On Sunday 29th June a group of pianists and piano fans gathered in the beautiful tiny church of St Mary’s Perivale for a whole day of piano goodness. Hosted by myself and my friend Lorraine Liyanage (with whom I run the London Piano Meetup Group and South London Concert Series), the aim of the event – and this is true of all LPMG events – was to provide a friendly and supportive environment for pianists to meet to share repertoire, perform and receive tuition from two visiting tutors, Dr Mark Polishook and Graham Fitch.
The small size of the church and the fact that most attendees already knew one another and the tutors, made for a very enjoyable and convivial day, with much conversation and laughter interspersed with some very fine music. (Plus homemade cakes!)
The day began with warm up exercises in the sunny church yard. These exercises, devised by my teacher Penelope Roskell, are drawn from yoga exercises and provide a very comprehensive, yet simple warm up away from the piano. It is not obligatory to do them outside, but it is very nice to do so, in the warm summer sunshine! Then we were back in the church for the first masterclass of the day – improvisation for the classical pianist, led by the enthusiastic and ever-inventive Mark Polishook.
Mark’s approach is to take one on a journey of discovery, setting tiny seeds from which more involved improvisation can grow. Sometimes he begins with a piece which the participant is working on, but at Sunday’s class, he simply asked each participant to play a series of notes, very very slowly. His emphasis is on listening and appreciating not only the sound and quality of the notes, but also the spaces in between them. He gives the classical pianist, who may have come from a background of narrow and/or rigorous training, the freedom to let go of many ingrained preconceptions, to be “thankful” for wrong notes (these can be the impetus for further improvisation or musical explorations) and to engage the right hand side of the brain, banishing the more rational voice which might say “you can’t do that!”.
Graham Fitch is a highly skilled and most encouraging teacher who has an innate knack of identifying what the student needs there and then, and can offer straightforward and practical solutions to even the most seemingly intractable pianistic problems – from creating intelligent fingering schemes to suggestions for creating vibrancy in Mozart’s semiquavers. His advice is relevant to all, whatever level and whatever repertoire, and everyone who has participated in and observed his classes can go away feeling they have the necessary equipment and, more importantly, confidence, to practise independently and creatively. (This approach is also reflected in Graham’s excellent blog – Practising the Piano.)
The day concluded with an informal concert by masterclass participants performing a range of repertoire by Chopin, Debussy, Poulenc, Liszt, Scarlatti, Pärt and Prokofiev, and a overriding sense of achievement and pleasure.
The London Piano Meetup Group hosts regular performance events and masterclasses with visiting tutors in and around central London. Please visit the LPMG website for further information about upcoming events.
Graham Fitch will give a concert with talk on Sunday 14th September 2014 at Craxton Studios, Hampstead, north London. The concert will be followed by afternoon tea. Full details and tickets here
The UK Masterchef competition for amateur cooks has reached its series finale, won by Ping Coombes, a 32-year-old full-time mother who wowed the judges and tv viewers with her original, flavoursome and exciting dishes inspired by her homeland, Malaysia.
Throughout the competition, contestants’ dishes were critiqued and judged by “external moderators” in the form of previous Masterchef winners, “celebrity” chefs, including Tom Kerridge and Marcus Wareing, and food critics Jay Rayner and William Sitwell, amongst others, many of whom expressed surprise that a bunch of “amateurs” could produce such classy, technically complicated, restaurant-standard food. When it was Marcus Wareing’s turn to judge the semi-finalists, in a nail-biting round for he is famously acerbic and downright scary, he said of one dish “that is remarkably good – for an amateur” or words to that effect. And after that, every time I heard the word “amateur” on the programme, a little bit of me died.
I have blogged before about the definition of “amateur”. The word suffers, in the English language at least, from its association with the hobbyist, the “Sunday painter” or dilettante, and suggests cack-handedness and lack of finesse or refinement. Things which are described as “amateurish” are usually badly done or poorly put together. Not so these finalists in Masterchef: their dishes showed imagination, creativity, highly-developed technical skills and, above all, love for what they were doing. Ping’s sheer enjoyment and delight in producing delicious food for family and friends was evident from the moment she first entered the competition and remained the abiding theme of everything she did, endearing her to judges and viewers alike.
