It is summer time in the UK, and because I have a couple of recitals to play I need to do some practising of my own. So, rather than write my normal posts for the next two or three weeks, I decided I would share with you clips of some of my favourite pianists. I am going to begin with Alfred Cortot and two of his students, Yvonne Lefébure and Clara Haskil.

I first heard Cortot when I was a teenager and remember being rooted to the spot as I listened to his Chopin. I was blown away by the beauty of his sound, his incredible sense of timing and the magic that came across in everything he did. Later, as a student of piano, I was given Cortot’s edition of some Chopin I was learning and was fascinated by the exercises and practice suggestions at the foot of each page. These helped me enormously, as did the poetic running commentary that illuminated the music. Some critics go on about the number of wrong notes in his recordings, but these do not matter one bit. Our modern-day obsession with perfection did not exist at the time, and recordings had to be done in one take. Cortot was a very busy musician, in addition to his performing career he was an educator and an editor. He simply did not have that much time to practise.

Alfred Cortot (26 September 1877 – 15 June 1962)

Yvonne Lefébure (29 June 1898– 23 January 1986)

There are several clips of Yvonne Lefébure on YouTube. I have chosen the extract from the film Une leçon de vie (A Lesson in Life) which shows her teaching Beethoven’s op. 110 – unlike the traditional Germanic left-brained approach, hers is from the heart. She manages to draw you in totally to the music with such amazing passion and energy. She attracted an international class to her studios at the  École Normale de MusiqueParis Conservatoire and Conservatoire Européen, and in masterclasses at her own festival in Saint-Germain-en-Laye

Dinu Lipatti (1 April 1917 – 2 December 1950)

Dinu Lipatti was a student of both Cortot and Lefébure, and is something of a legend today. Lipatti gave his final recital on 16 September 1950 at the Besançon Festival in France. Despite severe illness and a high fever, he gave superb performances of Bach’s Partita No. 1 in B-flat major, Mozart’s A minor Sonata, K. 310, Schubert‘s G flat major and E flat major Impromptus, Op. 90, and thirteen of the fourteen Chopin Waltzes. Coming to the last one, No. 2 in A-flat, he found he was too exhausted to play it and he offered instead Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring, the piece with which he had begun his professional career only fifteen years before. He died less than 3 months later, in Geneva, aged 33. Here is he playing Chopin’s Waltz in F from his final recital.

In Part 3 of my ebook series, I explore scale and arpeggio playing in depth. Included are many ideas for practising, as well as rhythm charts,  practice charts, other interactive features and video demonstrations.

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