Sunday, December 18, 2011
On January 19, 2012 I will make my debut at Carnegie Hall on the stage of the famed Stern Auditorium. The gala concert will be my tribute to VLADIMIR HOROWITZ and...I will perform on Horowitz’s own Steinway (CD 503) – the piano that traveled with him all over the world and that he played during his triumphant return to Moscow and Leningrad in 1986.
I am also thrilled and honored to share that the one and only DONALD TRUMP will be the Gala Chairman, and the legendary JULIE ANDREWS will the Special Guest Artist Host.
Finally, all proceeds from the concert will go to support the AMERICAN CANCER SOCIETY! So I invite you to join us for this very special night at Carnegie Hall!
Monday, August 29, 2011
I receive daily emails from people around the world that often contain similar questions about piano playing, exercises, repertoire selection, music and art in general, etc. Occasionally, they contain criticism, and if it has more substance than the pointless “you shouldn’t do/wear/play/breathe/say/think…because I don’t like it!” then I try to reply to those as well. So I thought it might be fun to post some of those emails and comments (without any editing, but protecting the identity of the inquirers, of course) and my respective answers here in my blog. Oh, and those whose questions I choose to post here will get my recording of Liszt’s La Campanella as a gift. So here’s one recent exchange:
“I thought that you would be a good person to ask because you are an actual piano virtuoso. What exercises are required to be a virtuoso and can you please be specific? I am already fairly advanced. I practice all of the following exercises daily: 5 finger patterns, 3 note cadences, Scales, Chromatic scales, Blocked and broken triads, Octaves(going through scales), 4 note chords, blocked, broken, and alternating, arpeggios(triplets), Octaves(going through arpeggios), Seventh chords, blocked and broken, Seventh Chord arpeggios, Double thirds, double sixths. I do all of these exercises in all keys and all inversions, except for double sixths (which is soon to be in all keys). I can't play everything super fast yet but I can play everything at least at a moderate speed. Now is this enough for virtuosity after it is completely mastered or is there something else I need to add into my warm ups? Thank you for taking the time to read this and I hope you give me a genuine response.”
“I'm guessing you're a fairly young musician so I think a lot of these questions will become clearer as you mature. In my mind, virtuosity goes beyond speed or technique. It's a complete mastery of the instrument, which evolves out of many elements working in combination over time. And everyone arrives there in his or her own way, but a guidance of experienced piano professors might be helpful. How do you know if you achieved it? Well...when you can play Rachmaninoff's 3rd concerto at Rachmaninoff's own tempo and accuracy - I would call you a virtuoso.
Thursday, June 16, 2011
Friday, February 4, 2011
Wednesday, January 26, 2011
Q: Are you left-handed?
Q: When did you start playing?
A: When I turned six.
Q: Who are your favorite composers?
A: That changes all the time, but Rachmaninoff is always among them.
Q: Do you always play Steinway pianos?
Q: Do you always play in heels?
A: Yes. I don’t own flats.
Q: Do you give lessons?
A: No. (No patience + bad temper)
Q: Are Hanon exercises helpful?
A: Don’t know, never used them.
Q: Is sheet music for your compositions available?
A: Yes. HERE.
Q: I don’t hear the song in your arrangement?
A: Good, you have a lot of music discoveries still ahead then.
Q: Are you sure you are human?
A: Yes, relatively certain.
I always enjoy your comments and questions so I'll be doing these FAQ entries periodically.
Sunday, October 31, 2010
The other day someone asked me if I could name 20 classical melodies that I believe are “the most significant” in the history of mankind: melodies that captured the human experience in the most powerful and inimitable way…compositions that everyone must hear at least once before they die.
