Thursday, September 8, 2016

#2 - Chopin, Mendelssohn, Debussy

Today, I first played Rondo capriccioso Op 14 by Mendelssohn, followed by the Chopin Ballade No. 2 in F, Op. 38, and finally Debussy Prelude No. 3, Book 1.

Prof Fitenko said he was impressed with my technique and many musical aspects of my playing today. He was very happy with the improvement he could already see after just one lesson and talked about preparing a program for performance as well as for amateur competitions. He provided many helpful comments about both musical and technical aspects that are summarized below:

Mendelssohn Rondo Capriccioso
  1. Page 1: Voice the bass octaves downwards. The bottom note is more interesting. 
  2. Be very precise on the articulation. Be faithful to the score as far as slurs and articulation go. e.g. Measure 6 - let go after playing B, lift your arm up to the upper octave. This also provides a visual cue for the audience about your articulation. 
  3. Measure 10 - p indicated. The thumb plays the first note, so be extra careful about starting it p. Also make that long line. 
  4. Measure 13 (and other places later) - practice the alternating L/R figure by playing it on your lap. Make sure full values of notes are played. Practicing on your lap also makes sure you get the rhythm right as well as teaches you the feeling of playing without tension.
  5. Measure 18 - don't speed up, take your time to establish the new/grand statement. 
  6. Measures 20-21 - Left hand, emphasize lower note in the bottom octave and upper note in the top octave (basically play around with these voicings and figure out interesting ways to make music). 
  7. Measures 22-24 - The left hand helps connect the melody notes in the right hand. So do not gloss over them. Shape the left hand. 
  8. Use pedal in the presto leggiero section! Accent/conducting pedals. Either one or two every measure (play around with the options).
  9. Measures 67 - con anima section - Articulation, staccatos, etc. Don't play with a feel of 2, make longer lines of 6 (time signature = 6/8!). 
  10. Measure 97-99 - again practice these alternating figures on your lap. Make crescendos on the lap. Another way to practice it is by playing in the air (same with the coda of the Ballade). The left and the right hand need to feel connected to each other in these alternating figures - so even playing + playing full values - will help if you can do it on your lap first.  

Chopin Ballade
  1. Happy with the Andantino section. Now try practicing all voices, for example the middle voice could be tried in some areas just to make things interesting. 
  2. The repeating notes in measure 45 - push and pull, and the last note is actually a pick up to the presto con fuoco and must feel like it (even with the fermata). 
  3. Be confident in the presto con fuoco section. Focus more on the decrescendo on the right + crescendo on the left. 
  4. Legato right hand measures 62 - 
  5. Measures 68-69 - find a way to breathe and establish that statement rather than rush through it. 
  6. Legato long line measures 70-82
  7. Measures 78-81 - be metrical, don't push and pull too much within each measure. Slow down across measures while keeping a steady triple count. 
  8. Measures 164-167 - left hand trill, use slight rotation. Trills are not just buzzes. Listen to each note, it has structure to it. 
  9. Agitato coda - Use all the rests to rest, you'll need it!! There are landing notes which you push off of. Those are points of rest as well. Practice this very slowly till your hand feels very relaxed. Play the entire section in the air too while making sure your shoulders and arms are relaxed. Then play on a hard surface and finally on the keys slowly and then fast only when you've trained your arms and shoulders to be relaxed. 
  10. Measures 196- Tempo I - make that a "sad" sound. 
  11. Last chord - make sure the bottom and top notes are heard.

Debussy Prelude

  1. Use pedal - no crisp notes.
  2. Breathe
  3. Execute all the <> markings.
  4. RH measures 9-10 - keep time, in the same tempo as earlier. Check notes! 
  5. < followed by p is common in Debussy. Honor those markings.
  6. Be confident and play f< then p in measures like 28. 

We ran out of time at this point. All of these pieces, he said, were very good for me and that I should bring these up to performance standards. He then told me I could start working on some other pieces too if I liked. He suggested Bach's Italian concerto or anything else that I wanted to learn. I also told him I had worked on Beethoven's Tempest previously. He said that was a great piece for me as well, so I might try and bring that back soon. 

Goals for the next lesson - explore musical ideas with voicing and sonorities in the Ballade and learn to be relaxed in the coda, finish learning Mendelssohn and practice those alternating figures as instructed, work on the Debussy prelude, prepare the Schubert impromptu as Prof Fitenko wanted to hear it, and also get the Tempest Mvt 1 and 3 ready (might only happen over the next couple of lessons). After a few more lessons, start learning a new piece. 

Saturday, July 2, 2016

#1 - Chopin Ballade No. 2

7/1/2016 was my first lesson with Prof Nikita Fitenko. He said hi to me and without wasting any time, asked me to sit down and play something. I played Schumann's Traumerei, Chopin's Waltz in E m (Op. Posth), and a little bit of a Mozart Sonata so that he could see where I was at with my playing. I gave him a list of pieces I was working on and a wish list. He looked at it and said it was all appropriate but that the Ballade might be too difficult given that it would be difficult for almost anybody. With that, we started working on it. I will list the major points made to beep this post readable and brief:

