[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

GG: Charles Rosen on Playing the Piano

There's a article of interest by the always interesting Mr. Rosen up on
the NY Review of Books website.

This is the URL I came up with:

Sample paragraphs from early on:
This variety is the reason that almost all books on how
 to play the piano are absurd, and that any dogmatic
 system of teaching technique is pernicious. (Most
 pianists, in fact, have to work to some extent in late
 adolescence to undo the effects of their early instruction
 and find an idiosyncratic method which suits them
 personally.) Not only the individual shape of the hand
 counts but even the shape of the entire body. That is
 why there is no optimum position for sitting at the
 piano, in spite of what many pedagogues think. Glenn
 Gould sat close to the floor, while Artur Rubinstein was
 almost standing up. It may seem paradoxical that some
 pianists spend more time choosing a chair for a concert
 than an instrument; the piano technician at the Festival
 Hall in London told me that the late Shura Cherkassky
 decided on the piano he wanted in five minutes, but
 spent twenty minutes trying out different stools. 

The height at which one sits does affect the style of
 performance. It is difficult, for example, when one is
 sitting very low, to play bursts of virtuoso octaves
 fortissimo, as with the following famous passage of the
 Tchaikovsky concerto in B-flat minor: 


 That is one aspect of piano technique that Glenn Gould,
 for example, could not deal with. (A recording engineer
 at CBS Records told me that when Gould recorded
 Liszt's arrangement of Beethoven's Symphony No. 5,
 he first recorded some of the virtuoso octaves in the
 right hand by using both hands and overdubbed the left
 hand afterward.) Nevertheless, the low seated position
 enabled Gould to achieve a beautiful technical control
 of rapid passage-work with different kinds of touch.
 The way one sits at the keyboard has had an influence
 on the music that composers write as well as on
 performance. Ravel also sat very low, for instance, and
 in his music there are no examples of parallel octaves
 fortissimo in unison for both hands which are the
 trademark of so much nineteenth-century virtuosity,
 particularly the school of Liszt, and which account for
 the main excitement in the concertos of Tchaikovsky
 and Rachmaninoff. This Lisztian style of octaves
 demands a play of the back and shoulder muscles more
 difficult to manage from a low position. Ravel's Scarbo,
 perhaps the greatest tone poem for piano in the Liszt
 tradition, contains no parallel octaves of this kind, but
 only octaves alternating between the hands, equally
 difficult to play but not requiring a raised position of the