Putting together such list wasn’t as easy as one might think because countless tremendously talented compositions have been written throughout history. Still, in my mind some simply tower above the rest in their brilliance and impact. Interestingly enough, these are not necessarily my most favorite pieces as a musician, but if I had to pick only 20 melodies that an alien should listen to in order to feel what it means to be a human – I’d name the following (the links are strictly for illustration. I do not necessarily think that these are the best performances/recordings of these compositions):
20. Rachmaninoff’s Second Concerto, 3rd movement, 2nd theme – OK, since this is my personal list, Rachmaninoff simply had to be here;
19. Bizet’s “Carmen”, Habanera – When I think of why we go crazy for one person while the other leaves us completely cold, the answer seems complicated. Yet, when I listen to this aria, everything becomes clear and simple;
18. Verdi’s “La Traviata”, Amami Alfredo (the ending) – In those few measures Verdi captured the essence and the drama of the entire opera. Plus, had it not been for this part Vivian and Edward in Pretty Woman would have never ended up together;
17. Khachaturian’s “Sabre Dance” – Parental discretion is strongly advised: this is a musical orgy after all;
16. Prokofiev’s “Romeo and Juliet”, Montecchi e Capuleti – The notions of enmity and unresolvable conflict pale in comparison to this dance. This is the one music piece that is worth a thousand words;
14. Rossini’s William Tell Overture – Though not my personal favorite, it just had to be here;
13. Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake”, main leitmotif – Tchaikovsky’s multiple genius creations presented a very difficult choice. I could have easily added to this list the entire Nutcracker and Sleeping Beauty, at least two symphonies and a piano concerto. In the end, I chose this theme because to me it illustrates how music can create an almost palpable world of mystery, magic and drama;
12. Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons”, Winter, 1st movement – I was tempted to add an entire cycle, but picked this movement because to me it is the most brilliant representation of the entire baroque music tradition;
11. Bach’s Orchestral Suite No.2 BWV1067, 07 Badinerie – Or, perhaps, this is the most brilliant one? Oh, I couldn't decide and had to pick them both;
10. Ravel’s Bolero – Simply put, Bolero = hypnosis and Ravel = a musical painter who, through his unmatched knowledge of orchestration, managed to extract from an orchestra the most unique colors and textures and “paint” one grandiose masterpiece (I think the best recording of Bolero is by Seiji Ozawa conducting the Boston Symphony Orchestra);
9. Beethoven’s “Moonlight” sonata, 1st movement – Even if you do absolutely nothing else with your life, but listen to this movement - I’d say you weren’t born in vain;
8. Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D-minor – When I think “larger than life” I hear this melody;
7. Wagner’s “The Valkyrie”, Ride of the Valkyries – If you are Wagner you don't need to actually experience flying to communicate it in such an ingenious way. All you need is the power of your imagination...
6. Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5, the fate motif – I’d call this four-note motif a musical equivalent of Shakespeare's "to be or not to be";
5. Handel’s “Messiah”, Hallelujah chorus – The way in which this chorus captures the joy, vigor, and triumph of a human spirit is unparalleled;
4. Schubert’s “Ave Maria” – The first word that leaps to mind whenever I hear this melody is “pure”. Although I don't perceive it in a religious sense (to me religion is primarily a documentation of human history) this music is, certainly, capable of elevating one to heavenly emotional heights;
3. Chopin’s Sonata No. 2, “Funeral March” – We do not know what happens after we die, but whatever lies beyond (if anything) is surely not of this world. Perhaps, that is the most accurate way to describe this march, which has become synonymous with the word “death” and the final journey;
2. Mendelssohn’s “A Midsummer Night's Dream”, the Wedding March – This music is played every hour of every day in every corner of the world. In its grandeur and depth Mendelssohn’s March eclipsed even the act of marriage itself;
and the winner is (ta-da)…
1. Mozart’s Symphony No. 40, the first theme – They say perfection is unattainable, but Mozart clearly proved them wrong. When I hear this theme, I know I'm experiencing perfection. Period.
That’s my opinion today…
Monday, October 25, 2010
People often ask me how I select my repertoire, and why I choose certain compositions over others. The answer is simple - I only play pieces to which I feel an intense emotional connection. That is exactly how I felt when I heard Rachmaninoff’s Musical Moment No. 5 for the first time. I would even call it a kind of musical chemistry. Although a quintessential Rachmaninoff piece in terms of harmony, character-wise this composition is filled with calmness and serenity, which is quite opposite from Rachmaninoff’s usual tumultuous and restless music. I found that very appealing, and I knew exactly how I wanted to play every single note and what kind of emotions I wanted to convey.
To me this musical moment represents finding inner peace and quiet after years of fighting, struggling, making mistakes, having regrets, celebrating victories and mourning losses. I find it to be a great metaphor for life itself. The piece is written in D flat major, but as is often the case with Rachmaninoff, his major sonorities sound achingly nostalgic. I would call it a musical equivalent of an old black and white family photo that you stumble upon in the attic decades after it was taken: you remember the moment and the faces, you can almost recall the joys of those days…and yet you are painfully aware that there is simply no going back.
Feeling a strong connection to this music, I began researching previous recordings of it (something I always do when preparing a new composition), and was surprised to find that most pianists play it nearly twice as fast as the metronome indication suggests. I must say I respectfully disagree with them. In my view, the faster tempo alters the character of this piece and not for the best. It is common knowledge that in slow works it is technically much easier to "connect" the phrases in faster tempo. While it is never a good idea, in this particular case it seems especially criminal as faster tempo destroys the essence of the music, disrupts its calm and soothing flow, and most importantly brings its emotional impact from divine heights to zero.
I believe that choosing the right tempo can make or break an interpretation or character of any piece of music. It is especially true with Rachmaninoff whose music consists of thickly textured endless melodic lines, syncopated rhythms, and fluctuating climaxes, all of which can be lost or sound disastrously in the wrong tempo. Now, those of you who are familiar with my views on music interpretation (in short: play the way YOU feel) know that I am not the type to blindly follow to the score for the sake of being academically accurate. But I do insist on being familiar with composer's suggestions as they frequently give great insight into his or her intentions and thoughts. Luckily, Rachmaninoff is quite generous with his markings of tempo, dynamics, etc.