  1. Breathe life into the music, literally - practice breathing with the music, Chopin's slur markings are very good indications of where to breathe. 
  2. The sound needs to be dreamy and heavenly rather than sequence of notes. Rubato is key. 
  3. Keep hand still, and clutch the keys with your fingers - more control and contact with the keys, and helps make that "heavenly" sound.
  4. The analogy of gravity - going up against gravity induces tension, coming back down is on the way to relief. So for instance, when going down, unless it is marked, don't be "expressive" by going back up (crescendo). 
  5. LEGATO!
  6. Practice small segments by emphasizing different voices to really know what is going on in the other voices (I currently focus only on the top and bottom voices). Once you know the voices inside out, you have more resources to really make music!
  7. Similarly, in the presto con fuoco section, respect the directions (gravity analogy), and play legato. Practice hands separately to do this musically and put them together. 
  8. Don't emphasize the eighth notes too much
  9. Measure 95 - pause every so slightly to convey surprise. Measure 97 - The star of that chord is the A flat. Pay attention to voicing. 
  10. In the stretto piu mosso section (measures 107-114), the right hand needs to be legato and not sounded as groups of three chords. The third must always lead on to the fourth. Similarly, work on more legato on the left. Also, fighten the audience here! This should be grand and majestic and legato!
  11. Agitato section, measures 168 - ..., second chord in the figure is the star. Measure 168 - long line legato. Remember to breathe with the music!
  12. The hand going into the piano is a thing but a grasping motion of the fingers is what establishes real contact with the keys.  Also, in places like measures 190, keep hand compressed during the jumps. So after playing the thumb in an octave figure, bring it in, makes so a smoother transition to the next octave with greater control and precision. This also applies to the 13th jumps in the left hand in measure 178-179. Don't need to keep hand stretched. 
  13. Last section - despair. So produce that kind of an atmosphere. For example, that will tell you how to (or how not to) voice the melancholy chord in measure 200 at the very end. Focusing too much on the top end of the chord will convey another sense, maybe happiness?
The main takeaway from the lesson for me was to focus on the sound, on legato lines. on rubato.. and on breathing life into the music. At the end of the lesson, Prof Fitenko said "You have the technique to play the piece, I will take you. I will help you with the music". That is exactly what I needed to hear. I do play the notes fairly comfortably (except for a few small segments which I'm still working on) when at home. However, my lack of confidence shows in the musicality of my playing, especially when playing for others. Maybe focusing explicitly on that aspect during practice will help, and the breathing will absolutely help. This month's practice will focus on breathing and musicality rather than technique. Teachers before this have also talked about breathing but I guess I never really worked on it hard enough. That will need to change.

Finally, after the lesson, he asked me to sit on the couch and he sat at the piano and gave me a mini recital. He is scheduled to play the entire set of Tchaikovsky's The Seasons in Italy in 3 days. He played the first two, and good gosh, it was a moving performance! It is probably some of the most beautiful piano playing I've listened to. If I had any doubts during the lesson about him being the right teacher for me, those were dispelled after this mini private recital! I have a lot to learn from him on producing beautiful sound on the piano. 

I can only afford one lesson per month with Prof Fitenko, but I think it will be money well spent! 

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Lessons 7, 8 and 9

I did not write entries for these as times were really busy at school. Will post more:

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Practice Techniques

These are techniques I collected from various piano forums.


From one member of PW:

1) Octave displacement: Practicing passages that are in the outer extremities of the piano in a more comfortable octave, and then moving them back to their original location. This was helpful when I was trying to master the final tremolo in the Prelude from Le Tombeau de Couperin by Ravel.

2) Random measure practice: Looking at the number of bars in the piece, and selecting a random number between 1 and that number, and practicing it. Being familiar with starting at almost anywhere in the piece speeds up and solidifies the memorization process.

3) Two-note slurs: I’ve found that in my zeal to emphasize the first note of a two-note slur, I often play a wimpy second note that doesn’t sound fully. To remedy this, I have found it is useful to pick a specific volume for the second note, practice it without the first note, and then play it is written.

4) Identifying what makes a section challenging and isolating the problematic spots: instead of trying to play through the entire passage in one fell swoop, it is better to pick two or three notes that are challenging, practice them slowly, and then put the passage back together.

5) Tapping the RH notes on the palm of the LH hand, or vice versa. This is helpful for discovering places where I’m using too much arm weight and pressing into the keys. Tapping out passages on wood surfaces is also a good idea – wood is a wonderful resonator. My teacher and I often do this and compare how her “taps” sound different than mine.

6) Slow practice.

7) Practicing without the pedal in pieces that require a perfect legato is a good way to check if the notes are smoothly connected.

8) Using a recording device and listening critically to one’s playing.

From another member of PW:

1. Memorizing the left hand alone.

2. Changing the rhythm of difficult passages from what is written to different rhythmic patterns. Similarly, changing the placement of the beat and off-beat.

3. Starting at random places in the piece - from memory.

4. Memorizing chord progressions or phrase-starting notes away from the piano.

5. Checking Youtube to verify that I am reading the piece correctly - note-wise and rhythm-wise. Then staying away from Youtube until I've developed an interpretation.

6. Learning from Urtext, then, well into the process of learning, comparing my interpretation to a heavily edited version. I usually stick with my ideas, but it is an interesting exercise.

7. Asking my teacher where the difficult places are and learning those first, very, very slowly.

8. Learning the piece from the beginning and from the end and working towards the middle.

9. Practicing with no pedals.

10. Practicing in my head, sans piano.

11. LISTENING.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Lesson 6

More Debussy! I learned the 3rd prelude (Le vent dans la plaine) from book 1 and this is what we worked on this time. We spent some time also talking about arpeggios (arpeggi?).

1) Debussy Prelude: I used the pedal to create that wind-like effect for the accompaniment (this was discussed at our previous lesson). That was all good. In measure 3, I ws giving the first Bb staccato an emphasis but I was told not to do that as the melody really only starts with the 32nd note (Eb). I was asked to use firmer fingers for the downward cascade of chords in m9-12 as I was too loose (and hence got a sloppy sound). That suggestion immediately set that part right.

On the second page, I had difficulty with hitting the left hand notes of m16 (Gb and Bbb) accurately. The hands tangle up there and are in quite an awkward position. I was playing the left hand above the right hand there and so that angle wasn't working for the top notes of the left hand. A simple suggestion from the teacher worked wonders: "slip the L.H thumb underneath the R.H 2nd finger since that 2nd finger isn't playing any of the notes there". I am now able to play that part fairly accurately. I employ similar strategies throughout in such awkward situations and that works well to solve angle and position issues.

We spent some time on page 4 as this was something I had learned since the last lesson. The problem identified here was that the melody I played with my left hand in m36 wasn't as clean as what I played in m44. He had me play m44 first, followed by m36. I couldn't get them to sound the same. I went back home and tried working on it and found that my fingering was the issue there. I had adopted a fingering that I thought was the easier one but the fingering given in the Henle actually started working well with some effort. This was when I again started tucking fingers underneath inactive fingers of the other hand. So I'm happy to say that I've solved most of my technical difficulties on that page as well (at least in concept.. just needs some more practice (repetitions) before I get where I want to be with that).

Crescendos like the one in m37 should be honored. So there should be a rise and then a fall.. and then a rise again through those chromatic figures.

We then spent some time on m49. I was making too much of a bump in the sound there trying to execute those small cresendos in the left hand. He made me practice that leaving out the left hand top notes.

Final measure: let pedal go to clear out the notes from the previous bar (except the Bb that is held) and reapply pedal for a final solitary bass Bb to end the piece (since a huge rest is notated in the treble clef!).

