Category Archives: Craig Blog

Burgmuller: Op. 100, no. 5: Innocence

Burgmüller Op. 100, no. 5 Innocence
This beautiful piece is a great way to practice smooth, legato right hand melodies. In the second section (the more innocent sounding of the two halves), the use of correct fingerings will naturally result in the desired articulation. I recorded this on a nice day with the back sliding door open. The birds chimed in, seeming to enjoy the music and I finally had to close the door so I wouldn’t be shown up by the little maestros.

Burgmuller: Op. 100, no. 4: A Little Party

Burgmüller Op. 100, no. 4 A Little Party
You’d expect a collection of etudes to feature an excercise in thirds, and Op. 100 is no exception. Here we have ascending and descending thirds, in both legato and staccato. The articulation is easily managed with the proper fingering, since the position changes line up with the legato phrasing. Also note the legato sixths: the thumb (on the bottom notes) isn’t going to be much help here, so be sure to use your 3, 4, and 5 for the upper half of the intervals to keep the melody smooth.

Burgmuller: Op. 100, no. 3: Pastorale

Pastorale, Op. 100, no. 3 by Friedrich Burgmüller
I found the tempo marking of 66 bpm in my Alfred edition to be painfully slow – I’m playing the piece at 92 bpm. This is a great study in bringing out a melody against a subdued accompaniment. The left hand chords are soft, but must be evenly balanced. Make sure that all of the notes in each chord are sounding. In measures 5 and 21 begin the grace note on the beat; the A in the right hand should be played simultaneously with the left hand chord. Likewise for the grace note B’s in measures 26 and 27.

Burgmuller: Op. 100, no. 2: Arabesque

Arabesque, Op. 100, no. 2 by Friedrich Burgmüller
The essence of this popular study is the five note figures. As you practice, listen carefully to ensure that the notes are well articulated and don’t run together. Also, notice that the majority of the figures occur during a crescendo. Be ready to spend more time on the left hand runs – they need to sparkle just as brightly as their counterparts in the right hand. Working on this etude will pay real dividends in your other pieces.

Burgmuller: Op. 100, no. 1: Sincerity

Sincerity, Op. 100, no. 1 by Friedrich Burgmüller
Let’s get things rolling with the rolling melodies of Etude no. 1, Sincerity. The opening motive is a descending third followed by two seconds. This device will be used in its ascending form, as well. Burgmüller was a master of using small devices like this to unify his compositions. With repeats, we hear this figure 43 times! When playing this etude, practice keeping the eighth notes as even as possible. Burgmüller’s music truly comes alive with the use of dynamics – bring them out to allow the piece to breathe.

Burgmuller: The Op. 100 Project

During he month of February, I’ll be recording each of the 25 etudes that make up Burgmüller’s Op. 100. These pieces have become well-known through their inclusion in many instructional books, and they’re a delight to learn and play. My students enjoy them and I want to feature these gems on my website so that others may have a chance to discover them.

Discovering Ogla Samaroff

Olga SamaroffOctober’s Santa Clara County MTAC meeting featured author Donna Kline, author of the book An American Virtuoso on the World Stage and producer of the documentary Virtuoso: The Olga Samaroff Story.

It was a fascinating lecture about a person that I’d never heard of, but I knew immediately that I had to find out more. After reading the book and watching the DVD, I can strongly recommend both! Born Lucy Hickenlooper in San Antonio, Texas, Samaroff became a successful concert pianist in an era when being an American musican was enough of a disadvantage, much less being a woman pianist. After her concert career, Samaroff became an instructor at Julliard and the Philadelphia Conservatory, where she taught many students that would in turn go on to successful careers, including Eugene List, Rosalyn Tureck and William Kapell. Here are some of my favorite Olga Samaroff facts:

In 1905 Olga Samaroff debuted at Carnegie hall (after her concert promoter insisted that she change her name to sound more slavic) by hiring out Carnegie Hall and the New York Symphony Orchestra under Walter Damrosch, performing both the Liszt Concerto no. 1 in E flat and Schumann’s Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 54, in addition to several solo pieces.

Samaroff became the first American pianist to perform all 32 Beethoven piano sonatas in concert. This took place over eight concerts during the 1920-1921 season.

In 1945 Samaroff organized an all-Prokofiev concert series at Town Hall that featured her students performing all seven piano sonatas that Prokofiev had composed to that time!

Madam Samaroff’s advice to her students was to “Exhaust the printed page”. Find out more about this American original at: www.olgasamaroff.com.

Handel performance with Abraham Aragundi

Chamber Sonata in C, No. 20 for Cello and Piano by Handel
Last Friday my cellist friend Abraham and myself were invited to perform a short recital for a group of relatives in town for the Llagas reunion that took place in Foster City over the weekend. We played at the Veloro residence in Palo Alto to a group of twenty or so. At this point into the recital, Abraham had already been adopted as a member of the clan! Abraham played the cello in the Baroque style: using no endpin, he supported his cello with his calves. He also used a Baroque style bow. I played Susan Veloro’s new Yamaha Clavinova set to the Harpsichord setting. Here’s the entire four movements for your listening pleasure!

Playing the Bosendorfer 290 Imperial

Yesterday afternoon we visted the Yamaha Peninsula Music Center on S. Winchester to help Shirley’s mom pick out a new digital Yamaha. While the paperwork was being completed, Shirley and I took a walk through the showroom to check out their grand pianos. Now I couldn’t be happier with my Yamaha C3 grand, but I also couldn’t resist trying out a couple of pianos that are way out of my price range. One of the nicest was a used Steinway with a list price of $80,000, which had the most beautiful, warm tones. Sitting at the end of the room on a raised stage (behind velvet ropes and posts) was the showroom’s crown jewel: the Bosendorfer 290 Imperial. I’m a little shy, so it wouldn’t have even occured to me to play this behemoth, but Shirley said she had to hear it, so that settled it! After seeking permission, I played the first Prelude from Bach’s WTC. It was a profound experience. Each of the Imperials is built completely by hand and the process takes 7 years (!!). The piano is 9’6″ in length and 5’9″ in width, with nine additional keys in the low register for increased tonal resonance. While playing the instrument I heard complexities of tone that I’ve never experienced from a piano before, especially during the measures that contain the semitone dissonances. My ‘encore’ was the B section of Joplin’s The Entertainer. I feel safe saying the two (piano and piece) had probably never met. Of course we had to ask how much the Bosendorfer cost. There’s wasn’t a price tag (“If you have to ask…”) Well, the list price was $215,000. If you ever get a chance to play one you’ll know why I didn’t put any exclamation points after that number. I can’t recommend this store enough. If you’re in the market for a new or used piano, make this your first stop. The staff is very friendly and knowledgable. Dave, the salesman who helped us, has been with Yamaha since 1986, which was the same year that my mom bought me a brand new Yamaha Clavinova CLP-300 which I still play. Here’s a link to the store’s Bosendorfer page.

Beethoven Performance with Abraham Aragundi

Beethoven Cello & Piano Sonata Performance July 25, 2011 MP3

My cellist friend Abraham Aragundi invited me to perform with him the first movement of Beethoven’s Cello and Piano Sonata in G Minor, Op. 5, No. 2 for his music history class at Foothill College. This particular sonata was composed by Beethoven in Berlin at the age of 26. It’s a challenging piece to play and the interaction of the instruments is very exciting. It was great fun working up the sonata with such a talented and inspiring musician such as Abraham. A special thanks to Dr. Robert Hartwell for inviting us into his classroom!

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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