The debate about amateur versus professional is one that continues to run (and will go on running) in the sphere of music and the arts (and beyond), and particularly within the narrow sphere of classical music. I co-host a piano group for adult “amateur” pianists in which the standard of playing is quite varied, but it must be said that the majority of members plays to an extremely high standard. A number have attended specialist music schools or conservatoire but chose a different career path, not having the requisite temperament to hack it as a professional musician (and perhaps preferring a more reliable salary!). Many of us enjoy performing, and we practise and finesse and perform our pieces with a professional mindset.
In a recent post for his own blog, pianist Stephen Hough gave a perfect definition of “amateur”, citing the Latin origin of the word – the verb amare = to love:
An amateur is not someone who is less good than a professional but rather someone for whom love overcomes obstacles…. (Stephen Hough, 7 May 2014)
This sensible and, to my mind, very accurate description struck an immediate chord with myself and many pianist friends who struggle with the word “amateur”. Those of us who play at a semi-professional level, intermediate players, beginners, returners, “Sunday pianists” all share this profound love for the piano. Eavesdrop on any conversation between members of my piano group and this passion is more than evident as we discuss the myriad aspects of our craft: practising, repertoire, exams, concerts, performance anxiety, favourite professional performers, memorable performances and recordings. The only difference between many of us and the pros is, as a professional pianist friend said to me recently, “the pay cheque”.
I take issue with those rather ungenerous people in the music world, and beyond, who suggest that people like me and the other members of my piano group should not be performing in public, nor posting our performances on YouTube or Soundcloud (in the same way as I take issue with “professional journalists” who seek to undermine the value of blogs such as this and many others). It suggests a certain envy or resentment – for we are not trying to touch the professionals, but we might just conceivably touch the audience with our fidelity and commitment to the piano and its music. Sometimes the most hesitant performance can move because the audience knows the amount of hard work, and anxiety, that has gone into preparing for that performance. Playing for one another at piano circles, piano groups and at people’s homes offers a supportive environment to put repertoire before a friendly audience, and many amateur pianists use opportunities like these to prepare for exams, festivals, diplomas and concerts. Many amateurs practise seriously, sometimes for several hours every day, and cite the therapeutic benefits of playing the piano, the chance to escape and lose oneself in the music, after a busy day at the office. Those who perform more regularly understand the necessity to conquer performance anxiety and hone their stagecraft in addition to pulling off a polished and convincing performance.
Alan Rusbridger’s book Play it Again (2013), in which the editor of the Guardian charts his learning of Chopin’s G minor Ballade, a famously difficult work even for the most seasoned pro, offers some interesting glimpses into the world of the amateur pianist. There are piano circles, performance platforms, concerts in people’s homes, informal get-togethers, courses and more which bring amateur pianists of all levels together to play, share repertoire and socialise. Meanwhile, popular summer schools at home and abroad offer amateur pianists the opportunity to study with, and gain inspiration from international concert artists and renowned teachers from some of the top conservatoires around the world. The most famous summer school at Chethams, known affectionately as “Chets”, boasts a large and impressive faculty, including “greats” such as Peter Donohoe, Leslie Howard, Noriko Ogawa, and Boris Berman, and is held over two weeks in August. Summer schools like this offer not only specialist tuition, both one-to-one and in a masterclass format, but also performance opportunities, faculty concerts, recordings, chamber ensembles and choirs, and plenty of “piano chat” between students. Firm friendships are made on courses and piano weekends such as these as like-minded people come together to share and express their love of the piano and music-making.
And so back to Masterchef, and Ping and her fellow finalists. Just as my friends in my piano group show a deep passion for the piano and everything connected with it, so these three “amateur” cooks display a deep and consuming love for food, for creating and preparing it and sharing it with others. If Ping and the other finalists Jack and Luke go on to pursue a “professional” career in the food business, I hope they won’t ever lose that love. And just as food is created for sharing, so is music.
a class, especially in music, given by an expert to highly talented students.
