Your Piano Journey

Pianodao – “The Way of Piano” – seeks to inform, challenge and inspire today’s piano players, teachers and students.

Built around the metaphor of piano playing as a lifetime journey, the website focuses on our musical development in the context of our broader lifestyle.

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How much musical baggage do you carry?

Guest Post by Roberta Wolff

One of the things I love about teaching is hitting upon that perfect explanation, aural, visual or verbal, which offers immediate clarity. Sometimes the answer comes after much reflection and thought and sometimes it seems to hit, apparently, from nowhere.

This is what happened recently with an adult student. After a strong start to her piece she began scrambling, reacting to the notes on the score rather than working with control. I pointed out that to keep playing at her current speed would be to create musical baggage.

This was the first time I had used the term, but her comprehension was immediate simply because she already understood the common phrase, emotional baggage. The idea of musical baggage resonated with her and so has proven to be a simple but powerful aid to her practice.

Naturally, I developed the idea so it could benefit more than just one student.

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Jazzin’ Americana

Sheet Music Review

Wynn-Anne Rossi may well be a new name to UK readers, but in the US she is a well known as a composer and dynamic educator. Commissions include works sponsored by Minnesota Public Radio, the National Endowment for the Arts, the American Composers Forum and the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra. She has over 70 piano publications, as well as original repertoire including orchestral and vocal works.

WynnAnneRossi.ashxWynn-Anne’s passion for promoting creativity in young musicians is reflected in her choice of publications with Alfred Music, which include the ’Musica Latina series of four repertoire and four duet books.

Her latest publications with Alfred are a series of four new solo piano books under the title Jazzin’ Americana, the subject of this review.

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Kyung Wha Chung speaks out against competitions

There’s a great quote from the iconic violinist Kyung Wha Chung in the latest BBC Music Magazine (June 2017) which I think is worth sharing here in passing, as it ties in with a theme that has recurred on Pianodao.

Talking about the young players who seek her advice she says:

“They say they’re going to enter this competition or that.
But this is the wrong route.
How many competitions are there on this planet? How many winners are there?
Do they all have a career – meaning a career when you become a star, so to speak? No.”

Kyung Wha Chung’s simple words sum up the futility of a competition circuit which crushes the aspirations of too many players (and one discouraged young performer is one too many in my view). The violin world – just like the piano world – offers dozens of “international” competitions each year (on the piano it ranges between 50-100 depending on the year) – each claiming it can transform a young artist’s career prospects.

And as the internationally acclaimed cellist Julian Lloyd-Webber recently told The Times (also reported in The Telegraph) the majority of music competitions are corrupt in any case, with judges colluding and using competitions merely to promote their own pupils and careers:

“Everyone knows it, but no one says it, because when you’re in the profession, you don’t…
There are obvious exceptions, such as BBC Young Musician of the Year, which is not corrupt at all, but you have these competitions for violins, cello, piano and it’s all about who you studied with.”

So many alternatives…

The subject of competitions is one which I have written about here many times, most recently (and fully) in my post The Competitions Controversy.

We can but hope that moving forward the music business and education world will continue to embrace change and look to creative positive alternatives for developing artists.

The interview with Kyung Wha Chung is well worth reading in its entirety, and particularly focusses on her return to the concert stage after injury, and her present focus on performing the music of J.S. Bach – recommended!

ABRSM’s Michael Elliott: The Pianodao Interview

An Interview with Michael Elliott, Chief Executive, ABRSM

I am hugely grateful to Michael Elliott, Chief Executive of ABRSM, for giving up his time to take part in this interview. At his suggestion, the questions were crowd-sourced prior to the interview.

As well as the many questions raised on the Pianodao site here, I received several via email and have included topics raised on the Piano Network UK forum.

So far as possible I will include reader questions word for word, but I have streamlined the recurring themes which cropped up.

And many of the questions asked were very probing – so get comfortable and prepare for an in-depth and revealing read! …

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Catherine Gordeladze’s ‘Dance Fantasies’

New Recording

It has become fashionable, once again, for concert pianists to release recital albums containing a mixed variety of music, brought together by a particular concept.

I personally welcome this approach, finding that it leads to releases which are generally more enjoyable than listening to the completist’s rendition of a huge raft of music by one composer. But it is certainly a challenge for pianists to put together a programme that is both fresh and familiar.

Where some have failed, Georgian pianist Catherine Gordeladze has brilliantly succeeded on her new release, called Dance Fantasies. And remarkably, about half of the music here was new to me, even though the programme strikes a fabulous balance between novelty and the comfort of the familiar.

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A Schumann Rediscovery

Sheet Music Review

It is certainly a wonder that even today we are rediscovering lost treasures composed by the great masters of the Baroque, Classical and Romantic eras. Rarely does a year pass without another “lost” manuscript finding its way into the daylight after decades – even centuries – gathering dust in a library basement, museum attic or private collection.

And such was the case with the recent rediscovery of a small solo piano miniature, Ahnung – Albumblatt for Klavier, composed by Robert Schumann (1810-1856), which was found in the Leopold-Sophie-Bibliothek in Überlingen by librarian Roswitha Lambertz whilst cataloguing the bequest of one Leo Allgeyer.

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