Category Archives: Craig Blog

Grieg: Op. 12, no. 4: Elves’ Dance

Here’s one of the most popular Lyric Pieces. Try to keep everything light and listen for nice, crisp staccatos. For the final 5 measures, I used the una corda pedal, mainly to get the chords even close to ppp. I then captured the last of the 7 low chords with the sostenuto pedal, which sustains the chord to the end of the piece while keeping the chords of the last two measures clean. I didn’t like the clashing of the D sharp and the E when using the sustain pedal (as indicated in the score).

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Grieg: Op. 12, no, 3: Watchman’s Song

Happy belated birthday, Edvard Grieg! I missed it, but what’s a day when you’re celebrating your 170th, right? The story goes that Grieg wrote this after attending a performance of Macbeth. It includes an Intermezzo section subtitled Spirits of the Night, I use the una corda pedal during the rumbling arpeggios, but let up when the triplet chords begin. Overall, be careful not to rush the easy parts!

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Grieg: Op. 12, no. 2: Waltz

The score indicates pedal, but I hold off until the Coda because of the very specific articulations throughout the body of the work.  Measures 7 & 8 contain the most challenging combination of slurs and staccatos.  Be careful to bring out the melody when it switches to the left hand in the middle section.  It’s very easy to play the right hand chords too loud.

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Grieg: Op. 12, no. 1: Arietta

Grieg composed 66 Lyric Pieces between 1867 and 1901, leaving us an incredible wealth of piano miniatures. My goal is to record all of them, starting at the beginning, with Arietta and its beautiful cantabile melody. Note that in measures 5 through 9 the right hand repeatedly plays E and G. Once I noticed this, the memorization process became easier. I enjoy landing on that amazing chord in measures 12 and 22 and waiting for the moment that the harmony resolves.

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Schumann: Op. 15, no. 13: The Poet Speaks

Schumann Op. 15, no. 13 The Poet Speaks (Der Dichter spricht)
Schumann ends his collection of childhood reflections on a solemn note. Still, an element of playfulness creeps in, as Schumann includes a quote from his earlier composition, Aufschwung (Soaring). It’s his way of saying, “I’m the poet”, which, of course, is true.

Schumann: Op. 15, no. 12: Child Falling Asleep

Schumann Op. 15, no. 12 Child Falling Asleep (Kind im Einschlummern)
When I play this piece, I hear two lovers singing to each other, the singers being the melodies in the left and right hand. Schumann reaches the heights of beauty in the last eight measures, as the lower voice fully echoes the upper voice and the melodies entwine around each other to the end.

Schumann: Op. 15, no. 11: Frightening

Schumann Op. 15, no. 11 Frightening (Fürchtenmachen)
Schumann indicated that he came up with the Kinderszenen titles after he’d written them. Certainly some titles seem to match the music better than others – the only thing I found frightening about this piece is how long it took to get a decent take! Schumann indicates the use of pedal, but, as usual, didn’t get specific. Be careful not to let the chromatic thirds in the left hand blur into one another due to over-pedaling. My Alfred Masterwork edition has a rather convoluted fingering for the più mosso section. I found the easier solution of initiating the sequence in m. 9 with the 4, as well as in m. 11.

Schumann: Op. 15, no. 10: Almost Too Serious

Schumann Op. 15, no. 10 Almost Too Serious (Fast zu ernst)
This piece is my favorite of the set – beautifully composed, and idiomatic of the piano in a special way that Schumann mastered so completely. Keep the melody as legato as possible, and observe the fermatas at the end of each phrase in order to allow the piece to breathe, just like a singer.

Schumann: Op. 15, no. 9: Knight of the Rocking Horse

Schumann Op. 15, no. 9 Knight of the Rocking Horse (Ritter vom Steckenpferd)
By accenting the third count of each measure, Schumann has vividly evoked the rocking horse of the title. My Alfred Masterwork edition mentions the interesting story of Ritter von Ritterstein, who, visiting with Clara Schumann in 1836, initially declined to hear her play Robert’s music, convinced that the composer would naturally play it better. I can’t imagine someone thinking that, much less having the gall to say it to Clara’s face! Perhaps von Ritterstein didn’t know that Clara Schumann was one of the supreme virtuosos of her day, but he understood once she began playing, and he promptly changed his tune.

Andras Schiff Performs The Well-Tempered Clavier

This month, over the course of two recitals, András Schiff performed both books of Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier at Davies Symphony Hall in San Francisco. Shirley and I were fortunate enough to attend both recitals and I can tell you that it was the most inspiring pianistic achievement that I’ve ever witnessed. Widely credited as the greatest Bach interpreter currently working, Schiff has lived with this music for so long that it has become a part of him. His playing is so natural and his lines so transparent that every voice is distinctly clear, making the very difficult appear effortless. I highly recommend Schiff’s new recording of the WTC, beautifully captured on ECM. I have the four discs spread across various CD players throughout the house and listen to them all the time. In the photo, Mr. Schiff is signing the CD booklet. He was also kind enough to sign my G. Henle sets of the WTC (he provided the fingerings for the 2006 edition).

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San Jose Piano Teacher

Piano lessons are taught in my San Jose home, conveniently located near Willow Glen, Almaden, Evergreen, Santa Teresa, Campbell and Morgan Hill.

Member Music Teacher's Association of California #9967