The word “masterclass” can, for some, conjure up a terrifying scenario: the private lesson in public, with a formidable “master” teacher and a student quaking at the keyboard, their every error and slip heard and duly noted by teacher and audience. I remember watching music masterclasses on BBC Two in the 1970s (in the good old days when BBC Two broadcast such edifying and instructive arts programmes), with eminent musicians and teachers such as Daniel Barenboim and Paul Tortelier. It seemed to my junior piano student self a most nerve-wracking experience and certainly one to which I would not wish to submit.
Fast-forward thirty odd years and I’m now a mature piano student and teacher of piano. For me, the masterclass seems one of the most normal and beneficial ways of learning, providing as it does not just a lesson with a fine teacher but also a forum for critique by others and the exchange of ideas and discussion about aspects such as technique, interpretation, presentation and performance practice. It is this element of interaction with other pianists and active listeners/participants that makes the masterclass scenario quite different from the private lesson.
For students in conservatoire and specialist music schools, the masterclass is an every day form of learning, and for the teacher it is a way of sharing and passing on information to a group. A skilled teacher will ensure that all the participants in the class feel included, not just when they play, but also when others play, encouraging comments and discussion on what they have heard. A good teacher will also make sure negative comments are delivered in the kindest and most constructive way, so that participants feel supported and encouraged.
At many of the courses for adult amateur pianists in the UK and beyond, the masterclass is also a popular form of learning and teaching. Some of these classes are called “workshops” to make them sound more friendly, but in reality they are nearly always a group of c10 pianists, seated around the piano, eagerly absorbing wisdom from the teacher.
My own teacher’s weekend courses are organised in the form of masterclasses, usually with 8 or 9 participants, which allows everyone the chance to play at least once a day. I admit that the first time I participated in one of these courses, I found the experience very daunting. By the end of the first day, I had decided everyone was far better than I! But by the end of the weekend, I had gained a huge amount from it, and I now look forward to such classes with relish.
Masterclasses are not just for advanced pianists either. The format is applicable to students of all levels and early students, and children, can benefit from observing a teacher working with another student on advanced repertoire, and vice versa. Seemingly complex aspects of technique can usually be reframed to suit early/intermediate students, and sometimes working on quite simple repertoire within a group can shed a new light on more difficult music.
It is also useful training for concert/competition performance and can be a huge help in learning how to manage anxiety.
Watching a masterclass is a window onto how hard the pianist works and an insight into the practice of practising. Sometimes only fragments of a piece are worked over with the teacher, repeated, recast until a new, different or more exciting interpretation begins to emerge. Observing this process can be extremely exciting and enlightening, and for the masterclass participant, the instant feedback one receives from the teacher and other participants can be highly rewarding, often producing interesting and unexpected breakthroughs.
The London Piano Meetup Group, of which I am co-organiser, runs regular masterclasses with eminent teachers in central London locations. The next class is on Friday 25th April at the October Gallery, Bloomsbury, with pianist Ernest So. Further details here
London Masterclasses – now in its 26th year, London Masterclasses offerpublic masterclasses with leading performers working with advanced classical music students and young professionals before audiences in major London venues. Further information about the 2014 courses and tutors here
Is your practising getting you down? Do you need inspiration and encouragement? Would you like to meet other pianists and learn from the professionals? Then why not try a piano course or summer school this coming year…..
