Piano Street's Classical Piano News

- your guide to the classical piano world.
The Whole Picture Through the Debussy Lense

Numerous pianists and concert goers around the world are living the ”Debussy 100” this year. The centennial celebrations do have a clear impact on concert halls and concert programs and record labels like Deutsche Grammophon and Warner Classics have graced the market with new Debussy complete works CD-box releases. The Swedish/Polish international pianist and London resident Peter Jablonski is one of the French master´s current explorers. He has chosen to target Debussy´s world by also programming composers which inspired Debussy along with composers which were inspired by Debussy. This journey starts with Chopin and Liszt and ends up with the strong and explicit French-American connection; Gershwin/Wild and Copland/Bernstein. During an on-going Swedish recital tour Piano Street´s Patrick Jovell had a chance to talk to Jablonski, prior to his Debussy 100! recital in Gothenburg.


PS: You do not play in Sweden very often, so it is a great pleasure to have you performing and paying tribute to Debussy 100! in Gothenburg Concert Hall on March 17. What do you find fascinating with Debussy’s music?

PJ: There are many different reasons. His way of writing for the piano is completely unique. He erased the piano’s function as a percussive instrument. Only Chopin knew how to use the piano as well as Debussy did. He uses the piano as a whole orchestra in a way which was never heard before. His sonic universe implies associations to colors, tastes, scents and elements like the wind and water. Utilizing the most refined usage of the pedals makes him unparalleled in my opinion.

PS: Debussy’s upbringing as a piano prodigy was very much based on music by Chopin and Liszt. Can we find influences of these composers in Debussy’s own music?

PJ: Absolutely so. Pianistically in forms too, like preludes and not at least the late etudes dealing with pianistic problems just like Chopin did in his 27 etudes before him. Just like Chopin Debussy had entered a new stage of compositional creativity when he, like Chopin, passed away far too early. And like Liszt, Debussy was influenced not only by the folkloristic elements but also by the program music, the depicting universe which also identified Wagnerian domains.

PS: You are known for your particular love of mazurka as a genre. Can you tell us why you are so drawn to it, and why should we hear these pieces more?

PJ: I always thought that it was rather strange that even Chopin’s mazurkas, which are real gems and masterpieces, are played so rarely. To me, they signify a lost world, a world of melancholy and light sadness, a glimpse into the sunset of one’s life. But that is only one side of them. There is so much versatility in this genre, and mazurkas written by different composers are all different too. We have Szymanowski, Scriabin, and then a whole host of Russian composers who wrote mazurkas, from Anton Rubinstein, Cesar Cui, Anton Lyadov, to Aleksey Stanchinsky. And these vary from light melancholy to delightful playfulness and even dramatic passion. All these will form a large part of my near future work.

PS: Which is your favourite work by Debussy and why?

PJ: That’s a very difficult question but if I am forced to choose it would be La Mer. No other composed work can portray the Sea in a more complete way. An absolute masterpiece of orchestration!

PS: Looking in the back mirror, you have a rather unusual career profile, you first started with a drum set, then later switch to piano. Can you reflect on your tell us about your musical path?

PJ: I was very fortunate to have had an interesting and varied career, and to have an unusual path to becoming a concert pianist. I was so young when I performed at the famous jazz club in New York, and am honoured to have been noticed by none other than Miles Davis at that time. But I was also passionate about the piano, and had to make a decision to follow that. Everything happened very fast, and I was 11 when I was admitted to study at a conservatoire in Malmö, and was 18 when my international performance career started. I literally went from the Royal College of Music to the stage, and that was almost 30 years ago! It has not stopped since, and my life appears to get more and more busy. I am particularly happy that I have space in my busy schedule to do something that I have dreamt about for a long time. I recently signed an exclusive deal with Ondine for complete recordings of Scriabin mazurkas. That means that for most of this year I will be living with Alexander Scriabin’s wonderful, intricate re-imaginations of this traditional Polish dance.
After that, I will be working on recordings of complete sontats by Anton Rubinstein, and piano works by Alexey Stanchinsky, a forgotten Russian genius with a tragic and mysterious death.
I am also discovering a lot of new orchestra repertoire—André Tchaikovsky and Leo Ornstein, for example. Both Jewish composers who had to leave their birth countries due to political and cultural adversity.

