Sunday, October 27, 2013

Time for new repertoire!

The CD is mostly recorded (only one retake session left, we hope...), the hour-long solo concert is finished, so now what? Oh yes -- I can take on some new repertoire now!

It's fun to play new pieces with no deadline for a change. I'm working on some Chopin that I haven't really explored before: the utterly gorgeous Impromptu in F# major. The notes are not difficult but there are many subtleties that will take me a long time to absorb and bring out fully, I think. I am also happily diving into a piece I have wanted to learn for ages: Tombeau de Couperin by Ravel. It looks back at the French Baroque, sort of, while mainly looking back at the devastation of World War I and the deaths of friends, through the lens of darkly beautiful music.

Also on the list are a Bach French Suite, the last three of the Schumann Fantasiestucke Op. 12, and various etudes.


Sunday, October 6, 2013

Sunday: concert in Hartford, fundraiser for Zezzo House

On Sunday Oct 6 I'll be performing an hour of music at Memorial Baptist Church in Hartford. This is a fundraiser for Zezzo House, a nonprofit residence for single parents living with HIV/AIDS.

Concert is at 5pm and the church is at 142 Fairfield Ave. near Trinity College.

I am excited about this gorgeous music, and delighted to support a good cause!


Haydn: Sonata in D major Hob. XVI:33

Debussy: from Preludes for Piano book 1
"Des pas sur la neige"
"Sons et parfums tournent dans l'air du soir (Charles Baudelaire)"
"Ce qu'a vu le vent d'Ouest"

Harrison: Reel: Homage to Henry Cowell

Higdon: Secret & Glass Gardens

Bellissimo: Problems for Piano no. 4 ("money")

Schumann: Fantasiestucke Op. 12 nos. 1-5
Des Abends
In der Nacht

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Thursday, July 25, 2013

The birds really do sing Mozart

I was practicing some Mozart today (K. 330) and a bird actually hung around outside my window and started imitating. I thought such things only happened in books.

(I'm sure it wouldn't have happened with any other composer.)

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Mama, when are you gonna be done?

Yesterday I had a rare day off and we went to Outside the Box, a 9-day free arts festival in Boston Common, where my cousin Lila Rose Kaplan had a play "The Magic Fish" in performance. The play was great, including fabulous dance and puppetry, and my five-year-old was absolutely riveted. (There is another performance at the festival on Tuesday in the Spiegeltent.)

One of the various tents scattered around Boston Common turned out to contain a surprisingly well-maintained Betsy Ross spinet with a sign "Play me, I'm yours." I took the suggestion and sat down to play a little Handel. About 40 seconds in, my daughter did what she often does about 1 1/2 hours into a practice session: grabbed my right arm, played several notes of her own, and whined "Maaaamaaaa, when are you gonna be done? Be done Mama, be done." I thought of shaking her off but then realized, you know, it's my day off, and it's supposed to be her day off too. Music is fun but my kid needs my time also. So I got up... at which point it was apparent that a bit of a crowd had gathered around to listen to me play.

Oh well. They'll have to catch me some other time. My daughter and I headed off to the kids' craft table.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Video from Wednesday's performance with the Massachusetts Walking Tour

That's Mark Mandeville, Raianne Richards, Mark Kilianski and Amy Alvey (the 2013 Walking Tour musicians). Also Scott Slapin and Tanya Solomon being awesome at 0:49, and Gillian and me at 2:20.

Many thanks to Joe Rodio for having the presence of mind to film, and to South Hadley Public Library for hosting! I spend enough time there for fun and it was even more fun to be there in work mode :)

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Performance June 26: "Summer"

I will be accompanying the lovely and excellent violinist Gillian Woldorf (ok, we're married) in a performance of Vivaldi's violin concerto "Summer" at the South Hadley Public Library on June 26 2013 at 6pm.