There are courses and summer schools for pianists of all levels, from single days and “taster” courses to piano weekends and whole weeks of piano goodness in the company of some of the finest pianists and teachers from around the world. Courses are a great way to connect with other pianists and like-minded people and are brilliant for improving skills such as technique and performance. Here is my round up of some of the best courses in the UK and beyond:
**NEW** London Master Classes. Not for amateur pianists, though anyone may go and observe these classes run by top professional teachers, coaching the artists of tomorrow. (I attended one of the piano sessions last year and found the experience inspirational and instructive, both as a pianist and a teacher – my review here). Tutors include pianist Norma Fisher, cellist Ralph Kirshbaum and conductor Benjamin Zander. Showcase weekend 12th & 13th July at the Purcell Room. Full details here
Hindhead Summer Piano Course. Held at Hindhead Music Centre in the picturesque South Downs, the 2014 course will have a special accent on the last three piano sonatas of Beethoven. Masterclasses, lectures, faculty and student concerts, discussion groups, “recorded treasures”, and more, plus fine food and a relaxed country house atmosphere. Taster and single day options. Ability cGrade 5 to post-diploma. Tutors: Simon Nicholls and James Lisney. Details here
**NEW** Lythe Chamber Music Course, 20-24 July 2014 Set in the historic coastal village of Lythe on the edge of the glorious North York Moors, LYTHE CHAMBER MUSIC COURSE 2014 is a DeNOTE Educational project offering a unique opportunity to explore a wide range of solo and ensemble repertoire for early keyboards (fortepiano, harpsichord, clavichord) and early clarinets, chalumeaux from the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries with specialists JOHN IRVING and JANE BOOTH. It is also a celebration of the craftsmanship of local keyboard builder JOHANNES SECKER and clarinet maker GUY COWLEY, whose instruments will be used in the course. Aimed at aspiring professional players, teachers, advanced students, and amateurs with good sight-reading ability (Grades 6 – 8+), the course will be of particular benefit and interest to clarinettists and pianists who wish to develop their interest and experience in playing on early instruments. Teaching will be in a diversity of formats, including individual tuition, ‘technical surgeries’, group workshops, lectures, seminars and a film showing. The course will include several concerts (including student performances) in local venues, including the historic St Oswald’s Church – an enchanting setting for music. A PDF giving more information about the course, along with application details as costs are available from the Lythe Chamber Music page of the Ensemble DeNOTE website: www.denote.org.uk
Jackdaws Music Education Trust. Courses throughout the year for pianists, instrumentalists and singers of all levels. Piano faculty includes Philip Fowke, Elena Riu, Margaret Fingerhut, Mark Tanner and Julian Jacobson. Details here
Chethams Summer School for Pianists. Known affectionately as “Chets”, this is probably the most famous summer school and boasts a fantastic faculty of international artists and teachers. Masterclasses, concerts, ensembles and more. 2014 faculty includes Leslie Howard, Carlo Grante, Leon McCawley, Murray McLachlan, Ashley Wass and Noriko Ogawa, amongst many others. Full details here
Walsall Summer School for Pianists. PLACES STILL AVAILABLE Formerly the well-established and popular Hereford Summer School for Pianists, the course successfully moved to a new home at the University of Wolverhampton in 2013. Mixed ability classes. Tutors will aim to cover both technical problems and interpretative points which will be of interest to the entire class. Faculty: Graham Fitch, Karl Lutchmayer, Christine Stevenson, Lauretta Bloomer, James Lisney. Details here
Penelope Roskell’s Advanced London Piano Courses. An inspiring and supportive weekend course (3 full days) focussing on repertoire, technique, and yoga for pianists. Ideal for pianists preparing for concerts, competitions, diplomas or auditions, or for anyone suffering from technical problems, physical tension, injuries or nerves. The course is run as a series of masterclasses with plenty of opportunities for discussion and exchange of ideas, and ends with a concert on the Sunday afternoon. Ability level: post-Grade 8 to post-diploma. Full details here.
