October 2, 2015 - Andre Previn on professional critics
"...when I read in certain very intellectual reviews that 'this phrase shouldn't be that fast' or 'this should be softer', first of all, says who? Second of all, they don't ever seem to say, 'But my God, it's beautiful music!' They get stuck on how it's played. And how it's played is not that important, I don't think."
Click here to read the full interview.
May 11, 2015 - Young Heroes
In addition to the wonderful adults and college students from East Texas whom I have greatly enjoyed teaching, it has also been my privilege to teach some of the finest young people in this area, not the least of whom is Miss Jessica Torres, who just completed the 9th grade at Grace Community School in Tyler, TX. In addition to being a hard-working, focused, kind, and humble young lady, she comes from a fine family who are grounded and supportive of all we do in the studio. Jessica has known since she was a very young girl that she wants to study to be a dentist. Below is a picture of Jessica holding the awards she was recently presented from her school for:
Excellence in Academics "Honors",
Excellence in Spanish 1,
Excellence in Biology 1 PAP.
Congratulations, Jessica, for being the fine young lady and role-model that you are. I look forward to working with you the remainder of your high school years.
May 23, 2014 - Heroes for Young Concert Pianists
In an International Piano May/June 2014 article about "The Next Generation", three emerging artists were asked about the pianists they admired.
Adam Laloum, age 27:
Alexej Gorlatch, age 26:
"Anyone who makes me interested to continue listening and keeps my full attention, making it impossible for me to go and switch off or even turn up the volume, because I might miss something while doing that."
Nareh Arghamanyan, age 25:
For me, the most interesting thing about their heroes is that there is not a race-horse in the list, nor is there anyone with technical prowess but little musicality--all this from people in their 20's. There is hope for the future of very good music coming from the hands of the next generation.
December 20, 2013 - The Sad Realities of the Current State of Piano Competitions
Click here for an excellent and in-dept article about what really goes on in judging piano competitions, by Michael Johnson of Facts and Arts. Some of his comments:
"...pianists and teachers say that young artists who concentrate on competitions can suffer from the rigid imprint of competition pianistic style, narrowing of repertoire..."
"[French] Pianist [Francois Frederique] Guy despairs of the trends that have skewed competition. He says competitions have become a reflection of society in general--'fast, brilliant, media-friendly, superficial. And what survives all this? Nothing. Sometimes music is not the winner.' "
Topics also addressed are redundancy of and bias of judges.
October 14, 2013 - Contemporary Music
Excellent article on contemporary music: click here.
My favorite comment in the article: "Too strange for the average music-lover? Perhaps. I, too, reject some of the experimentation, but when I connect with a piece, the effect can be exhilarating--miles ahead of the latest teenager trying to play a Scarlatti sonata faster and louder than Horowitz."
October 12, 2013 - Contemporary Music & Contemporary Technology
Click here: Technology meets composer...finally!
July 18, 2013 - Piano Competitions
I have talked with many of you over the past couple of years about the current state of piano competitions all over the world, which is an ever-growing controversial topic, often cited in International Piano magazine and elsewhere. Here is an article that you may find interesting:
article/20130706/ENT03/ 307070013/World-Piano- Competition-battles-intensify? nclick_check=1
As many of you know, my opinion on this is as follows:
The homogenization of piano playing today is regrettable: fast & loud--where's the expression? This results from performers having far fewer pieces in their repertoire than decades ago, and with constant repetition of these few pieces comes a speed & agility that fascinates technically, but less attention is paid to expression (except maybe in the facial & shoulder gymnastics...). However, fast & loud appeals to "the masses", and since there is little else to choose from in competition performances these days, that's what is "winning".
Where's Evgeny Kissin (one of my heroes) when you need him?!... He's a wonderful pianist, born & trained in Russia, has a well-deserved & popular concert-career, and never entered a competition. His playing is beautifully & uniquely expressive, and technically quite a wonder.
Then there's the controversial Stephen Kovacevich, whose daring interpretations absolutely rock my world. When you hear him, you know it's him & no one else. You will never hear from him a canned performance--the vast majority of today's young competition-winners' performances are interchangeable: they play according to all the ink on the page, whip it up to a break-neck speed, then observation ends there, every performance of a piece is cookie-cutter identical. They take no risks, expressiveness is dry, as if you are chewing on cardboard.
One of my all-time favorites is Martha Argerich. She has all the expressive interpretation that has gone lacking with the new performers of this past decade, yet she can leave even the fastest of the young turks lapping up dust in her wake. She pushes indicated tempi to their outer limits and never sacrifices a drop of expression or individual interpretation. Stephen & Martha used to be married, by the way, are now divorced, but still respect each other & continue to perform together--Stephen is one of the few who can keep up with Martha's tempi & interpretations, as is Kissin, who has also performed with her.
I encourage you to google competition winners of this or the past few years, listen to some of their performances (easily found on Youtube), then find on Youtube performances by Kissin, Kovacevich, and Argerich, and compare for yourself. Decide for yourself what you like and prefer--and bear in mind that you do not have to agree with me. An informed opinion on any art is a valid one, and when it comes to music it's just fine to like whatever you like!