2) We then talked about the last page of the Chopin waltz from the previous lesson. He asked me to use rotation to give the music better shape. It was sounding more like a machine gun rather than sensible groups of notes. So I was asked to practice those descending figures towards the end employing just rotation and playing just the important transition notes. I need to find the time to do that. We then talked about that final arpeggio. I had practiced this at home. So when I played it after he demonstrated the concept of getting the wrist and arm to lead the fingers, I did it (almost) to perfection. He was impressed and remarked "Either you are a genius or I am". I replied "I practiced that at home.. so before we decide if I'm a genius, let me try to ascending arpeggio because I haven't practiced that". So I played the ascending arpeggio.. it took me a few trials before I could get the optimal sound. When we were later discussing something else, he suddenly remarked "Btw, I've decided that you are the genius". I think he was half joking :P (of course), but I'll consider it a compliment regardless of whether he was serious or not! I'm no genius of course, but then, who is? I really believe that hard work is what makes geniuses. If there are genetic predispositions, I believe that hard work can overcome (or greatly enhance) that such that it ceases to matter after a while.

3) I finally played a iittle bit of the Brahms Op.118/2 Intermezzo in A. He asked me to play it more freely. He loved the p-pp transition (when the theme is repeated in the beginning). He suggested that I further amplify that effect by using the una corda pedal. We will start with this when we meet next. I'm still working on the 3rd page, just a couple more measures to go before I've learned all the notes to it.

When listening to classical music, I'm rarely moved (as in, rarely does a piece of music make me feel genuinely sad, or genuinely ecstatic, etc) but I do recognize the emotional ups and downs that the music intends to convey. However, Brahms is one composer who goes that extra bit and actually moves me. The first time I had goosebumps listening to music was when a family friend (Philip uncle) first gave me a cd to listen to. That had an orchestral version of Chopin's Fantasie Impromptu. I had never heard anything like it before. That was my introduction to listening to classical music (I was already playing the piano at that time but my teacher or those around me never told me that I should also listen to classical music!).

The second time I had goosebumps listening to music was probably when friends took away my classical music cds and replaced them with Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd. So the first time I listened to the Floyd album "The Wall", I had goosebumps.

The third time that I recall getting goosebumps from music was last year. I sang tenor in the OSU Symphonic Choir. It was our first practice session with the conductor Marshall Haddock. Something that he did suddenly made me more aware of my singing and of the entire music. This was the Brahms German Requiem, a MAJESTIC composition. I remember almost being moved to tears while singing it.

Anyway, all I meant to say is Brahms is great! Singing off now...er, signing off now..

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Lesson 5

We've settled on a fixed time for lessons now. Every other Monday at 4pm. Regular lessons are what I missed all these years and I'm glad to have that finally! We looked at some Bartok, Debussy and Chopin today:

1) Bartok: Stamping Dance from Mikrokosmos (book 5).

My left hand was too percussive. My teacher wanted me to play it as though cellos were playing it. The very act of thinking instrumentally changed the sound of it. I used a little bit of pedal to create longer cello like sounds for the left hand. The character changes when the left hand goes to slurs in the second line. They need to be individual slurred figures (pairs). Towards the end of the first section, the last couple of accents need to be REALLY accented. The tempo can go down a bit (broaden) to emphasize that accent some more (pochiss. allarg.).

In the "Un poco piu mosso" section, towards the end, it needs to keep growing until it hits the sff. If the forte section right before the sff doesn't grow, it will actually seem like its going down (when the sff comes in). I had learned the rhythm wrong starting at the sff. That section is also slightly tricky in that I need to pay careful attention to the gradual slowing down (poco a poco ritard.) as well as the diminuendo to make sure that the "Meno mosso" section isn't an abrupt change in tempo. It needs to feel integrated and organic.

The staccatos in the Meno mosso section are pick-ups and need to be light (imagine the leg starting off pointed in the opposite direction before stepping in a certain direction in a dance..similarly, the staccato is the first preparatory motion, not a motion of its own). This section also needs to be more playful and light. The accelerando needs to be well conducted and it should absolutely be spirited in the piu mosso final section. (Teacher: "The fingers shouldn't lead the musician, it should be the other way round"). That is how such a "stomp" dance might end (on a high).

2) Debussy Prelude (Book 1, No. 3: Les sons et les parfums tournent dans l'air du soir): I had read through half the piece but was already facing technical difficulties in some parts and so I decided to consult my teacher on some of those. I played through it and he liked what he heard.

When playing the left hand accompaniment, I had started out dry but on getting to the second page, I resorted to using the pedal a little. He asked to me to do the same at the beginning because it was too dry without the pedal. The other important thing, as always, is to breathe before the melody enters in the second line. So remember to breathe musically!

The descending celesta like chords at the end of page 1 need to be played with flat fingers and that had an immediate effect on the sound there, I could play it exactly as I wanted to. Most of my technical issues were on the second page, with awkward tangled finger positions. MEasure 21 especially was problematic. He suggested a different fingering (from the one suggested in Henle Urtext). After working on it a bit, I think I can work with the suggested fingering in the book. It needs more work before I'm comfortable with that measure though.

We then spent some time on practicing the contrary leaps in measure 28 (and thereon). The key is to keep the left (and right) hand moving in. So the D flat in the left hand is just a passing tone that can be played by the second finger (as suggested in the book) as the hand moves smoothly across inwards. To practice this, first forget that D flat and just practice the two hands leaping inwards from outside so that the left hand is taught how to move smoothly and without a break. Then incorporate that D flat with the left hand second finger as the left hand takes a smooth uninterrupted trajectory inwards.

3) Chopin Waltz in E minor (Op. posth): I have been working on this for a long time now and I'm still not happy with it. So I decided get some guidance from my teacher. These were his comments:

The introduction needs to build up and then not fizz out but climax in measure 8 on a full blown forte. I had not paid enough attention to building that up. Then, as always BREATHE before the grazioso waltz begins. He liked most of it, except for the E major part (starting measure 57). It needs to be much more graceful. I could take the tempo a notch down. "Take me out to the garden before taking me back to the dance floor" is how my teacher described this part to me. It still needs a basic pulse of course, but it can be much more graceful and relaxed. Make sure you hear the B's (e.g: measure 58). A nice legato in m. 59 (and similar measures).

