I have just returned from an exciting week of playing and teaching at the Summer School for Pianists in Walsall, where I heard some wonderful piano playing from my colleagues and from my class! I so much enjoyed working and socialising with all the great people there, and look forward to next year. My next class is going to be over a weekend in October, held in the idyllic setting of Jackdaws. I gather there are only four places left on the course, so if you are free over the weekend of October 10th you might want to consider coming along.
Continuing my short summer thread of favourite pianists, I turn now to the two Russian titans who certainly held the rank of demigod during my youth – Emil Gilels and Sviatoslav Richter. I heard them both several times in concert and, when I couldn’t get a ticket, over the radio. Years later when I came to New York to study with Nina Svetlanova, I heard personal stories, memories and anecdotes about her many years of study with the same teacher as Richter and Gilels (and a whole host of other top pianists), Heinrich Neuhaus.
There are several lectures and lessons of Neuhaus on Youtube, but unfortunately they are in Russian! I wish someone would subtitle them so the rest of the world could share in his wisdom and inspiration. Here is Heinrich Neuhaus playing Mozart’s Rondo in A minor, K511.
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One of the most beautiful and exciting performances I heard of Emil Gilels was a recording of his Carnegie Hall recital from 1969, I still have it on cassette tape. His “Moonlight” Sonata stands out in my memory for its incredible layering of sound in the first movement, insinuating all sorts of hidden lines in the triplets. Here is an electrifying account of Prokoviev’s Scherzo and March. Listen to the enormous sound he generates at the end.
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And now for some of the most beautiful sounds in the business, here is Gilels playing Mendelssohn’s touching Songs without Words, Op. 38, No. 6 “Duetto”.
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I remember Sviatoslav Richter for his high octane performances of the mainstream repertoire (including Bach) as well as his (at times) amazingly slow and thoughtful Schubert. Here is a treasure from the archives, a live recital from Moscow in 1976 (the playing starts at 3:00).
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Richter gave a recital in London where he played several Schubert sonatas, including a couple of unfinished ones. I found it astonishing that he left off exactly where Schubert did, right the in the middle of a phrase (rather than not play the sonata at all, or play a version finished off by someone else). Here is the rather lovely Sonata in C, D.840, otherwise known as “Reliquie”. Richter simply stops where Schubert does.
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I would like to finish with a tribute to my final teacher, Nina Svetlanova, who continues to attract a steady stream of students to her studio in New York City (so far, at least three of mine have gone on to postgraduate study with her). Here is Zara Dolukhanova and Nina Svetlanova in V. Gavrilin’s Russian Songbook.
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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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