PS: You have taken a new direction in your professional life now. Can you talk a little bit about it?

PJ: I spent over a quarter of a century travelling the world with concerts, dashing from one part of the globe to another, often without any time in between to catch my breath or to have a break. This has, of course, given me incredible opportunities to play with some of the world’s best orchestras and musicians, and to see countries and places I would otherwise never go to. However, it also had a darker side: constant pressure, both physical and emotional, and the unfortunate need to learn a lot of music quickly, which was not always the music I actually really wanted to play. When one plays a concerto over a hundred times, one begins to feel somewhat of a merchant and less of an artist.
I am so glad that this chapter of my life is over and that now I am able to choose carefully what concerts I play and where, how often, and on what condition.
I am now looking at the works that have always been on my wish list, but which I never had the time or the opportunity to learn. I am making many new discoveries, and really look forward to sharing them with my audiences.

PS: You have been appointed professor of piano at the Royal College of Music, London, last year. How did become a professor change your attitude to performance?

PJ: I really like teaching, and I feel myself growing more and more involved with the process of helping others learn and discover musical intricacies. I also like seeing a student develop not only as a musician, but also as a human being.
Playing the piano is only a part of one’s life, no matter how much time we spend doing it. There are other things that should be explored and enjoyed in life, and I am acutely aware that we take so much of our lives for granted.
Teaching helps me to see familiar pieces of music from new perspectives, and to discover the pieces I never played myself, and get all fired up and create new programmes for my future recitals.

PS: Beside teaching on Royal College of Music in London, you also founded a Jablonski Piano Academy – can you tell us more about it?

PJ: I have an Academy every summer in Sweden, where I teach young pianists who are looking to enter conservatoires, or simply to improve their performance skills. I usually invite one or two other musicians, to offer a more well-rounded education to the students. This year, for example, I am expanding our tuition to piano accompaniment, something that many pianists would be doing in their careers. I also have coachings on business skills, which are integral to building a successful musical career. The Academy takes place 6-11 August 2018, and those who are interested in attending, can contact my general manager in London for more information. We also offer scholarships for talented young musicians who may not be able afford to go.

PS: What is your view of the music industry today, having seen it develop over the last three decades?

PJ: I have to say that I feel a great deal of concern for young musicians, who suddenly find themselves thrust into this hungry machine after winning a competition, for example. When I started working professionally, I was only 18, I had no preparation of what was in store for me, and no one really helped to guide me through the intricacies of such a busy and yet lonely life. The pressure can be enormous, and if a person does not have strong survival skills, it can crush one ruthlessly.
What I see in the industry today is quick desire to promote new rising stars, but without any consideration for long term development or focus on a gradual and organic career development. Young people play pieces that can only be understood after one has been through vicissitudes of life, or experienced emotional pain, and explore a full gamut of human emotion. Of course, it is all personal and I am not saying that a young person cannot understand a late Beethoven sonata, but these cases are rare. Our young musicians should be playing music by composers who were themselves young when they wrote them, and hone their skills on the stalwarts of classical music—Mozart, Haydn, Bach, Clementi, and so on. Haydn, I think, it hugely underestimated and should be performed more often.

PS: So welcome to Sweden and to Gothenburg!

PJ: I look forward to playing the programme I carefully put together, which features some pieces I know very well, some that I have always wanted to play but didn’t have the chance to, and to celebrating the Debussy year in a city where I always feel so welcome.


Leave a comment here >


International Piano – March/April issue

International Piano Magazine - March/April 2018A new issue of the magazine International Piano is out!

Pianistic polymath Pierre-Laurent Aimard brings a spirit of adventure to Messiaen’s Catalogue d’oiseaux; Paul Roberts explores Debussy’s fascination with visual imagery in the composer’s centenary year; IP celebrates the 80th birthday of virtuoso and activist Frederic Rzewski; and rare treats at Husum’s annual piano festival in northern Germany.

