As the warmth of the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays give way to the bitter cold of a January day, what better time to focus for a moment on a Chopin Etude given the title "The Winter Wind?" The first four bars begin rather simply very carefully stating a melodic theme. Interestingly enough, those four bars were not originally included, but Chopin was persuaded to include that introduction later by a friend. From that point, the piece becomes much more difficult. The descending right-hand patterns create a major challenge to the performer as does the fact that there are also two melodies in the right hand. A top melody that creates the chromatic pattern of the first and third notes in the pattern and the second and fourth notes create a counter-melody. Add to the acrobatic right-hand work a less challenging left-hand part but also one that contains some rather large jumps. In this recording, Maurizo Pollini brings out the technique while at the same time brings the passion and musical phrasing that Chopin's etudes require. Enjoy the "Winter Wind" on a cold and blustery January day.
Chick Corea has inspired and influenced multiple generations of musicians with his jazz style and particularly his style of improvisation. Using elements from jazz, pop, classical, and a strong influence of music from other cultures, particularly Spanish music, Chick Corea blends and weaves a fusion of style. Chick Corea puts a big emphasis on melody. Most of his compositions have very memorable melodies. In this video, he talks about how he uses a melody as the starting point for an improvisation.
"Christmas at the Piano" probably brings to mind piano arrangements and transcriptions of favorite carols but let's take a moment and examine Franz Liszt's contribution to Christmas music. Weihnachtsbaum, or "Christmas Tree" is a collection of twelve piaces written between 1873 and 1876. Unlike much of Liszt's music, it does not demand technical virtuosity and ability. Some say it relates to Schumann's Kinderszenen or Debussy's Children's Corner.
The Snow is Dancing is the fourth piece in Claude Debussy's delightful Children's Corner. This collection was inspired by his two-and-one-half year old daughter, Chouchou. While pieces such as Doctor Gradas Ad Parnassum and Golliwog's Cakewalk may be the more familiar pieces in this collection, The Snow is Dancing is well worth getting to know. In Oscar Thompson's Debussy Man and Artist Thompson describes Chouchou watching the falling snowflakes through the window and waiting for the return of her "playmate"--the shining sun. This piece is a quiet and light toccata and is a great etude for practicing damper pedal technique. Debussy himself warns the player of using too much damper pedal and suggest using half-pedal. This and the finesse and lightness required of this piece make it by far the most difficult piece of the collection. Czech pianist Ivan Moravec is not a highly celebrated or recognized artist, but the colors he brings out in this interpretation bring the snow to life. Enjoy!
100 years ago, on October 19, 1916, the pianist Emil Gilels was born in Odessa what is now part of Ukraine. Gilels is recognized for his technical fluency and the tone we drew from the instrument. He had a large varied repertoire, but is perhaps best known for his performances of Beethoven, Brahms and Schumann. He was recording a cycle of Beethoven's piano sonatas for Deutsche Grammophone when he passed away in 1984. This is from a previously unreleased recording of a recital performed on Christmas Day, 1977. Deutsche Grammophone released this in August, just in time for what would be his 100th birthday.
I continue in the Hindemith journey. Since my last post on this topic, I have spent considerable time working on the first three movements, each of which is now more-or-less at performance tempo. The slow and careful time has payed off greatly and the last rehearsal with the soloist was quite encouraging. Now it is on to next steps.