Again, BREATHE before the ff section begins. Note correction in m.75. I had always been aware of that different note that I had heard in recordings but I had always played the urtext. However, this other version sounds more interesting, so I've decided to play that instead and my teacher told me what notes they were. (Urtext is the boring G# -> c#, the other version is G#A#C#F# (what chord is this?) --> c#).

Breathe in 80..pause, and gracefully play the rest. Make sure you breathe in measure 108 too right before the beginning of the build-up to climax.

Finally, the E minor arpeggio. He gave me a demonstration...fast and accurate! The trick is to use the wrist to lead the fingers. So the wrist now points to the left and the entire arm keeps moving to the left while the fingers (though slanted now because of the angle that the wrist makes) play the arpeggio real fast. Its hard to explain this in words, I'll probably update this section with a video demo some time.

I was also asked to remind him to talk to me more about arpeggios at the beginning of the next lesson. Targets for next lesson: finish learning the Debussy prelude, maybe also finish learning the Brahms Intermezzo (118/2) and that should give us enough to talk about next lesson.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Lesson 4

I had my 4th lesson today, by far the best lesson in terms of a sense of achievement. My teacher also seemed happy at the end of the lesson about the fact that I had made good progress both during the previous weeks (after the last lesson) as well as during the course of the lesson itself.

The first piece I played today was Debussy's Prelude 1 (book 1): Danseuses de Delphes or Dancers of Delphi). We began by talking about impressionism (e.g. Monet paintings). The idea is to make suggestions of different possible colors. For example, Monet would paint a haystack at different times of the day to make suggestions as to how the same thing might look entirely different at different points in time. Similarly, Debussy's style of composing is one that gives people suggestions about sound color. We will come back to this later.

We then talked about tempo. I was playing it too slow and so he wasn't getting the feel of the pulse of the piece. It needed to be a slow dance, and so rather than three separate beats, it should be heard as groups of three. So I had to play it slightly faster as well as with a conception of movement from the sixteenth note of the second beat to the third (I was delaying the sixteenth note too much).

Coming back to impressionism and the suggestion of colors, measure 4 is where a full chord with a full long pedal followed by harp like descending chords appear. The pedal is held till the end of the measure. We might think its too muddy but really, that's what impressionism is all about.. sound colors, its not about individual notes. Also, the pp harp like chords are played so light that they don't really sound all that muddy if played right! The texture here is very different from the texture in say measure 21 where it takes on a much nobler and serious tone (and all this is implied by Debussy's use of registers. So pay attention to the different registers used and decide on your voicing, pedaling, etc based on what the register used SUGGESTS!). To play the harp-like chords, use a upward floating motion of the arms as well as caressing top to bottom motion with the fingers on the keys to get the light touch required. (It really does work, I think I achieved it to near perfection during the lesson, which both teacher and student were happy with!).

Measure 11: maintain a nice legato line, with the pedal held down long, lift pedal towards the end and maybe some half pedaling in measure 12.

Measure 15: Again, pay attention and play a nice legato melody (octaves). Maintain the pulse throughout.

Measure 17 pedaling: Pedal on each beat but late on the third beat to make a better line through that measure.

Measures 19-20: Each of the C octaves at the beginning of each of these bars need to go down in volume gradually. Similarly the pp chord on top also needs to go down in volume as you progress from measure 19-20.

Measure 21/22: Here is where Debussy uses the middle of the keyboard. He uses the thirds of each chord. This choice of register suggests a more noble character. Again, be extremely mindful of giving a good legato to both left and right hands here for the melody line.

Measure 23/24: Now Debussy uses 3 octave notes and moves upwards. Now this requires a different character than measures 21/22. The different character is implied by the choice of register! So now use an outer voicing, i.e., bring out the top and bottom notes.

Measure 29: The forte chord here shouldn't be super loud, it should just be a full chord. The pedal stays then and the soft chord in measure 30 is played on the same pedal from the previous measure.

Last note: Needs to sound like a muted gong (and soft)! When taking off the foot from the pedal, if its too slow when it comes up, you will get a twangy sound. So do not be too slow while lifting up the foot.

Finally, I couldn't find the exact meaning of the French suggestions in the piece "doux et soutenu" and "doux mais en dehors". I ran them through google translator and came up with these: "supported and gentle" and "supported but outside". Soutenu also probably means sustained, according to another website which might be closer to what is meant here.

I then played the Chopin etude (Op. 25, No. 2) as I had spent quite a bit of time working on the left hand. My teacher said that it was a huge improvement over the last time. I was unhappy with how I played it the first time but as the lesson progressed, my playing got better. I had pedaled wrong the first time but when asked to play again, I did it right and he was very happy with that.

Measure 35: The chromatic motion between E flat and F flat needs to be brought out (that's what the accent's about, it is not necessarily there for an increase in volume on that "accented" note). However, don't overdo it just as yet because when the B flat minor comes in (measure 39), that needs to be further exaggerated and finally leading up to the forte section.

Measure 47: Pedal each beat separately. It is not a chromatic upwards figure that needs to be brought out like in the earlier case (measure 35). So make sure they are separated. The poco riten. that I did (to his liking) needs to go on till the end of measure 50 because this is one place where we can afford to relax a bit (and to let the music breathe a bit).

Measure 64 - end: Can slow down gradually and relax.

Just need some more practice before this is performance ready, I think.

At the end of the lesson we discussed new repertoire. Since we were both enjoying doing Debussy, we decided that we'd do some more. So I'll be working on prelude 3 from book 1 next ("Le vent dans la plaine" or "The wind on the plain"). I was also asked to work on two Bartok pieces from the Mikrokosmos book 5: No. 22 "Stamping dance" and No.48 "Jack-in-the-box"). Since I expressed interest in Schubert, I was also asked to prepare one Schubert impromptu (of my choice except Op posth. 142, No. 3). I am halfway through the Brahms Intermezzo Op. 118, No. 2. So I was asked to bring that in when ready as well. I will also play the Chopin waltz for him some time as that needs some help too (and I still need to finish the second movement of the tempest sonata!). Lots of work awaiting me..but all exciting and fun work!