Plus, Cliburn Competition winner Yekwon Sunwoo; piano festivals around the world in 2018; the best recordings of Debussy’s L’isle joyeuse; Margaret Fingerhut receives a special wedding gift by Schumann; Boris Berezovsky shares his favourite tracks; why less is more for jazz improvisation; playing arpeggios with ease and grace; sheet music from John Burge’s Twenty-Four Preludes; jazz legend Nat King Cole; and was Charles-Valentin Alkan a minor figure or composer of genius?

Piano Street Gold members have instant online access to the digital version of the magazine.
For print subscription, visit rhinegold.co.uk


Leave a comment here >


Pianist Magazine Celebrates 100 Issues

Not only Claude Debussy and Leonard Bernstein celebrate centennials this year, but also the London based Pianist Magazine which celebrated its 100th issue on January 26. Pianist Magazine is one of the most widespread and appreciated sources in the international piano world today. We called the magazine’s editor Erica Worth not only to congratulate, but also to ask her a couple of questions:

- Congratulations on your 100 issues Erica!
- Thank you!

Pianist Magazine issue 100- Your magazine is well-known to many, not at least for all the sheet music on all levels that you generously provide. But, how and when did it all start?

- It all started in the autumn of 2001. We launched Pianist because we felt there was a gap in the market for a real ‘how to play’ piano magazine, for people who love to play the piano. We knew there were thousands of amateur pianists out there – with other daily jobs, or retired – wanting to return to the piano. Piano has always been the No 1 instrument at the home. We wanted to bring that ‘home’ lesson to them, with our sheet music for all levels, with learning tips, and with the sound files so they could listen to the pieces before they played them. Also, with lessons around the pieces from our expert writers.

- You are a classically trained pianist. Which areas and angles are you able to discover and promote in your work, compared to a non-musically trained editor?

- Easy! I play through all the pieces that I’m choosing for the scores! That way, I can really know what the piece is like in terms of level of ability and so on. It’s so important to play the pieces before deciding whether to place them in the magazine or not. A piece can look so different on the page to how it feels in the hands!


- Which is the toughest part of your work with the scores? Fingerings and pedaling are often subjects of discussion as well as choices of editions.

- Yes, both of those subjects are very tricky – and there’s never a ‘right’ or a ‘wrong’ way. One of the things that takes time is finding the right mixture of pieces (the right balance) that I have in one issue of the magazine. I have to make sure that not only do we have beginner to advanced pieces, but that we have a mixture of keys, mixture of time signatures, mixture of moods and so on. It’s no good having four moderato waltzes in the key of A flat, for example!

- While youngsters move out to the Internet and learn music through YouTube tutorials and synthesia videos, music teachers have noted for some time that score reading is getting weaker and weaker. How can we safeguard this essential skill in a fast changing world?

- We need to ensure that piano players, amateurs and alike, realise the importance of having a teacher. It’s fine to watch hundreds of videos, and read advice online and in books on how to improve, but there’s nothing like a teacher sitting next to you, guiding you. Players also need to realise that it might take a while to find the ‘right’ teacher that suits their needs. A teacher also gives structure in the whole journey of learning the piano.

- In your opinion, which are the best ways to promote pianoplaying in the world today?

- ONLINE, that’s for sure! However, when it comes to learning the piano, one needs to be careful. There are sites out there that claim they can teach you piano in a month… that’s rubbish! I take pride in my contributors; their words of wisdom come professionally qualified. The upside of social media is that there are more people listening to pianists in 2018 than ever before. Would you like to watch Rubinstein play Chopin? Hear Rachmaninov in one of his own preludes? Horowitz interviewed by Abram Chasins? Piano playing – past and present – comes to life on YouTube, Spotify and other streaming platforms. And it can only get better.

More information about Pianist Magazine:


Leave a comment here >


The Art of Cultivation – A Music and Friendship Bootcamp for Young Pianists

On the shores of Lake Maggiore, in the municipality of Laveno-Mombello, stands Villa Caterina, a very special house with very special guests. Here they all meet and study: PianoFriends, a musical association founded by Vincenzo Balzani and Catia Iglesias. The aim is perfecting the musical training of piano talents and to offer them multiple opportunities to perform in concert.

