Monday, 30 May 2011

Piano's Funniest Moments 3: Lang Lang and the Orange performing Chopin's Black Key Study (etude)

Lang Lang Plays the Chopin 'Black Keys' Etude with an orange.
The Etude actually is Chopin's G flat major etude, Opus 10 no.5.

Now on live on a Spanish language tv channel, followed by the Tom and Jerry' excerpt inspired Liszt Hungarian Rhapsody.

Hear what the etude normally sounds like with some assistance from Valentina Lisitia.

Monday, 23 May 2011

Tips and Analysis of Mozart's PIano Concerto 23 in A Major (K488) with further help from Lang Lang

Mozart Bust srce: (
I was asked my teacher which Piano Concerto in entirety should I learn - one of the suggestions is Mozart's Piano Concerto 23 in A Major K488. Here are some of the resources I found.

Origin of  K488 Piano Concerto in A, Plus Accompanying Sketches by Dennis Pajot. This article analyses the original manuscripts and differences of sketches as well as absence of documented first performances.  Mozart often improvised his cadenzas, so Pajot identifies an unusual written cadenza in the first movement of the autograph copy. Music histoiran, Robert Levin, suggests that the concerto was written for Mozart's favourite pupil, Barbara Ployer.

First Movement analysis by James Greeson of the themes and harmonic (chord) progressions of the exposition, development and recapitulation sections of the sonata form within the concerto. To get a broad overview of this movement read the Asiyclassical blog.

Second Movement - Adagio
Again, Asiyclassical analyses the second movement highlighting points that Adagio not only means slow but 'at ease', and watch out for the controlled disonance, in this movement where Mozart takes you from tension  to release, from 'unstability' to 'stability', an effect which Asiyclassical claims creates movement and emotion. 

Third Movement: Lang Lang's Masterclass - Articulate!
Lang Lang's masterclass on the  3rd movement of the concerto - and how to articulate and get into the character of Mozart! It features a young and talented Anna Larsen who is a beneficiary of Lang Lang's music foundation.

Index Part 2 (above)
00:00 - 01:40 Articulation
01:50 - 04:40 Character
04:50 - End    minor character; climax and swing

Overview of tips on Mozart's style and Piano Concerto's third movement from Lang Lang
  • When switching from minor and major don't forget the colour change - Lang Lang describes as clouds (minor) and sunshine (major) .  
  • Don't play too fast that you can't articulate the notes
  • Feel the swing in some of the passages
  • Know where the climax(es) are

Index Part 3

Monday, 16 May 2011

Balakirev's beautiful Chopin's Piano Concerto transcription & Glinka's Lark paraphrase

Balakirev was a Russian composer (1837-1910) who was influenced by Glinka and Chopin. He admired Chopin so much he wrote in many forms that Chopin wrote in, and even transcribed for solo piano a movement from Chopin's Piano Concerto #1 in E minor. Here is the transcription below:

Balakirev: Piano Concerto No 1 in E minor, Op 11: 2nd Movement: Romanza. Larghetto

Here is Balakirev's piano paraphrase of a theme by Glinka "The Lark." It's a truly beautiful piece and is rated as a ATCL (Trinity College of London diploma level) equivalent to the Dip ABRSM level. Performed by the talented Japanese pianist Aya Nagatomi.

Monday, 9 May 2011

BBC's "Mad But Glad" -Pianist Nick Van Bloss, Tourette's Syndrome, and creativity!

Mad but Glad
The 2007 BBC Horizon documentary Mad But Glad explores creativity and tourette's syndrome.  It's popularly theorised that Mozart suffered from Tourette's syndrome due to his toilet humour in his letters & symptomatic uncontrollable use of profanity. Another symptom, would be uncontrollable muscular activity like a facial or vocal tic. This documentary features the pianist Nick Van Bloss who got his break from this documentary and is now a concert pianist, and  featured in International Piano magazine for his recent recording of Bach's Goldberg Variations.

In the course of the documentary,  a scan of of Nick's brain activity during a creative and non creative process revealed his tourette's syndrome brain showing an "endless flow of creativity" - "unstoppable" and in a sense "can't switch his creativity off."

Creative genius and the senses
Nick suffers from "low latent inhibition"; where everything is exaggerated beyond the norm; figuratively
everything on fire all the time,... sensory input is so high, it eventually overwhelms them. It was suggested in the programme that geniuses such as Picasso and Van Gogh suffered from similar mental states, and to me,  it's quite evident by Van Gogh's paintings.

There was a schizophrenic artist featured in the documentary that sees endless connections (symptomatic of schizophrenia), he is inspired by the very dissonant late Beethoven string quartets in his art. The levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine (as dopamine inhibitors are used to treat schizophrenia) demonstrate the link between creativity and schizophrenia; characterised by  loose association - capacity of a word to set off another idea and on and on.

Insight from Oliver Sachs
When talking to Oliver Sachs, Nick says he likes Bach because it has emotion behind it yet is very controlled.
Sachs discusses what may be happening with Nick's mental state: a hightening of emotion and perception, and for these to be translated into action (ideal for a pianist). He also reaffirms the role of the dopamine as regulating the flow of emotion, thought, and  perception. A fascinating documentary, perhaps some insight into  the madness that Schumann encountered! (although this is widely believed due to manic depression or even syphylis, or all the above perhaps?)

Monday, 2 May 2011

Beethoven & Mozart: Alkan's Piano Concerto transcriptions for Solo Piano!

Want to play a piano concerto, but lack the resources of a full orchestra and venue. Now you can perform your very own concerto, transcribed for you, in your own home thanks to the romantic composer Alkan who have transcribed two of the most famous piano concertos into a solo form.

Who was Alkan? French composer and virtuoso pianist Charles-Valentin Alkan (1813-1888), a child prodigy entered the Paris Conservatoire at an astonishing age of 6. He was a contemporary of Liszt and Chopin, and he knew both of these composers personally. Admired by virtuosos of his day such as Busoni, Rubinstein and Liszt. Liszt even once remarked Alkan had the finest piano technique of anyone he knew. He was Chopin's neighbour and many of Chopin's piano students transferred over to Alkan upon his death. Alkan's composition's have also influenced Ravel and Debussy. His Wikipedia biography also notes that it was at first widely believed he died when a bookcase collapsed on him after reaching for the Jewish holy book: Talmud; later corrected that it was an umbrella - coat rack instead.

Beethoven Alkan - Piano Concerto No.3 Op.37. The NorthWest Sinfonietta produced a great programme note about Beethoven's Piano Concerto in C Minor.

Mozart-Alkan Cadenza from the Mozart's Piano Concerto #20 in  D minor.

Boulezian blog of a recent performance:  Mozart Unwrapped (2): Kenneth Hamilton, 'Mozart - Past, Present, Future,' 21 January 2011

Here's Alkan's original work below: the Concerto for Solo Piano Op.39, which wikipedia notes takes an entire hour to play the whole piece!