One final note:
"I am trying to do 'something different'- in a way realities- what the imbeciles call `impressionism' is a term which is as poorly used as possible, particularly by art critics."
- Claude Debussy in a letter of March, 1908

That Debussy hated being branded an impressionist is something that my best friend (and composition and performance major at Berklee) Deepak brought to my attention. Articles on the matter claim that though Debussy hated it, there are still very valid arguments to be made for the case that Debussy was, at the very core, influenced by the impressionist artists and writers of his times. For example, see: http://www.tcd.ie/Music/JF%20History/debussy.html.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Lesson 3

I didn't write the blog post for this lesson immediately after because we had friends visiting. The best I recall, lesson 3 was about the importance of knowing the left hand well. One reason of course is that we tend to look at pieces as "right hand melody with left hand accompaniment" and by default, for most of us, the accompaniment is somehow "less important". This is far from ideal of course. The other purpose behind knowing the left hand well is to know the progression of harmony exactly, so that we get a sense of direction as to where the music is going harmonically. That will help us plan our dynamics and will help us play it even more musically.

We worked on the third movement of the tempest again. I showed him the fingering that I had worked on. It works well. The tied note just needs to be held the entire duration of the bar as notated (but I had misread it). So now it sounds much smoother and when the pedal comes in in bar 9, it doesn't feel abrupt. The ending note of each of the figures in the beginning also needs to be more "portato" (not too long but not too short either). In measure 23, we talked about how the motion to the sf was more of a gesture than a dynamic marking. The pedal also needs to be lifted at the end of the measure to implement the rest in the left hand while the right hand holds the tied note.

We also looked closely at dynamic changes. I had been implementing the crescendos far too abruptly. So my playing sounded like an accordion. My teacher gave me a useful guideline for smoother crescendos. Do not begin increasing as soon as you see the crescendo marking but play at the same level and then with the next harmonic change, give it more volume, then stay, then less and back to normal. So implement these dynamics at the level of harmonic changes. This is why practicing the left hand, especially as blocked chords, is useful!

So I practiced the entire Chopin etude as blocked chords and then learned to play the entire left hand all by itself. It helps immensely! I had also been struggling with the pedal. I was advised to use one pedal per measure and to slightly lift off towards the end of each measure. The left hand first note was to be more prominent. So the main task for the next lesson was to practice the left hand as blocked chords first and then the complete left hand exactly as notated. I worked on all these for the past couple of weeks and saw some good results (see lesson 4 description).

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Tempest 3rd movement fingering

After listening carefully to the Andras Schiff lecture on this sonata (http://www.guardian.co.uk/arts/audio/2006/nov/30/culture1417), I think I want to play those opening left hand arpeggios exactly as notated by Beethoven: no/very little pedal, the second note tied. I'm leaning towards a new fingering now: 5-3-2-1 for the first D minor arpeggio and my earlier 5-1-3-2 for the A major. I think this works the best. Will update this post if this changes.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Lesson 2

I had my second lesson today. We talked about many important concepts. I played the third movement of Beethoven's Sonata in D minor ("Tempest"), Op.31, No.2. I chose to play this movement because I've been highly confused about how exactly to play it. I used to play it with a weird fingering that my teacher in Vienna had introduced to me as the simplest (it wasn't all that simple, I had put in a decent amount of work to get that under my fingers). Everybody I play it to here disagree with the fingering and for good reason. I used 5-1-3-2 for the left hand D minor arpeggio at the very beginning. Some teachers don't mind it as long as this doesn't introduce unwanted accents (usually the 3rd finger in my case). I recently attended a masterclass organized by a local music school where the teacher asked me to try a different fingering: 5-5-2-1. We talked about this fingering today for about half an hour! Here is a summary of everything that we talked about today:

1) Fingering: 5-5 is inherently jerky and choppy. Its just technically difficult to play that arpeggio evenly at the required tempo with 5-5. Now Barenboim does it, but then Barenboim does many things that I probably can't do in my lifetime :P, so I'm not going to concern myself with that. My teacher uses 5-2-1-2, a very manageable fingering at higher speeds.

I was slightly reluctant to let go of the 5-5-2-1 fingering. I'll explain. First, the function of that arpeggio is just to be in the background. It doesn't need any expressive exaggerated motions of any kind. Its a simple arpeggio according to my teacher (which is why he uses the simpler 5-2-1-2 fingering). That, I agree with. However, Beethoven put in a tied note, tied with the second note of the arpeggio and notated the first note with a downward stem. In some editions, the first note even appears with a staccato. So I argued that the second note was somehow more important to Beethoven. My teacher agreed with that argument and said that the argument was a valid one. I loved the fact that he didn't impose his interpretation on me. In fact, he said that I was the one who had to make the decision, given that the argument was a valid one. What he said next was really the key: The question however still remains if one wants a strong accent on that note or if one would still want a smooth soft arpeggio there, maybe with a subtle break between the first and second notes. This will preserve the required character of the allegretto (see later).

I think I like this idea very much. I would love to be able to play a light floating left hand arpeggio with an ever so slight emphasis on that second note. Now, the 5-5-.. fingering also allows me to achieve that tied note with the finger. However, the pedal is already in use and so that isn't crucial. The 5-5 transition also introduces a strong accent on the second note, which I'm sure with a lot of work can be done away with. However, it is a lot of work (and is probably work worth doing but lets think about this some more). The other issue with using 5-5 is that due to it being more difficult inherently, there may be compromises in the tempo that the piece starts in. Though it is marked allegretto, we don't want it to be too slow. Too fast is bad too (most people play it too fast). If we start too slow, we are going to have to come back to the same slow tempo for the repeat, and right before the repeat is a section that has a forward moving alternating dark and light character. The contrast in tempi is going to be too big. So we want to avoid starting too slow.

How do I practice the 5-5-2-1 fingering? Here are some ideas we worked on today:

a) Cross over the right hand over the left to play the lowest note of the arpeggio and play the others with the left. Achieve a smooth sound. Pedal after the first note. This will teach me what the target sound is. Then try to achieve that sound with only the left hand (5-5-2-1).

b) Sing the right hand melody, and play the accompaniment using the above cross over first. Then sing and play the accompaniment with only the left hand (5-5-2-1).

c) Then play as written.

Though we worked on this particular fingering today, I think I will explore my teacher's fingering and determine if that makes better sense.

2) The next comment was that I need to start feeling 1..1..1..1 rather than 123123123 because the harmony changed every 1 measure. So that's the appropriate rhythmic feel, not three. The singing helps with that too.

3) We then discussed what "allegretto" means. Allegretto (slower than the allegro) is not just a tempo, it is also a character. Allegretto implies graceful and charming (which is why the opening had to be light and graceful, with only half pedaling..not heavy footed pedaling).

