Inside the Studio with Nicholas Phillips

In this lesson, we focused on character and touch that are stylistically appropriate, and I encouraged Promise to think more independently about phrasing. Promise is a Music Education major. We had one lesson on this piece a month prior to recording this video. Music and Technology Featured: Haydn, Piano Sonata in G Major, Hob:XVI:39 (1st movement)...
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From the Artist Bench with Andrew Cooperstock

Sonata in F Minor, Op. 2 No. 1 by Ludwig van Beethoven
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The Composer's Score from Conception to Publication: The Evolution of Ginastera's Piano Sonata No. 2

Pianists, when learning repertoire, are not always aware of the challenges faced in producing a published edition. Some composers seem to frequently change their minds, making it difficult for scholars to agree upon a definitive score. Piano Sonata No. 2, Op. 53, by Alberto Ginastera is an interesting case study. I first encountered this work when ...
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Diversifying Concert Programming: Introducing Works for Solo Piano by Asian Female Composers

As a performing musician, I am always looking for ways to expand my concert repertoire, not only to promote diversity in music programming but also to spark interest in both students and audiences by introducing fresh voices into traditional classical repertoire. In my search for solo piano works, I came across three Asian female composers who have...
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The A-B-C’s of Nocturne Repertoire: Alexander Before Chopin

Piano students transitioning from method books to standard intermediate repertoire often yearn to study the beautiful and deservedly popular Chopin Nocturnes. However, these require oft-underestimated musical sensitivity and technical command. Jane Magrath recognizes this in The Pianist's Guide to Standard Teaching and Performing Literature, statin...
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Subverting the Pianistic Psyche: Learning Approaches to Webern’s Concerto for Nine Instruments, Op. 24

A well-trained pianist is a musician fundamentally chained to notational accuracy—one of the prime pianistic obsessions. In traditional pianistic modes of learning, embracing tonally centered repertoire, accuracy of notational acquisition has absolute primacy. Pianists at all levels of accomplishment are guided by an inherent, perhaps inherite...
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The Beethoven Piano Sonatas: Frequently Asked Questions

As the 250th anniversary of the birth of Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) approaches, it is a good time to get in the celebratory spirit by answering some FAQs. A warning, though: behind every seemingly straightforward answer, there are always more questions! 1. What editions should I use?  Simple answer: There are excellent Urtext editions av...
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Steps to Parnassus: Preparing Students to Play Advanced Masterworks

All learning of complex knowledge and sophisticated skills must be approached by first learning more limited and simplified versions of what students are eventually needing to master. The nature of the simplifications—the substance and magnitude of each task, the sequence in which the tasks are presented, the speed of ...
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The Neglected Consolations of Franz Liszt

Franz Liszt's beloved Consolation No. 3 in D-flat Major from the Six Consolations S.172, is a character piece frequently performed by the advancing pianist in recital and festival adjudications. Reminiscent of a nostalgic nocturne, Consolation No. 3 features a stunning melodic line and unpredictable harmonic nuances that have surely contribute...
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Deciphering Chopin’s shorthand in the posthumous Mazurka in F minor

If someone had told me a decade ago that I was going to produce the first (and, so far, only) published reconstruction of Chopin's posthumous Mazurka in F Minor that includes every uncanceled measure of the composer's sketch, I would have laughed. But apparently when a performance opportunity inspires a research obsession, unexpected things can hap...
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Touching Debussy, Teaching Alchemy

faries-are-dancing The Fairies are Exquisite Dancers, Illustration in 'Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens' by J.M Barrie
Sound is touch at a distance. Jad Abumrad, from Radiolab "Sound is touch at a distance." I heard this quote at a recent talk given by Radio Lab creator, Jad Abumrad, and I couldn't get it out of my mind. Over and over it repeated itself. Mothers sing to babies after they put them down as a way of continuing physical contact, Jad told us. So, i...
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Elizabeth Medici
Wonderful discussion of Debussy's elegant and refined style that gives us so much emotional freedom at the piano. It is also a ver... Read More
Thursday, 12 July 2018 10:22
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Learning John Cage's Sonatas and Interludes

I couldn't use percussion instruments for Syvilla's dance, though, suggesting Africa, they would have been suitable; they would have left too little room [on the stage] for her to perform. I was obliged to write a piano piece. I spent a day or so conscientiously trying to find an African 12-tone row. I had no luck. I decided that what was wrong was...
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A master class on three favorite Beethoven sonata movements

The thirty-two sonatas of Beethoven are often cited as the pianists' New Testament, with Johann Sebastian Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier being the Old Testament. These treasured works are a staple in piano teaching studios throughout the world, and are also required repertoire in the most demanding international piano competitions. A sonata or fugue ...
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The completion of De Profundis: Instrumental Psalm for Piano & Orchestra by Franz Liszt

Excerpt 1: Liszt’s dedication page. “De Profundis Psaume Instrumental pour Orchestre et Piano Principal by F. Liszt.” Dedicated to the Abbé Felicité de Lamennais.
The instrumental psalm De Profundis for piano & orchestra by Franz Liszt (Raabe: 668, Searle: 691) is an unfinished, though virtually complete manuscript held by the Goethe and Schiller Archive in Weimar, Germany. It was composed during the late summer of 1834 while Liszt was staying at La Chênaie, in Brittany, having sought out the company of ...
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The Pedal Piano and the Schumanns

In 1845, Robert Schumann wrote what are undoubtedly some of the most beautiful and enduring pieces of music for the pedal piano, his Six Etudes in Canon Form, Op. 56; Four Sketches, Op. 58; and Six Fugues on the Name B-A-C-H, Op. 60 (for organ or pedal piano). Schumann was an enthusiastic student of counterpoint, and his interest in the pedal piano...
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Which Chopin?

There have been numerous collected editions of Chopin's music since his death, and few of them agree on anything. Why is this? The answer lies principally in the complexity of the source tradition, and I include under that heading both manuscript and early printed sources. It may be helpful to attempt a rough classification of these sources. Sketch...
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Robert Schumann and the art of musical composition

Following hard on the heels of the Mendelssohn bicentenary, 2010 marks the two-hundredth anniversary of the birth of Robert Schumann (1810-1856), a composer who will surely garner his full share of symposia, concerts, and special events reassessing his place in the European canon. To a large extent, Schumann has fared better in music histories...
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How do you teach the rhythm challenges in Debussy's Clair de lune?

In this department over the past thirteen years, many authors and myself have alluded to two different meanings of the term "rhythm." Prosaic rhythm (also called counting rhythm) is the mere timing of events decoded from the printed page using counting or other methods. Poetic rhythm is much broader, encompassing virtually everything...
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Ciaran Norton
Please teach me to profess the challenges and all difficulties of the field. The probe is stuffed for the movement of the essayont... Read More
Monday, 22 June 2020 02:01
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What do Beethoven's piano sonatas reveal about his pianism?

from the series: Let's Get Physical: Technique  Scott McBride Smith, Editor  Hans von Bülow, the nineteenth-century pianist, conductor, and master class teacher won fame for his meticulous musicianship and formidable technique. His sarcastic bon mots to students were legendary. "You have but one qualification for playing th...
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You consistently have high school students that play extremely difficult repertoire such as Chopin Ballades. How do you prepare them to play this difficult repertoire at such a young age?

I am amazed when I see high school students effortlessly playing advanced repertoire, and I have observed that certain teachers seem to constantly have students at this level. Wondering how this is accomplished, I asked two such teachers, Paul Wirth and Donald Morelock, to share some of their methods. Of course success...
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