An excellent piano lesson
November 24, 2021 12:06 AM   Subscribe

Master teacher, advanced student. There's just tremendous trust and respect. It made me realize that yelling at people is showing a lack of trust that they're listening. (Cue up people explaining that's not the only thing it means.) I'm not saying you can always trust that people are listening.

At about 19 minutes, there's a discussion of why it's hard to play softly on the piano and what helps. The challenge is that the key still needs to be pushed down fast enough or the string won't sound, and relaxing the hands too much makes it not work-- the hands need to be at least as firm as when you're playing loudly.
posted by Nancy Lebovitz (16 comments total) 36 users marked this as a favorite
Look it here... you play Beethoven your way and I'll play Beethoven his way.

Ah, legendary pedagogue Seymour Bernstein, here interviewed by the program Living the Classical Life upon his 90th birthday. God, that we should all be so sharp, masterful and wise at that age should we reach it.
posted by y2karl at 2:31 AM on November 24, 2021 [4 favorites]

See also, Glenn Kenny's review of Ethan Hawke's Seymour, An Introduction.
posted by y2karl at 2:44 AM on November 24, 2021 [3 favorites]

y2karl, we should all be that sharp, masterful, and wise at *any* age.
posted by Nancy Lebovitz at 4:41 AM on November 24, 2021 [1 favorite]

I wish.
posted by y2karl at 4:43 AM on November 24, 2021

I was listening to a Bach record by Vikingur Olaffson, and it struck me how hard it would be to just execute the music correctly, no wrong notes, played in time. And being able to do that is so far beneath the level that the real piano artists who play this repertoire perform at!
posted by thelonius at 5:31 AM on November 24, 2021 [3 favorites]

you play Beethoven your way and I'll play Beethoven his way

Beethoven maybe. But if we're talking Copland I'd rather hear it played their way. Likewise Purcell. Even Bach, on occasion.

There is no "correctly". There is only what moves you, or doesn't.
posted by flabdablet at 6:34 AM on November 24, 2021 [1 favorite]

That first link is an incredible conversation.
posted by mhoye at 6:36 AM on November 24, 2021 [2 favorites]

About halfway through after some intensely scrutinized distinctions in the discernment of dotted notes the teacher exclaims "Oh that's wonderful" and the student responds, "I find it's easier if I'm looking at you while I'm playing it", and isn't that love.
posted by dmh at 8:46 AM on November 24, 2021 [5 favorites]

Oh wow. This is fantastic! I've been sitting here rapt, and barely noticed when YouTube rolled over from the Beethoven discussion to the Chopin one.

At the end of high school I put my trumpet in its case, and aside from a month or two trying to strum a guitar somewhere in the middle, pretty much ignored music creation until I'd nearly turned 50. Then I got roped into square dance calling, and started taking voice lessons for that.

So that's been a bit over 3 years now (the pandemic gave me a chance to really up my practicing), and people who hear me are asking where I perform, and I'm starting to get beyond getting the base technical stuff into the sorts of nuance they're working on, and I feel like maybe in a decade, if I can keep up my practice schedule, I'd be ready for a teacher of that caliber and nuance.
posted by straw at 9:37 AM on November 24, 2021 [1 favorite]

this is great. my teenage pianist son, now off for Thanksgiving, is watching this now, and has bookmarked a bunch of other videos from the channel. thanks, Nancy Lebovitz!
posted by martin q blank at 11:06 AM on November 24, 2021 [3 favorites]

My childhood music teacher is one of the best classical harpists and classical harp teachers working today, and there's a very nice video online of a masterclass she taught (working with an advanced student in front of an audience), with a positive and warm approach. I'd suggest starting at 12:33, after the student has played the whole piece and the teacher has explained the context for it, when they get into working on the piece. It's fun to compare these discussions of technique - piano and harp are similar in some ways (string-plucking instruments!) but very different in others. For example, at 21:36, she discusses playing lower on the string to adjust the sound in a particular way - like soft notes, it's about understanding and working with the physics of plucked strings.
posted by dreamyshade at 12:22 PM on November 24, 2021 [5 favorites]

Not to negate dreamyshades' larger point; but just to be clear, piano strings are hammered rather than plucked.
posted by Greg_Ace at 8:48 PM on November 24, 2021 [1 favorite]

Bernstein has a excellent book called "With Your Own Two Hands" on piano playing technique.
Thanks for this video, this is the first time I've seen him, Nancy!
posted by storybored at 1:55 PM on November 25, 2021 [1 favorite]

From the video link given above by y2karl which is also excellent: " I've been teaching all of my life. I adored teaching; you know what I love best about teaching? I love the feeling of making a pupil feel good about themselves. You know they can play a certain passage and I practice with them and get them to play that passage and they are elated. They can't believe that they're actually able to do it and I get 10 times more reward from their pleasure and that's one of the great things about teaching."
posted by storybored at 4:42 PM on November 25, 2021 [7 favorites]

I just ran across a masterclass given by Gina Bachauer in the 1970s here seen with student Yefim Bronfman and thought I'd post the link here.
posted by interglossa at 3:05 PM on November 27, 2021 [1 favorite]

I'm late commenting, but that was wonderful. Thank you for posting.
posted by FencingGal at 7:57 PM on November 27, 2021

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