Penelope also runs one-day workshops for pianists and piano teachers exploring aspects such as performance anxiety and teaching technique. Further details of all courses here
Piano Week. Based at Bangor University in North Wales, Piano Week offers courses for adults and children of all levels. Masterclasses, recitals, talks and workshops. Artistic Director: Samantha Ward. Full details here
Lot Music. PLACES STILL AVAILABLE A convivial course, now in its 17th year, in a beautiful part of France. Fine food and a relaxed atmosphere for pianists of around Grade 8 ability. Tutors: Susan Tomes, James Lisney. Further information here
Music at Ambialet. Summer school for professional, advanced and amateur pianists in the Tarn region of France, established by renowned teacher and Debussy scholar Paul Roberts. The courses are select, with a maximum of 20 resident participants on each of the three eight-day courses throughout August. Full details here
Royal Conservatoire of Scotland Summer SchoolsThis five and a half-day intensive summer schools aims to inspire pianists who are currently studying at conservatoire level or considering studying at a conservatoire. Students on the music summer school will benefit from using the Royal Conservatoire’s leading training and performance facilities, including a fleet of new pianos, wonderful concert venues and a state of the art recording studio. Full details here
London Piano Meetup Group. Not strictly a course, the LMPG, run by myself and Lorraine Liyanage, offers monthly performance platforms and masterclasses with visiting tutors for pianists of all levels in a friendly and supportive environment. Piano Day on 29th June – classes with Graham Fitch and Mark Polishook, sheet music exchange, participants’ concert and plenty of time for socialising. Full details of all our events here
Dartington Summer School. The Summer School runs for five weeks, with 20-30 courses week-long courses taking place every day during each week – from individual instrumental and vocal classes to chamber music, large ensemble courses and composition. You can take part in up to four courses per week, and stay for one or all five weeks! Full details here
CoMA (Contemporary Music for All)16 – 22 August. “an exhilarating and supportive environment for exploring new repertoires, developing music-making skills and forging new and enduring friendships.”. Full details here
**NEW** Dublin International Piano Festival Founded in 2013 by pianists Archie Chen and Rhona Gouldson, the Dublin International Piano Festival & Summer Academy showcases mastery in piano performance and provides a series of workshops and masterclasses for advanced students of the piano to improve their own performance skills and technique. The masterclasses are open to the public and will provide a special insight into music making. Full details here
**NEW**The Alan Fraser Piano Summer School An opportunity to study with pianist, teacher and author of The Craft of Piano, Alan Fraser. The Alan Fraser Institute organises masterclasses and coaching sessions around the US and in Europe. Full details here
Another very stimulating, enjoyable and inspiring 3-day course with my teacher, Penelope Roskell.
I’m beginning to feel like an “old hand” at these courses – this was my seventh. I keep returning, autumn and spring, because I always find the course extremely helpful, as well as offering the opportunity to meet other pianists and piano teachers, share repertoire and enjoy “piano chat” during the coffee and lunch breaks. I have nothing to compare these courses with, as I have yet to pluck up the courage to attend longer courses such as Chetham’s Summer School, Walsall Summer School for Pianists or the Hindhead Music Centre piano course. Personally, I have always found the friendly setting of Penelope’s courses very encouraging, supportive and conducive to study. A mark of the reputation of the courses is that one of the participants had travelled from Malaysia to attend this time.
The courses are held at Penelope’s spacious family home in north London. The very setting – her Blüthner grand piano is in the family sitting room – makes for a friendly atmosphere from the outset, and students congregate in the kitchen to make tea and coffee, and to get to know each other. Penelope’s family come and go as the course progresses over the weekend, and lunch breaks are punctuated by the squeaking of the guinea pigs whose home is in the conservatory. With only nine students on the course it is very convivial, and beginning each day with warm up exercises, done in a circle (in the garden if the weather is fair) also helps to break the ice.
The course is structured around masterclasses, but these are not the “private lesson in public” where a student might be subjected to rigorous tuition; rather feedback and comment from the other participants is actively encouraged, and all the teaching has a relevance for everyone. Playing for a “master teacher” and before a small audience of fellow pianists can be both nerve-wracking and easy: nerve-wracking because those of us who play at an advanced level know a great deal about the music, but we are sympathetic to the hours of practising and study that have gone into each performance. Penelope’s great skill as a teacher is to identify a number of key points for each individual participant, be they technical, artistic or interpretative. She is adept at offering simple solutions to seemingly complex problems as well as offering expert advice on performance practice, physical tension and anxiety issues. Everyone student has the opportunity to play and receive one-to-one tuition each day of the course.
