January/February 2019: Book Reviews

Managing Stage Fright: A Guide for Musicians and Music Teachers, by Julie Jaffee Nagel.  Julie Nagel possesses a rare combination of skills. She has two music degrees from The Juilliard School, three psychology degrees from the University of Michigan, and further training at the Michigan Psychoanalytic Institute. I often joke with st...
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Closer Look: Visit the Menagerie

(S4) Truly Astounding Animals, by Peter Rudzik. Canadian composer Peter Rudzik's collection of twelve short piano solos for intermediate-to-advancing pianists takes us on a delightful, creative romp through the animal world. Reminiscent in spirit to Camille Saint-Saëns's Carnival of the An...
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Cliburn 2017

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Every four years, piano fans gather in Fort Worth, Texas, for one of the piano world's biggest parties: the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition. At this year's Cliburn—the fifteenth—Yekwon Sunwoo, 28, earned the Gold Medal. Although a native of South Korea, Sunwoo has degrees from Curtis and Juilliard (and, yes, he played the Rach 3). The S...
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Closer look: Grade by Grade Piano

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A bonanza for creative teachers and students A teacher places a spanking-new repertoire book in front of a student. "We're going to learn a contemporary piece," the teacher says. The student notices, however, that the piece was composed in 1945. "How," the student asks herself, "can this music be contemporary?" Living human beings write new pieces ...
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Our woman at the Cliburn: He was robbed

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Author's Note: Like so many of you, I watched the June 10 Cliburn finals online. (My daughter was graduating from high school on June 10. I can't imagine why the school district didn't plan around the Cliburn.) God save the child whose piano lesson followed little Georgy Tchaidze's. Georgy has his own. And he was robbed. Certainly, all six finalist...
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Our woman at the Cliburn: Judgment is nigh

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"Dies Irae." Judgment Day. In Fort Worth, that day is tomorrow, June 10, when, at the end of the three-week Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, final judgment will be passed on the six finalists. How apt, then, that, in Friday's night concerto round, American Kenneth Broberg performed Rachmaninoff's Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Op. 43....
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Our woman at the Cliburn: Brahms triumphant

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There's good, and there's Brahms. The Franck F-Minor Quintet and the Dvořák Op. 81 in A Major allow pianists to display their chops, but, baby, when Brahms enters the room, other composers might as well step aside. It takes intellect as well as musicality to play the Brahms Op. 34 Quintet in F-Minor, and Cliburn finalist Rachel Cheung possesses bot...
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Our woman at the Cliburn: Exposure on the concert stage

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Performing Mozart is precarious business. The pianist who tackles a Mozart concerto—in public, no less—is a brave person indeed.  To play Mozart is to risk exposure; so many things can go wrong. Miss a note, and there is no thick, Romantic, bulwark of harmony to cover your mistake. Minimize the shading, and the scalar passages sound like click...
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Our Woman at the Cliburn: Dvořák. And More Dvořák.

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How much Dvořák is an innocent listener expected to endure? Quite a bit, apparently, at least if the listener is attending this year's Van Cliburn International Piano Competition. The competition has moved into the final rounds, and each of the six remaining contestants joins the Brentano Quartet in the Cliburn's chamber portion. The finalists coul...
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Book Review May/June 2017: The Steinway that wouldn't budge

The Steinway That Wouldn't Budge: Confessions of a Piano Tuner, by Peter Tryon. My piano—as far as I know—only contains the standard hammers and such, plus perhaps the occasional penny or pencil. Other people's pianos…well, let's allow author and piano technician Peter Tryon do the honors: In pianos over the years, I've discovered pens, rulers, umb...
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Diverse and above suspicion: Creative juror selection for the future

It's a good thing I wasn't planning a leisurely Sunday coffee and croissant. June 9 was the last day of the quadrennial Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, and, as a visiting critic, my afternoon and evening were packed with activity. The last finals round finished around 5:30 p.m. I hotfooted it ten blocks to my hotel room, wrote a blog p...
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