A cozy and familiar environment welcomes students eager to create a solid foundation from which to enter into the world of professionalism. They study under the guidance of Vincenzo Balzani, an esteemed pianist of the international music scene and professor emeritus of the “Giuseppe Verdi” Conservatory of Milano, who regularly serves on competition juries and gives master-classes and lectures both in Italy and abroad.

The strong conviction that studying from an early age with great masters can encourage the development of natural talent, Vincenzo Balzani has conceived his PianoFriends as a kind of laboratory in which each is taken care of and followed from the beginning until the formation of an authentic musical personality.

PianoFriends in Villa Caterina Laveno Mombello

Prof. Vincenzo Balzani with students in Villa Caterina (Laveno-Mombello, Italy)

Playing in public, dealing with a knowledgeable audience and performing in prestigious locations, is an important step in the artistic and personal growth of the young artist. PianoFriends offers many opportunities to perform. These include master classes with pianists, representing important European piano schools and important collaborations such as the Campus Youth Festival, which is organized in partnership with Festspiele Südtirol, the South Tyrolean Festival which organizes a final concert in the prestigious Sala Mahler.

PianoFriendsAmong the central activities is the PianoTalents Competition, which will take place from June 5 to 10, 2018 at Casa Verdi in Milano and will feature young pianists from age 5 to 21. Milano works like a second home of PianoFriends.

These are just some of the initiatives promoted by PianoFriends. Vincenzo Balzani says: “We all know how important it is for the maturation of an artist to constantly compare what has been learned and what has been done. PianoFriends is happy and honored to be able to create a bridge between organizers and the bodies or associations asking for collaboration.”

In order to help talents with limited economic means, PianoFriends encourages the public to support them through economic contributions that will help to pay tuition costs, purchase or hire of a piano, fees for participation in competitions or master classes etcetera.

So who joins PianoFriends? What are the requirements to become part of this great musical family? Not only talent, attitude and love for music, but also and above all; rigor, devotion and the knowledge that this artform requires the willingness to fully dedicate one’s life to it.

The air you breathe at PianoFriends is truly unique, an atmosphere of friendship and that special bond that only music can create. At Villa Caterina these young pianists study, learn, grow and prepare together for a life dedicated to music.

Read more at pianofriends.eu

This article is a contribution from PianoSolo through Piano Street’s International Media Exchange Initiative and the Cremona Media Lounge.

PianoSolo.itPianosolo.it is a project in favor of thousands of Italian speaking people with a common passion: the piano. Online since 2008, pianosolo.it was the first Italian blog completely dedicated to this theme. It offers daily news, lessons with video tutorials, interviews, reviews, in-depth articles, reports and opinions on piano world news, pursuing the aim of a widespread dissemination of musical culture at all levels.


Leave a comment here >


Piano Street’s New Year Score Hunt 2018!

Piano Street's New Year Score Hunt 2018

Welcome to join Piano Street’s New Year Score Hunt and get some exclusive pianos scores for free, as well as a chance to win a Gold Membership (value $129)!

Top Picks 2017Follow these four steps:

1. Find three free piano scores (downloadable pdf:s) hidden within some of the twelve articles in our Top Picks of 2017! (The scores are usually exclusively available for Gold members but now temporarily available as free downloads.)
CLICK HERE >> to start the hunt!

2. Find the three hints at the bottom of the last page of each of the three sheet music pdf files.

gold card3. Figure out which important year in the piano music history these three hints have in common.

4. Send your answer to webmaster@pianostreet.com with subject line “Score Hunt 2018″ no later than Sunday January 7 2018.

Among those who submit the correct answer we will draw three winners who receive a 1 Year Piano Street Gold membership (value $129).
Good luck!

P.S. If you have found the three hints but cannot figure out the answer, the corresponding web pages here at pianostreet.com could be helpful…

UPDATE January 10: Winners announced

The correct answer is year 1810, the year of the birth of Chopin and Schumann and the year Für Elise was most likely composed.
Among the many correct entries, three winners of a 1 year Gold membership has been drawn:

Claire Spence
Tzvika Krugliak
Voon Chow Fui



Leave a comment here >


Privacy Policy | FAQ | Contact