This time a number of participants admitted to suffering from quite severe performance anxiety, and a good part of the course was taken up with discussions about the reasons for performance nerves and developing coping strategies. The supportive atmosphere which Penelope manages to create enables even the most reluctant performer to play for the group: by the third day, it was wonderful to see and hear how one particular student had progressed in overcoming her nerves, so much so that she agreed to perform in the concert which closes the course. I love hearing how people’s music develops over the course of the weekend, and how a few seemingly simple suggestions or guidance from Penelope can have a transforming effect on someone’s playing: sometimes just thinking about the music overnight can have remarkable results.
The courses are open to students, teachers, professionals and amateurs at post-Grade 8 level, and are particularly useful for those who are preparing for auditions, competitions and diplomas, or for anyone who suffers from physical tension in piano playing. Due to their popularity, Penelope will be running three courses in 2014.
A selection of the repertoire played over the weekend:
Bach – Two-Part Inventions in E Major and A minor, Prelude & Fugue in E minor WTC Book 1, Fantasy in C minor BWV 906
Bartok – Dances in Bulgarian Rhythm, Nos 2 and 6
Brahms – Rhapsody in G minor
Liszt – Petrarch Sonnets
Messiaen – Regard de la Croix
Beethoven – ‘Pathetique’ Sonata, Bagatelle Op 126 No. 1, Sonata in A flat, Op 110
Schumann – Novelette in F
Schubert – Sonata in B flat, D960
Sinding – The Rustle of Spring
Debussy – Preludes: Les sons et les parfums tournent dans l’air du soir, Des pas sur la neige, La fille aux cheveux de lin, Minstrels, Feux d’artifice
Chopin – Nocturne Op 72, no. 1, Nocturne Op 9 No. 1, Waltz in C# minor op 64/2
Courses run from 31 January – 2 February, 25 – 27 April 2014 and 10 – 12 October 2014
Limited to nine students per course for maximum participation.
Fee £190 (EPTA and ISM members £180); students £120. Occasionally a scholarship is awarded to an outstanding student.
Nearest tube: Finsbury Park
For further details email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Piano Week is a new non-residential piano course for children and adults, set in the beautiful north Wales countryside near Bangor.
The initiative of pianist Samantha Ward, Piano Week offers courses for pianists of any age and ability. Participants will have the opportunity to perform on a beautiful Steinway grand piano in Powis Hall at Bangor University, as well as benefitting from one-to-one tuition, masterclasses and faculty recitals. The area also offers an abundance of other activities, from hill-walking in the stunning Snowdonia National Park, dry-slope skiing and go-karting.
Faculty includes: Samantha Ward, Chenyin Li, David Daniels, Maciej Raginia, Sachika Taniyama, Vesselina Tchakarova. The course is sponsored by Blüthner pianos.
I’ve just attended another of my piano teacher’s excellent 3-day courses for advanced pianists. As regular readers of this blog will know, I am a great fan of my teacher’s courses, which provide a supportive, friendly and inspiring setting for study.
The course is run as a series of masterclasses, offering plenty of input from other participants and important one-to-one tuition with Penelope Roskell, who is a highly-skilled and experienced teacher. There are regular breaks which give everyone the opportunity for “piano chat” and on the last day, we have an informal concert followed by a drinks party.
One of the things I love most of all about these courses is the transforming effect they can have on people who may arrive on the first day anxious and uncertain what to expect. Penelope is a very patient and sympathetic teacher, who is able to draw out the very best in people. One of this year’s participants was on the Autumn 2012 course, an anxious player who gradually unwound as the weekend progressed. It was wonderful to see how far she has come, following private lessons with Penelope in the intervening months, and to hear her playing with greater confidence and poise.
Some people come on the course simply to run repertoire by a friendly audience ahead of a concert. Others are preparing for diplomas, competitions or auditions. For me, this course was to encourage me to pick up some new repertoire following my Diploma. I felt very flat in the days immediately after the exam, and the need to prepare some music for the course was just what I needed to get me playing again. I wanted to run some pieces by my teacher to make sure I was heading in the right direction with them. A number of my pianist friends were attending the course this time as well, so in many ways it was a social event for me and the chance to catch up with friends and colleagues. And make new friends too.
