Monday, September 12, 2016

Piano Survivor! Lang Lang vs. Perahia

For our monthly listening challenges this year, we are going to play a fun game! I will be pitting two famous concert pianists against each other (virtually, of course), and you get to decide who becomes this year's

PIANO SURVIVOR!

Each month I will post two videos of famous pianists playing some of the greatest pieces written for piano. You will be asked to listen to both performances and then vote on which performance you like the best! Remember to focus on the sounds you hear and not the quality of the video, the appearance of the performers, or anything else that might distract you from the music itself. You can either cast your vote at your lesson sometime this month or leave a comment below with your initials.

This month we're pitting Lang Lang and Murray Perahia head to head in a throw down playing Chopin's Etude Opus 25 No. 1, sometimes called the "Aeolian Harp" etude. Even though these two amazing pianists are playing the same piece, you will hear the music interpreted very differently!

In the red corner, please welcome Lang Lang! Lang Lang is a Chinese concert pianist whose appearances include the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics, concerts at the White House, and sold out shows all over the world. Fun fact: Lang Lang is only 34 years old!



And in the blue corner, please welcome Murray Perahia! Mr. Perahia is an American conductor and pianist who has made many well regarded recordings. This video was recorded at a concert in 2014.



Who do you think deserves to advance to next month's challenge? Why? The voting begins NOW!

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Welcome to a New Year!

I can't believe we are about to start another year of piano lessons! Summer has flown by, but I am ready to get back in the trenches, and I hope you are ready for some amazing music making at home! Weekly lessons will resume on September 12, 2016.

A few friendly reminders for piano parents:

1) Please take a moment to review the current studio policy, calendar, and fee schedule that I will be distributing via email. These documents are also available on the studio web site here.

2) Please make sure your student is equipped with all their lesson materials, binder, notebook, and any homework sheets I have assigned each week.

3) Please look here on the blog throughout the year for listening assignments and other fun challenges! These are an important part of your student's lesson experience.

4) Be sure to cheer on the accomplishments of your fellow students on our studio's YouTube channel! Click here to subscribe!

Thank you so much for your continued support. I am excited to see the growth this year will bring!

Monday, March 21, 2016

March Composer of the Month: Franz Liszt

Franz Liszt (1811-1886) was truly the premier music superstar of his time. Known for his amazing technical ability and showmanship, Liszt rose to rock star like fame during the Romantic period. He became known for writing and performing piano pieces more difficult and showy than had ever been composed before, and he was the first pianist to perform solo recitals from memory.


Fame and fortune followed Liszt, but like many celebrities, Liszt lived a life of scandal. He toured and performed all over Europe beginning at age 12, and he was inspired by the great violinist, Niccolo Paganini. Liszt was also known for his “transcriptions” (transforming works originally written for other instruments into piano pieces.) In his later years, Liszt continued composing and took on students of his own. He studied composing very seriously and influenced many composers who came after him.

Liszt's best known pieces include his Transcendental Etudes, Sonatina in B Minor, Liebestraume, La Campanella, and Un Sospiro.

Here are two of my favorite of Liszt's more than 1,000 compositions for piano, La Campanella and Un Sospiro. Enjoy!





Wednesday, January 6, 2016

January Composer of the Month: Aaron Copland

This month's composer is one of my very favorite!

Aaron Copland was born on November 14, 1900, in Brooklyn, New York. Copland studied piano as a child and at age 20, moved to France where he studied piano and composition. In the mid-1920's he returned to the United States and began a long and fruitful career as a composer, conductor, and author.

Copland was an American composer through and through. He loved the idea of creating music that explored jazz and Latin American sounds and other music that he thought uniquely reflected American culture. He also composed a lot of music for films. Some of his best know works are: Piano Variations, The Dance Symphony, El Salon Mexico, A Lincoln Portrait, Appalachian Spring, Rodeo, and Fanfare for the Common Man.

During his life, he won a Pulitzer Prize, an Oscar, and was nominated for several Academy Awards. Copland died on December 2, 1990, in North Terrytown, New York.

One of his best known and loved pieces, Fanfare for the Common Man, is featured below. For full effect, turn your speakers up loud!




If you just can't get enough Copland (I know I can't), here's an additional selection. I'm sure you will recognize this one!


Monday, October 5, 2015

October Composer of the Month: Antonin Dvorak

     As piano players, sometimes it's important to look to the wider world of music for things we can learn. The beautiful melodies of Antonin Dvorak have a lot to teach us, and his music is fun to listen to! This month's listening assignment is the second movement (section) of Dvorak's famous Symphony Number 9, "From the New World."


     Dvorak was a type of Romantic composer called a "nationalist." A nationalist is a person who uses the melodies and rhythms of their native land to create new and expressive music. Dvorak encouraged others to use the unique music of their native countries to add to the world of music as well.

    Antonin Dvorak was born on September 8, 1841, in what is now the Czech Republic. As a young man, he learned to play the violin, piano, and organ. In 1874, 1876, and 1877, Dvorak entered and won the Austrian State Prize for Composition. Johannes Brahms served as a judge and was very impressed with Dvorak's work.

     From 1892-1895, Dvorak lived in the United States and worked as the director of the National Conservatory of Music in New York City. While there, he formed an interest in African American and Native American folk music. He believed that both of these styles of music ought to form the basis of America's own nationalist music. Dvorak was saddened and surprised by the mistreatment of African Americans and Native Americans and the prejudice he observed while living in the United States.

     Dvorak returned home to Bohemia in 1895, where he lived until his death on May 1, 1904. Dvorak is remembered to this day as a great musical master, an inspiring teacher, and one of the great composers of European music.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Get Ready!

It's almost time to get another year of piano lessons underway! Weekly lessons resume the week of September 14, and I encourage all current and interested families to attend my free parent orientation session at the Bozeman Public Library large conference room on September 10 from 7-8 pm.

I'm so excited to get the year underway! See you soon!

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

The Genius of Maurice Ravel

Hello, students! For our last listening assignment of the school year, I'd like to introduce you to Maurice Ravel, a true Impressionist master and one of my favorite composers.

 Ravel was born on March 7, 1875, in France. He remains one of the best known composers of all time and is now regarded as one of the great Impressionist artists.

Ravel began studying at the Paris Conservatory at age 14 and continued there into his early twenties. During his long career he wrote music for all kinds of instruments, including some very famous works for the piano. Ravel loved to take pieces written for other instruments and rewrite them for the orchestra. His best known works for the piano include Jeux d'eau (Fountains), Miroirs (Mirrors), and Le Tombeau de Couperin (the Tomb of Couperin). Ravel's orchestration of Modest Mussorgsky's piano piece, Pictures at an Exhibition, is widely played and well loved. Ravel died in Paris, France on December 28, 1937.
 
This year we've been studying some of the qualities of Impressionist music, and when you listen carefully you will hear many of these ideas in Ravel's music. Can you hear each of the Impressionist ideas we've studied in Jeux d'eau (Playing Water) linked below?
 
1) Dissonance - Notes that don't quite "fit" together.
2) Perpetual Motion - Motion that doesn't stop
3) Intervals of 4ths and 5ths
4) Large leaps between low and high sounds
5) Pedal effects that may sound veiled or blurry