Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Piano Survivor: The Winner Is ...

I can't believe the school year is already winding down! Summer is right around the corner, which means it's time to announce our studio's favorite concert pianist and Piano Survivor for this year!

And the winner is:


Maestro Barenboim took on Martha Argerich at our final group class of the year playing Tchaikovsky's Concerto No. 1. The vote was close, but the students decided that the intensity of Mr. Barenboim's performance made him the studio favorite.

Here are the performances we watched if you'd like to check them out!

Thank you so much for playing along this year! We'll be back in the fall for more listening challenges and fun activities. Have a wonderful summer!

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Piano Survivor Final Showdown!

The winner of our January Piano Survivor was the one and only:


Maestro Barenboim has his own wonderful YouTube channel full of fun interviews, performance tips, and of course, amazing music! I encourage you to explore some of what his channel has to offer.

Our final Piano Survivor installment will be held at our group class on April 8, 2017. Daniel Barenboim will take on our last mystery performer during class, and we will vote on our final Piano Survivor!

If you just can't get enough of Daniel Barenboim, here is a video clip of a concert he conducted in Buenos Aires, which also featured the amazing musical icon, Martha Argerich.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Piano Survivor: January Edition

Welcome to a new year and our next piano survivor listening challenge! Narrowly edging out our long-standing victor this month was our red corner contender:


Both of our December musicians were amazing, and the comments you gave me about these two performances were thoughtful and showed very good listening. Great work!

For our January challenge, our red corner challenger will remain and take on one of the best loved concert pianists of all time, Vladimir Horowitz. We will listen to the piece of music that made me decide at the age of 8 that I wanted to play piano forever! I listened to my parents' recording of Horowitz in Moscow enough times to memorize this piece before I ever played it.

Vladamir Horowitz was born in 1903 in Kiev, Ukraine. He first took piano lessons from his mother, who was also a gifted pianist. He attended the Kiev Conservatory and began touring Europe in 1920. He made his debut performance in the United States in 1928, and his ability to connect with his audiences combined with his amazing technical skill made him a crowd favorite. In addition to his concert performances, Horowitz made a number of popular recordings which are still well regarded today. Horowitz suffered from crippling performance anxiety despite his amazing skill, and several times he had to be pushed onto the stage to perform.

Our performers will be playing Domenico Scarlatti's Sonata in E Major. This piece was originally written for the harpsichord. Although the audio quality of these pieces is different due to the date of their recording, which interpretation do you like the best?

Here is Daniel Barenboim's recording:

And here is Vladimir Horowitz's performance taken from a concert he gave in 1968.

This might be our toughest challenge yet, so listen with ears wide open!

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!