As always, the range of repertoire was very wide, from Bach to Satoh (a contemporary Japanese composer), and the standard very high. But there was never a feeling we were in competition with each other. We were there to share repertoire, offer positive feedback on one another’s playing, and learn. I have compiled a playlist on Spotify of all the pieces we played (except for Fazil Say’s transcription of Mozart’s ‘Rondo Alla Turca’, which should be available on YouTube).
Jackdaws Music Education Trust in Frome, Somerset, offers a wide range of courses for musicians of all abilities, with a great team of visiting tutors. Forthcoming courses of interest to pianists in 2013:
10-12 May 2013 – Piano Workshop with Philip Fowke
If you enjoy playing the piano, suffer from nerves, yet long to perform with greater security and confidence, then this is the course for you. Bring along your favourite pieces for discussion and exploration in a relaxed, informal environment. There is no obligation to perform any piece in full; it may be that you only wish to tackle a few bars at a time. The general standard is from about Grade 5 upwards, though this does not preclude those of a humbler ability. The emphasis is on learning with enjoyment, sharing difficulties with others, and discovering comfortable, practical ways to overcome musical and technical problems (NB this course is repeated in September).
24-26 May 2013 – Pianos for All with Caecilia Andriessen
Are you an amateur pianist who can play Bach’s Inventions and Haydn’s Sonatas? Would you like to play in an ensemble with other pianists, just like string players do in a string quartet? Then join “Pianos for All”!
31 May-2 June 2013 – Russian Miniatures with Julian Jacobson
As well as writing some of the grandest works in the repertoire, Russian composers poured forth a stream of piano miniatures; music that can be passionate, reflective, charming or fantastical but which always demands a heartfelt response and a big but varied tonal palette. Composers such as Tchaikovsky, Borodin, Rachmaninov, Scriabin, Medtner, Prokofiev, Shostakovich, Kabalevsky, Kapustin and many others have given us a wealth of exquisite music in preludes and other short forms. Julian Jacobson, himself of partly Russian descent, will guide you through this challenging and inspiring repertoire. Course suggested repertoire: two or three contrasted pieces of up to 5 minutes each.
25-28 July – Piano Summer School with Mark Tanner
A very popular course, offering the opportunity to use the longer time of three days to get a better understanding of the sprawling piano repertoire. This lively course will concentrate on repertoire, style, technique and practice methods. How to choose music for diploma, grade exams and skeleton score study, improvisation, duets and more will all be discussed. Support will be available for those taking grade and diploma exams as well as those who just want to play for pleasure.
Another excellent three days in the company of other advanced pianists – some students, some piano teachers like me, and some professional pianists – on the piano course run by my teacher, Penelope Roskell. We enjoyed a wide range of repertoire, from Scarlatti to Stephen Montague, and discussed and practiced aspects of technique such as soft hands and forearms, ‘Mozartian’ staccato (what Penelope descibes as “detached legato”), ‘orchestrating’ sonatas and piano works by Haydn and Mozart, and how to achieve a beautiful cantabile sound in Schubert’s Impromptu in G flat (D899 No. 3) and Chopin’s ‘Aeolian Harp’ Etude (Opus 25, No. 1). And much more besides….. Our coffee and lunch breaks were full of interesting ‘piano chat’ and it was both instructive and enjoyable to exchange ideas with other pianists and teachers. The next course is on September – details at the end of the post.
Despite finding the first course (in April 2009) very daunting, because of the very high standard of the other participants, I have always gained a huge amount from these courses: they are instructional, inspiring, very supportive, and non-competitive. Everyone comes to the course with different needs and interests, from help with tension or performance anxiety, or simply a desire to play through some repertoire to other people in a relaxed setting. The course always ends with a concert, to which friends and family are welcome. The performance aspect of these courses has done wonders for my confidence and I have lost any shyness I had about performing, and now actively enjoy it. The 30 seconds of contemplative silence which greeted my performance of Chopin’s Nocturne in E, Opus 62, No. 2 was the ultimate compliment at the concert yesterday afternoon, and I was flattered and touched by some of the comments I received afterwards.
