epiphany, and it’s so beautifully set up.

The opening musical idea of the piece Kapilow calls “four-notes-and-then-something.” The first time the pattern is heard, the notes gracefully ascend. The next time, that fourth note is even higher. Then Schumann repeats, to “make sure we get it in our heads,” says Kapilow.

Yet a third version shows up, too — and it’s the very last time the pattern appears that is the clincher. “And that kind of epiphany,” Kapilow says, “that slight change — the one telling chord, the one moment that sums up all the emotion — is what’s so perfect about “Träumerei”. It’s the last step of dream world before you come back to reality.”

To read the full articleclick here