Top 5 on Piano Practice

Best News Articles in March 2013 for Practicing Pianists

First performance of Wagner’s opera Das Rheingold at Bayreuth in 1876.

In my March roundup of best articles for piano practice, Simone Dinnerstein goes piano shopping and Anthony Tommasini posits that Beethoven may have molded Verdi and Wagner.

Piano Practice and the Pedal

Patrick Jovell, the Swedish concert pianist and Piano Street executive, playfully advocates that the Grammys should consider a new category, “Best Classical Piano Solo Without Pedal,” which Jovell would award without question to András Schiff. Recently Schiff has wowed classical piano music fans with his interpretation of The Well-Tempered Clavier, completely sans pedal. Schiff’s perspective is useful for anyone practicing Bach: “A perfect legato on the piano is an impossibility, and one can only create an illusion of achieving it. To attempt this with the hands alone is much more difficult but it’s well worth trying. Bach certainly didn’t want his music to sound easy; it’s demanding for players and listeners alike.”

The Importance of a Musical Vocabulary

In the privacy of a piano lesson, terms like ritardando seem natural, but in society at large, users of musical vocabulary “may have to duck incensed and lethal charges of elitism and snobbery,” writes Jessica Duchen, the journalist, novelist, and blogger. In commentary for CultureKicks, she points out that music, “invisible and intangible,” is already difficult to talk about without fear of societal censure. She advises that musicians open up a dialogue on the issue and ultimately consider some changes to our musical vocabulary.

Simone Dinnerstein Goes Piano Shopping

When piano practice becomes frustrating, it may be time to daydream at a local piano store, or in this case, to read in the Wall Street Journal about the concert pianist Simone Dinnerstein shopping for digital pianos. As to be expected, she doesn’t play any old song when testing a piano, but rather Bach’s Goldberg Variations. The AvantGrand, also the piano of choice for Ricker Choi, an award-winning amateur pianist, gave Ms. Dinnerstein pause. “I think this is kind of amazing actually. I could probably be fooled that this was a real piano.”

A Broad Perspective for Piano Practice

Frédéric Chopin loved the opera, and he advised his students to attend as well, so they could learn how to phrase the musical line. Chopin would no doubt be intrigued by the piece by Anthony Tommasini, the New York Times’ classical music critic, on whether Beethoven might have shaped Verdi and Wagner. “The generation of symphonic composers that followed Beethoven was in awe of him,” Tommasini writes. “They struggled to channel the Romantic fervor of the age, along with its advancing harmonic vocabulary, into symphonic and sonata forms held over from the Classical era. You could argue that Verdi and Wagner did better at honoring the Beethoven tradition by adapting his techniques to opera.”

The Siren Call of Technology

Imagine the score of your piano music displayed on a large screen, each note flashing green if you manage to press the right key and hold it for the correct duration, otherwise the notes flashing red. As covered recently on, the company Playground Sessions recently announced such a product, which uses “a gamified approach to digital learning” for piano practice. Will this technology encourage some people to play who otherwise might not make time to practice piano? Yet how will people learn to hear a wrongly played note if they are relying on a screen? What do you think?

Copyright © 2018 Nancy M. Williams. All Rights Reserved.

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