4) Pedaling: The teacher told me that he had gained a lot of knowledge about pedaling from Nadia Reisenberg but had never mastered the pedal as much as she did. Josef Hoffman was known for his mastery of the pedal. Nadia Reisenberg once said to my teacher that she had a Ph.D in pedaling because of her teacher. My teacher opened up the piano today and talked to me about the various sound colors that both the damper pedal and the una corda pedal could produce.

The beginning of the piece, as described earlier, needs to be light. Heavy footed pedaling is to be avoided. A half-pedal will achieve the required sound. By keeping the dampers closer to the strings, maybe even touching the strings lightly, resonance is decreased and so the sound is kept light. (However, this depends on the piano and how well regulated it is, etc). The darker sections need a fuller pedal for greater resonance. He also showed me how the pedal is more like a dimmer switch instead of a regular on/off switch. So for the beginning left hand arpeggio for instance, pedal halfway after the first note and gradually bring up the foot towards the end of each arpeggio figure so that the first note of the next measure is clear.

5) After the tumultuous and dark bass D minor theme is played (measure 31), the C major pattern that I played was too light and playful. It needed to retain that dark character. So I played it heavier and with more seriousness.

6) He got me to play the chords (measure 42) before the "epileptic" forte section (43-47). Those harmonic resolutions needed to be clearer.

A long pedal needs to be used in the "epilectic" forte section. Also, without actually doing a crescendo, it should actually feel/sound like a crescendo (no point doing the exact same thing repeatedly over and over again.. it is not interesting musically). The long pedal helps with that as well.

The "epilectic" (not an allegretto character here!) forte section now needed to make way to go back to the graceful and light allegretto character starting at measure 48.

7) The dark/light alternating development section (starting measure 95): The light (p) section (95-98) needs to be legato and the pedaling needs to be lighter too. When the first dark arpeggio (G minor) comes in (99-102)), use heavier pedal. Also "think" dark.

8) Measure 110-118: The left hand is the leader here. Practice this section by playing a singing/legato DARK left hand, and by playing softer (but not too soft) accompanying chords in the right hand.

Measure 119-125: The roles are reversed now. The right hand is the leader. So practice this as above, with the right hand playing legato and left hand with accompanying chords. Make sure the pedaling is right, you don't want to pedal during the three note groups, you need to pedal on that first note of the measure and slowly come off it towards the end of the three note groups.

9) B flat minor section (starts measure 150): The crescendo needs to start small, and develop over a long time, so be careful about not getting too large too soon.

This sums up the second lesson. I felt like we talked about very useful concepts about interpretation today and this lesson was very useful. At the end of the lesson I told him that I had been working on the same pieces for a long time now and was getting bored. I told him that I hadn't played Debussy (or for that matter Schubert or Schumann or any of those great composers) so far. I have the Preludes and he asked me to learn I and III followed by IV in book 1. If I wanted to start working on some Chopin, he suggested that I look at one of the ballades EXCEPT the 4th one.

Lesson 1 (A new beginning)

I started lessons with a new teacher on my birthday. He is a Juilliard graduate and was a student of Nadia Reisenberg (whose teacher was the great Josef Hoffman). So I'm extremely proud of my newly acquired lineage! He is a professor of piano at the university.

In any event, none of that really matters.. what matters is that I loved my first lesson. The second lesson was even better. In this post, I intend to summarize my first lesson, for my own records. If you find it useful, that's even better!

I played Bach's Prelude and Fugue in C minor BWV 847, WTC Book I. Here are the things I was asked to work on:

1) Sing the theme as I wanted to hear it on the piano. Then work on reproducing the exact same sound on the piano, without unwanted accents and other bumps.

2) BREATHE! Breathing musically helps in many ways. It helps the music breathe (because musical breathing extends into the playing apparatus and so actual physical breathing can in fact cause the music to breathe as well if done right). It also helps with focusing. If we focus on the breathing instead of somebody in the audience coughing, we would naturally be less distracted while playing. So there are multiple benefits.

3) Work on playing different combinations of the voices with the right fingering (of course). So in any given phrase, play the bass and the tenor together, leave out the soprano/alto. Then play just the soprano together with the tenor, then the soprano with the bass. (This is a 3 voice fugue, which is why I grouped the soprano and alto together as one voice). This would help us hear the voices much better and decide on the balance required. This is how he said his teachers at Juilliard made everybody learn fugues (I'm sure people do this everywhere, not just Juilliard) and so he is getting me to do the same thing.

4) Think in terms of a trio! Each instrument is equally important in a trio. My version of the fugue was "too right-handed". So I was asked to bring to the left hand the same kind of smooth and flowing sixteenth notes that I was doing with my right hand. When the right hand played it, it led the other voices nicely but when the same thing appeared in the left hand, it was suddenly in the background. So I needed to work on giving sufficient importance to all the three voices.

5) Prelude: He liked most of it, except the presto section which I played like a machine gun firing sixteenth notes. He got me to think of that section as smaller groups of notes. He got me to pause at the end of each group. That way, I learned to think in terms of groups and not in terms of fast individual notes. I worked on it at home and it sounds way better. Thinking in musically sensible units also helps with speed. So I'm beginning to understand that the first step towards solving a technical issue is to think musically. When you get that part right, the technique will follow (in a lot of cases). The other comment about the prelude was to emphasize the low G right before the presto section. So those were to be treated like pedal notes (in Bach's time, there were keyboard instruments that came with pedal controls that could be used to play basslines with the feet!).

That sums up the first lesson!

A note of thanks to Ms. Nina Polonsky, a highly sought after teacher in Columbus who I auditioned for. It was her recommendation that got me into this teacher's studio. I also thank her husband, a violinist, who came into the room to meet me after hearing me play. Ms. Polonsky wasn't too impressed, I think (because she has wonderfully talented students who are half my age), but her husband took a liking to me and put in a strong word for me. Though she shoo'ed him away from the room, I think that may have helped her form a positive enough opinion of my playing that she sent in a recommendation because she felt that this teacher (who had more adult students) would be more suitable for me.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

A visit to Cunningham Pianos (Philadelphia)

I happened to attend a conference in Philadelphia. I visited Cunningham Piano and Co while I was there. Here are some pics (slideshow embedded after the text). I also have a couple of videos where I play some of his pianos. Forgive the huge flubs in my playing.. it wasn't easy to go play after 2 tiring days of listening to Psychology talks. However, the pianos sound beautiful, so do have a listen! Thanks to Rich Galassini, owner of Cunningham Pianos, for hosting us and giving us that very informative tour of the showroom and the amazing restoration facility (never seen anything like it!).