What we played during the course:
Debussy – Preludes Book I: ‘La fille aux cheveux de lin’
Villa-Lobos – Prole de bebe No. 1: ‘O Polochinello’
Bach – Prelude & Fugue in F minor, XII, WTC Book 2
Chopin – Nocturne in E, Op. 62, No. 2 (me)
Mendelssohn – Variations Serieuses, Op. 54
Chopin – Berceuse, Op. 57
Scriabin – Piano Sonata No. 4, in F sharp major, Op. 30
Mozart – Piano Sonata in A minor, K 310 (1st & 2nd movements)
Haydn – Piano Sonata in E flat, No. 59, Hob. XVI:49 (1st movement)
Mozart – Piano Sonata in D, K 576
Chopin – Waltz in E minor, No. 14
Beethoven – Piano Sonata in F major, Op. 10 No. 2
Mozart – Piano Concerto No. 5 (1st movement)
Dave Brubeck – ‘Dad Plays the Harmonica’
Henry Cowell – ‘Exultation’
Stephen Montague – ‘The Headless Horseman’
Bach – Concerto in D minor after Marcello BWV 974 (me)
Chopin – Etude, Opus 25 No. 1 ‘Aeolian Harp’
Mozart – Rondo in A minor, K511 (me)
Scarlatti – Sonata K.215
Martin Butler – ‘After Concord’
Joanna MacGregor – Lowside Blues
Diana Burrell – ‘Constellations’
Schubert – Impromptu in G flat, D899 no. 3
Chopin – Nocturne, Op. 48 No. 1
Bach – Prelude & Fugue in C-sharp major, WTC Book 2, III
Prokfiev – Piano Sonata No. 3 (1st movement)
Liszt – Concert Study: ‘Un Sospiro’
Charles Tebbs – ‘Moonlight from Sunlight’ (Charles is a pianist and composer who attended the course and performed some of his own pieces for us)
My teacher, Penelope Roskell, is running a number of courses for pianists and piano teachers through the autumn and into next year. I have attended two of her weekend courses for advanced pianists and her one-day workshop for piano teachers, and can thoroughly recommend them. She is a patient, skilled and inspiring teacher, and the courses are very stimulating and supportive. For further information about any of these courses, please contact Penelope direct (details at end of post).
Advanced London Piano Courses
5-7 October 2012, 26-28 April 2013, and 11-13 October 2013 (10am – 5pm)
Penelope is an inspiring and dedicated teacher, and the courses, which are open to all advanced pianists (Grade 8 – post-diploma), amateur, student or professional, offer a very supportive and stimulating learning environment. There are still some places available on each of these courses.
Taking place over three days, the advanced course focuses on repertoire, technique, and yoga for pianists, and is ideal for pianists preparing for concerts, competitions, diplomas or auditions, or for anyone suffering from technical problems, physical tension, injuries or nerves. The course is run as a series of masterclasses with plenty of opportunities for discussion and exchange of ideas, and ends with an informal concert on the Sunday afternoon.
Limited to eight students per course for maximum participation – two student scholarships available.
Fee: £195 (ISM and EPTA members £185) Students £120.
A relaxed, supportive opportunity for pianists Grade 7 and above to meet other pianists and work on own-choice repertoire. Ideal for those who may not really ready yet to attend a three-day advanced course.
Fee £70 (half day £40)
Workshop for Piano Teachers ‘Teaching Piano Technique’
Sunday 3rd March 2013
This workshop is open to all piano teachers, who are interested in discussing aspects of teaching technique within an encouraging setting. Each teacher will be invited to prepare one or two short students’ pieces, which will form the basis of discussion.
Fee £70, (EPTA and ISM members £65)
North London Piano Group for Adult Amateurs
Regular monthly meetings in North East London, first Tuesday in the month, 7.30-9.30 (except during holiday times). Fee: £180 for 8 sessions.
Frances Wilson blogs on pianism, classical music and culture