Down the years, I have been passing on a tip for voicing chords that was given to me by Philip Fowke. No doubt Philip inherited this from his teacher, Gordon Green, who had in turn studied with Egon Petri (a student of Busoni and Teresa Carreño, and thus a descendent of Carl Reinecke, Felix Mendelssohn, Robert Schumann, Franz Liszt, Anton Rubinstein, Frédéric Chopin, and so on).

This tip works beautifully, so I thought I might pass it on to you all here!

  1. Play the strongest note of the chord first alone with the level of sound you want (or slightly more).
  2. While holding the note and in your own time, put the remainder of the chord down extremely softly. If you prefer, you may depress the keys without allowing the notes to sound.
  3. Now aim to decrease the time distance between these two events gradually until the strong note sounds almost as an acciaccatura to the rest of the chord (in other words – very slightly split).
  4. Next sound the notes of the chord simultaneously (and I mean dead together), preserving the tonal balance you have just practised.
  5. Do this the other way round too – by starting with the soft (or silent) notes and then playing the strong note afterwards.

If you want further reinforcement, play the chord as a unit and then:

  • Replay the strongest note two or three times, forte tenuto, while resting gently (no pressing) in the softer notes of the chord.
  • Replay the softer notes pianissimo staccato from key surface and returning to key surface (just once or as a double tap).

For an interview with Stephen Hough on this studies with Gordon Green, follow this link

Alisdair Hogarth interviews his teachers, Philip Fowke and John Blakely, about their legendary professor, Gordon Green

Philip Fowke plays Addinsell’s Warsaw Concerto at the Proms

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