Unfortunately the library doesn't have a piano so I will be playing on my Yamaha digital. I am almost tempted to use the harpsichord sound. Almost. Please come and hear Gillian be beautiful, and me try to keep up. No ticket required.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Kickstarter successful!

"Preludes, Problems & Prayers" is a go!
I have some studio dates booked for the summer.
Thanks to everyone who contributed!

new CD project and you can help! "Preludes, Problems & Prayers" - Pre-sale/kickstarter

I'm planning a new CD project to record in the studio this summer. It is interesting, entertaining and accessible music by three well-established composers and three up-and-coming new composers. To cover studio time, licensing fees and production costs, I'm doing a pre-sale of the CD through Kickstarter. (There are also some fun extra rewards for anyone who wants to pledge more generously.)
Kickstarter keeps track of pledges, but no one will owe any money unless enough pledges come in to fund 100% of the costs. A pledge of $9 buys a digital copy of the music, $14 buys a physical copy, and delivery will be in September. There are other fun rewards for more generous pledges too. The pre-sale runs only through the month of April so have a look!
Here's a video with more about the music and some audio excerpts:
And here's a link to the project on kickstarter:

Friday, April 26, 2013

My brain is full

Contemporary music has so much information in it. So many polyrhythms, complicated harmonies, and multiple lines. And every composer's style is so different.
I have worked hard on 4 contemporary pieces over the last two days that are new to me, one multi-movement. My brain is feeling very full.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

O'Brien Preludes recordings (free edition)

As thanks to Steven O'Brien for releasing his 24 Preludes free with a Creative Commons license, I've made some free (CC non-commercial) recordings of them. Not in the studio, although at least one of these preludes will be on my Preludes, Problems & Prayers studio-recorded project.

Steven has posted my performances on his soundcloud here:

Friday, March 29, 2013

Getting the loud music ready for Easter

After the Holy Week darkness, in which I have been playing excerpts from Liszt's Via Crucis, I'm now getting some loud music ready for Easter. Brahms Capriccio in C major Op. 76 no. 8, which goes from a swirl of major-seventh-laden indeterminacy to a triumphant ending worthy of the resurrection day. And my own arrangement of "The Trumpet Shall Sound" from Handel's Messiah. (Of course I'd rather play it accompanying a nice plummy baritone and a trumpet, but it is ok on piano.)

Needless to say, loud practicing is happening in our house at present.

And I'm going around impersonating plummy baritones. AND THE DEAD SHALL BE RAISED... BE RAISED INCORRUPTIBLE... AND WE SHALL BE CHANGED!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Hovhaness for piano

I recently read through Hovhaness' "Visionary Landscapes" for piano. Talk about doing a lot with minimal materials. These pieces are precisely constructed, much more so than it may appear at first. They seem like they'd be accessible to students as well. I'm looking forward to playing them some more, and maybe even teaching them sometime soon.

Monday, February 18, 2013

vote if you want to hear a modern remix of Handel!

I've kind of always wanted to collaborate with a hip-hop or techno producer and feed him/her some classical piano recordings. So I entered this contest. Vote if you like the idea!
Go here to vote. As of now, I could get into the top ten with less than 8 votes!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

A message for Annie

Hello Annie,
You sent a message using my contact form. I am sorry not to reply directly, but you did not provide any contact information, so I do not know how to reach you. Please try again and include an email address, phone number, or mailing address.
Or if you got here using a Craigslist ad, the reply-to address that accompanies the ad will send an email to me, so that works too.
Kind regards,

PS I do in fact know a wonderful violinist.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Interpreting Scripture from the piano

Choosing music to go with worship services gets more and more interesting the more I do it. There's a whole range of ways to connect text to music. It can be a pretty obvious programmatic connection: next week I will play Balakirev's spooky "The Wilderness" to open a service focused on the story of Jesus in the wilderness. Or music can be chosen according to mood or form: the beginning of Isaiah 43, in which God's children pass through the flood and fire and are kept safe, led me to Beethoven: the Bagatelle Op. 33 no. 2, whose happy little tune goes on a journey through a flooded-sounding passage in minor and a Trio with lots of flickering fast parallel thirds, and emerges unscathed in the end.