And this is my dream piano:

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Tempest 3rd Mvt and others

Its been a while since I blogged. Have been busy with grad school. I'm currently working on tidying up the Tempest 3rd mvt and have started working on the second movement. I should have it done by my next lesson hopefully. I have also started a Mozart sonata (Sonata no. 5 in G, K283) and have learned half the first movement. Its a delightful piece. Listen to Barenboim play this on youtube. I have to get back to work (grad school) now. More later.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Bach Prelude and Fugue in C minor, BWV 847

I just got my piano tuned. Here's a quick, single take of the Bach Prelude and Fugue No.2 in C minor, WTC book 1:

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Chopin Etude Op.25, No. 2

I had captured a video of my practice routine. This was played at the very end, so its not perfect. I let loose at the end of the practice session to have fun with a tempo that's slightly higher than what I usually play at..and this is the result.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Brahms Requiem: The Performance

Last night was one of the best nights of my life. It was a privilege to be a part of that group of people and we consider ourselves extremely lucky to have this piece of great music in our lives. I'm not going to elaborate on the technicalities of the piece as you will easily find them online. However, I will tell you that there's some very exciting stuff in it.. including some amazing fugues. Its been a while since I had goosebumps listening to music and I've almost never had goosebumps when I've been part of the music making mechanism (including solo performances or as frontman of a rock band) but last night was different. The high I got singing "Behold all flesh.." the second time (fortissimo, Mvt II), is indescribable. I'd like to thank Dr Thomas Hart and Dr Robert Ward who trained us over the past 3-4 months. Its been an incredible learning experience. My wife captured a video of most of it, except the last 15 mins when the camera ran out of storage. It was impossible to hold the camera up for the entire duration of 1h 15mins but the audio should be clear enough for you to get an idea of what it sounded like!

I have also uploaded the complete audio files. So the last bit of the concert should be available there. The audio, followed by the youtube video:

0) Beginning of concert: orchestra tuning and applause:



1) Movement I: Blessed are they that mourn



2) Movement II: Behold all flesh is as the grass



3) Movement III: Lord make me to know




4) Movement IV: How lovely is thy dwelling place



5) Movement V: And ye now therefore have sorrow



6) Movement VI: For here have we no continuing place



7) Movement VII: Blessed are the dead who in the lord shall die



8) End of concert applause







Saturday, March 5, 2011

Seat Height

I have been telling myself to saw some part off my piano bench but I've been lazy. I also knew that it was precisely the reason for my low wrists and all the related pain. I've decided to cut back on the playing until I get a saw from somewhere to reduce the height of my bench. I bought the piano from a Church and they ended up giving me an organ bench with the piano. An organ bench is usually much higher than a piano bench.

Edna Golandsky explains the importance of seat height in simple terms:

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Brahms Requiem Performance

What has this got to do with piano playing? Well, we must realize that piano playing is just an instance of music making. Singing is another instance. Insights derived from each instance hold across many such instantiations and so any enlightening musical experience feeds into any activity that involves making music. I could take it a step further and say that it feeds into almost any activity in life but that would require more explanation and I don't want to go into that right now.

All I wanted to say really is that I sing tenor in the University Symphonic Choir and we are performing the entire Brahms Requiem (in English, we did a few movements in German last quarter) on the 8th of March. An hour long marathon of pristine music! It will be conducted by Marshall Haddock who is an expert in this field. We have had 3 sessions with him and he is absolutely inspiring. The importance of diction was drilled into us. A major reason for diction being so important is that we need to be heard and understood over an entire orchestra! Its the consonants that will help us there. Shaping melodic contours is yet another important aspect that we've worked on quite a bit. Its probably trivial to see now why insights gained from singing might be applicable to piano playing. Chopin, for example, held the legato of a well shaped vocal phrase as the pianist’s melodic ideal.

In any case, I'm very excited about the performance on the 8th. The experience has been very gratifying!  



Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Lesson 2 (Fugue, Etude, Physicality)

My second piano lesson was on the 26th of February. I was extremely busy with school at that time. I'm done with that now and so will describe my lesson here now.

I started by playing the Chopin etude. I had worked on getting my fourth and fifth fingers more arm support. I messed up real bad on my first couple of attempts. The grand piano there is an old one with a somewhat heavier action than the upright that I practice on. I will describe some general issues with my technique below but before that, I will mention that the tenuto part on the last page of the etude is currently being played with a suboptimal tone. I'm playing harsh staccatos there. The teacher kept giving me an analogy of "chicken digging in the mud". She asked me to play lighter, but then I was playing too much on the surface and the resulting tone again is suboptimal in the opposite sense. So the "chicken digging" analogy does make sense.. press the key all the way down, but needs to be light. A lot of it probably also has to do with wrist/arm support again, for the kind of control required to execute a nice sounding tenuto in a "nonstandard" 5 finger pattern over black keys.

Let me now describe some major issues with my physical approach to this piece and piano playing in general. Prior to my lessons in Vienna in 2008, I had been playing with somewhat higher wrists but had a lot of tension in the muscles in my arm. The teacher in Vienna then showed me how to use arm weight effectively and that got rid of tension completely, especially in my left arm. I can now play a very relaxed left hand. However, I believe I ended up doing too much of it and so the way I currently play, my wrists are too low. I rely on arm movement rather than active fingers. My current teacher says that I have "lazy fingers". To work on some basics then, she had me do the following:

Play a D flat major scale (or G flat). Slow and steady, with keys depressed all the way down and somewhat firm higher wrists. As you go higher up, you move to the right AND forward, not solely to the right. Similarly as you go down, go to the left AND forward. This allows you to support your fingers better with your arm/wrist alignments (try it, the difference felt is immediate). That is not the major part of the exercise though. Play hands separate, stop briefly at every note that's played by the second finger. These are black keys now. These are the hinge points where if you have the right wrist position/alignment going, you will get the rest of them right too. The key is to feel the bounce from the keybed which cannot be felt with a floppy wrist. I also felt much more secure playing with firmer and higher wrists. Similar issues were observed when I played the third movement of the tempest for my teacher:

Let me record a minor issue first: too much pedal (easily fixed). Now for bigger issues: the sforzandos are being executed very harshly as of now. That again has to do with how much I rely on my arm strength. So we worked on that a bit, but employing a similar strategy as above: wrist alignment, using the fingers more, higher wrist and hence support from the wrist. The chromatic pattern that follows the sforzando also lacked control because of the same reasons. There is yet another section in this movement that we worked on and that helped me quite a bit. Its the sforzandos that appear again in the first reprise. Here, they involve double notes (A major, D minor forte section, for your reference). My tone again was extremely harsh because I've been using too much arm strength there. I was made to play it with better finger shape and better support for those fingers. The key is to form the shape necessary BEFORE striking. Use higher and firm wrists again. Also, the double note figure that follows the sforzando double note figure also gets a forte, unlike the earlier sudden reduction in volume that I'd been doing. Major lessons here to summarize: form the shape necessary before striking, use higher firm wrists, align so as to support the finger shape formation, and use more finger work. Point to note: I do not mean absurdly high wrists when I say higher wrists. I only mean higher relative to what I do now. So level wrists towards the higher end, would be a more accurate description. Lots of reworking basics ahead!

Another extremely important piece of advice was given to me when we were working on the sforzandos mentioned above. I kept repeating the figure implementing the instructions given multiple times, in quick succession. She stopped me short and asked me to play it once and then THINK about what possibly went wrong and what possibly went well. Then play it again with a better thought out strategy. Reevaluate!Taking a moment to reevaluate is extremely important! It made a huge difference when I stopped to think about it. I got it right faster.

The teacher also suggested that I start working on the revolutionary etude, since she thought a study for the left hand would nicely complement the predominantly right hand Op 25 No 2 that I currently play. However, she asked me later if I wanted to do some Mozart and I let her know that I was VERY interested and she said that we'd save the revolutionary for later. I really want to get started on a Mozart sonata as I've never played any Mozart so far. We will also rework the Chopin Waltz (E minor, Op. Posth) that I learned in Vienna. I have a long way to go with that piece too. There are some challenging big jumps in that piece that I have not managed to secure so far. I almost forgot, the Bach fugue!

I played the Fugue after I did the etude. Sorry for the messed up order in this write up but the order doesn't really matter. So here's what she had to say about the fugue. Fugues are of three kinds: spiritual, cerebral, and dance-like. This one (BWV 847) is dance-like. The rhythmic pattern is what holds the piece together and gives it character. So the accents on 3 and 4 drive the piece. She played the piece for me and had me clap on 3 and 4.. and it sounded very much like a nice dance. So I got back home and attempted to play it like a dance. Signing off with a video now of the attempt at a dance-like fugue (disregard the suboptimal arm movements, am working on getting my fingers to work more):


Saturday, January 1, 2011

Lesson 1

The teacher is from New York. She holds a DMA from the Eastman School of Music. She visits Ohio once a month or so. Being the first lesson, she had me play some pieces that I currently play and made some suggestions. The most valuable suggestion was about needing more arm support for my 4th and 5th fingers, especially while playing the Chopin Etude (No. 2, Op. 25). More explanation later. Some of the pieces I played along with the teacher's suggestions:

Bach: Prelude and Fugue in Cm, BWV 847. I only played the Prelude as I hadn't learned the fugue. She played a bit of the fugue for me and suggested I play the eighth notes with articulation and not detached, though the notes had staccato markings on them. I guess it has to do with Baroque interpretation. The sixteenth notes (with the same staccato markings) needed to be more detached. In any case, the pattern used for the opening theme needs to be used for all the subsequent voices. I need to learn this fugue for the next lesson which should be in a month's time from now.

Chopin: Etude No. 2, Op. 25. The main suggestion was that I needed to use my arm a little to move in the direction of the 4th and 5th fingers when these fingers were being employed. This would result in less tension in the lower forearm and below the thumb region. This would also help me get more legato. The way I'm playing now, my hand (along with the 1st and 2nd fingers) maintains its position while the 4th and 5th stretch to play the notes they are supposed to play. Instead, the suggestion is to have the arm/wrist follow the 4th and 5th fingers. I tried it, it works. I'm going to have to work this out slowly with the entire piece. The resulting sound ought to be more legato and lighter than what I produce now. There was also a suggestion to use more flesh on my finger tips to play the keys. I think I play with slightly more pointed fingers now and that most definitely contributes to the slightly harsh (sharp?) tone. So paying attention to that should also help produce a lighter tone. Another important suggestion was to play with slightly higher wrists (again, this probably helps with lightness of touch).

Beethoven: Sonata (Tempest), Mvt I. The only suggestion here was to do the drop roll in the second measure (which I was already doing) but without so much of a flappy wrist. That would help with the accents on the first notes of those eighth notes and having a relatively firm wrist would probably also help being consistent with that accent. I have been asked to learn the third movement and if possible, the second movement too for the next lesson. I'm pretty sure I won't be able to do both. Being in grad school and in a non music related field complicates matters.

Reading: I need to work on my reading skills. The suggestion is to get Music for Millions (red = easy) and practice reading everyday. Take a piece, read through it once at moderate speed. Maybe do the same piece the next day. She also asked me to find my way on the keyboard without having to look at it. So that means, I close my eyes, decide on a note to hit.. search on the keyboard with my hands till I get there, play the note. The most important part though is next: visualize the hand position on the piano as you play the note. Open your eyes now and check if reality matches what you saw in your inner eye. The other idea is to effectively use the "ridges" between keys and all of those physical features in between keys to guide your fingers to the right positions on the keys. Once this becomes second nature, sight reading becomes easier because you no longer have to look down while reading.

I also need to buy the Chopin Preludes and Etudes. The teacher thinks that those etudes would be ideal for me to do right now. I had bought the dover edition book some time ago but I donated it to the music academy back in my hometown. The teacher suggests that I buy the dover publication (which is the Mikuli edition), the same that I had bought earlier. She also likes the Paderewski edition. I didn't read too many favorable reviews of the Mikuli version online. People seemed to prefer the Paderewski edition. Mikuli was a student of Chopin's though and one would think that his edition would be the "better" one. I'm undecided as to which one to get. I might go for the Paderewski one as I managed to find the Mikuli version online (Schirmer) at IMSLP.

I will also work on the Mephisto Waltz No. 3 (a later work of Liszt's) in the near future. So that sums up the first lesson. Please leave a comment if you have a question.