Thursday, December 1, 2016

Piano Survivor: December Edition

This month our performers were once again separated by only one vote, and again our winner is:

In your comments to me, you made it clear that you love her power and energy combined with her emotional performances. For December's listening challenge, she will take on another of my favorite concert pianists playing one of my all time favorite pieces by Beethoven!

In the red corner this month is Daniel Barenboim. Mr. Barenboim is widely hailed as one of the great musicians of the 20th century. He was born in Argentina in 1942 and made his international piano debut at the young age of 10. In addition to conducting orchestras in major cities all over the world and receiving multiple honors and awards, Mr. Barenboim speaks six languages fluently and is a citizen of four countries!

He and our blue corner contender, Ms. Litsitsa, will be playing the first movement of Beethoven's Sonata Opus 13, No. 8, usually called the "Pathetique" due to its tragic character. This sonata was composed in 1798 when Beethoven was only 27 years old, and it is still one of his best loved and most played compositions.

This piece is longer than those I usually post, so listening to a small portion of each video is acceptable for this assignment.

Here is Daniel Barenboim's performance:

And here is Valentina Litsitsa's:

Remember to listen to each performance carefully. You might even try listening with your eyes closed. What did you like about each one? What do you think this piece is about? 

The voting is open until December 31!

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Piano Survivor: November Edition

Hi, everyone! Thanks so much for playing along with our Piano Survivor Listening Challenge so far. Our October Piano Survivor is:


It was a close call this time, with Valentina winning by just one vote! We are all sad to say goodbye to Lang Lang for now, but I encourage you to follow his videos on YouTube. He is an exciting and dynamic performer!

This month, our new red corner challenger will be the incredible Nikolai Lugansky. Nikolai is a Russian pianist and currently teaches at the Moscow Conservatory of Music. When he was only five years old and couldn't read music yet, Nikolai taught himself a Beethoven Sonata entirely by ear! He has gone on to have an extensive recording career and has worked with other famous musicians and conductors all over the world.

For this challenge, Nikolai and Valentina will be playing Rachmaninoff's Prelude in G-sharp minor. This piece was composed in 1910 during a period when Rachmaninoff was being forced to flee his homeland for fear of persecution. Can you hear the sleigh bells on the carriage mixed with the sad melody Rachmaninoff composed to express his feelings?

Here is Nikolai Lugansky's version:

And here is Valentina Litsitsa's:

Which is your favorite? Why?

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Piano Survivor: October Edition

The votes are in, and the choice was clear. September's favorite concert pianist was:


This month we're going to hear Lang Lang take on Valentina Lisitsa playing Franz Liszt's La Campanella. La Campanella, which means "little bell," remains one of the most famous pieces ever written for the piano, even after 165 years!

You will have until October 31 to cast your votes, either in the comments section below or in person at your lesson. Remember, everyone in your family can vote!

In the red corner, Lang Lang is back! Lang Lang is a very popular concert pianist from China. His emotional performances make him a crowd favorite.

In the blue corner, welcome Valentina Lisitsa! Valentina was born in Ukraine, where she originally intended to become a professional chess player. We are all glad that she decided to foster her early love of music instead. Her detailed and athletic playing astounds audiences all over the world.

Remember to listen carefully when watching each video. Clearly both performances are amazing, but which did you like better? Why?

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


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!