Occasionally I wonder if people get the connections or not. A lot of the time I'm happy to leave it up to them to get it or not. Sometimes if there's something I really don't want them to miss, I put in an extremely short program note, maybe a sentence.

I have been thinking about what sort of biblical interpretation is possible from the piano. Music is in many ways more limited than verbal interpretation, especially when there are no singers up there making words. There's no way I'm going to analyze Paul's rhetoric by means of a fugue. Although it could be fun trying. Nor can I discuss several different theories about the afterlife, or clearly separate mistaken interpretations of a text from sound ones.

Music is also in many ways more powerful than verbal interpretation. If I want to try to talk about the peace that passes understanding, words fail quickly, but Beethoven or Schubert can communicate perfectly well. For the precise intersection of despair, nostalgia and memory loss, there are no words, but there is Liszt's Valse oubliée no. 1.

I don't mean to say that music is emotional whereas words are intellectual. I do think that music approaches people in a different manner than verbal concepts do. Maybe it is a friendlier manner, less directive, easier to relate to, easier to relate to in multiple ways?

Even on days when I got nothing, in terms of music that fits the text well, I can still play Bach and everyone's happy. Where there's Bach there's church.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Preludes and Problems

Some exciting new piano music from a couple of young composers I have recently gotten to know.

(Wouldn't a perfect CD title be "Preludes, Problems, and [some other word beginning with P]"??)

From 24 Preludes by Steven O'Brien (Ireland)
(only a midi recording is available.... for now)
Made available free by the composer on

From Problems for Piano by Jake Bellissimo (USA)
Performed by Andrew Langman
Streaming available free from the composer on, downloads available for purchase

Friday, January 11, 2013

recordings on pianosociety

Some of my recordings are on now. Pianosociety is a wonderful place. Pianists including advanced amateurs and concert pianists have contributed recordings which the public may access for free. The people who operate Pianosociety are incredibly dedicated volunteers and they run a wonderful project. (I am now on the left under "Artists")

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Practice videos?

I've been thinking about making a video of what practicing is really like. Not a full 3-hour slog through one of my practice sessions, of course, but a short montage put together over the process of learning a piece, with timestamps and captions that say what issues I'm working on at the time. Then a "finished product" performance at the end.

There are tons of piano performance videos out there especially since the advent of YouTube, but even the ones that say "practice" are pretty much top-to-bottom performances of the piece. Would it be useful for students to see how pianists go through the practicing process? (Would it be reassuring for non-musicians to see that it isn't as easy as it looks in performance?)

Sunday, January 6, 2013

beautiful cacaphony

In the prayers this morning Pastor Williams used the phrase "a beautiful cacaphony of voices all saying different things together." He was talking about the church. What a great way to understand diversity and even argument within the church, not as a bad thing, but as something that sustains us. Kind of like music -- if you have too much of the same thing it's boring. You need dissonance in order to make things interesting.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

In the night

I've been working through Schumann's Fantasiestücke Op. 12. They are a group of very interesting character pieces, short, but not really miniatures as they are quite substantial. My favorite so far is "In der Nacht" (In the Night). It's an interesting change from the blocky style of Schumann that I've been familiar with thus far. The sound rushes up and down and the harmonies are often augmented chords that don't quite resolve, or don't resolve satisfactorily.

Schumann wrote that after he wrote "In der Nacht" he noticed some similarities with the story of Hero and Leander. In Greek mythology Leander is a young man who falls in love with Hero, a priestess of Aphrodite, and swims across the strait of Abydos every night to come visit her. You can certainly hear the dark waves and the longing sound, with moments of peace and happiness but none that last for very long.