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Recommended Book: The Russian Piano School

The Moscow Conservatory piano school enjoys pride of place among Russia’s musical institutions. Its outstanding graduates have included Rachmaninov, Scriabin, Medtner, Richter, Gilels, Ashkenazy and Pletnev. Yet while their mastery transcends any process of formal teaching, behind these great names lies a teaching process whose workings are little known to the outside world – except in occasional publications such as Heinrich Neuhaus’ The Art of Piano Playing.
The Russian Piano School offers a further and fuller insight into the views on technique and interpretation of several of the 20th century’s greatest Russian teachers and performers. Contributions come from the elder generation of Alexander Goldenweiser (a friend and contemporary of Rachmaninov), his pupil Samuel Feinberg, Heinrich Neuhaus and Konstantin Igumnov, as well as from a younger generation including Yakov Flier, Lev Oborin, Yakov Zak, and Grigorii Ginzburg, who tutored many master pianists of the present day. The book addresses several of the major technical and interpretative problems facing the pianist. This book should be of interest to both piano teachers and students, to professional performers, and also to many amateurs who aspire to reach beyond the first foothills of Parnassus.

Part One offers a series of writings that illustrate the philosophy and methods of the school:

  • The Road to Artistry, Samuil Feinberg
  • Advice from a Pianist and Teacher, Alexander Goldenweiser
  • Some Principles of Pianoforte Technique, Lev Oborin
  • Some Remarks on Technique, Konstantin Igumnov
  • Notes on Mastery of the Piano, Grigorii Ginzburg

Part Two gives a privileged insight into the classroom methods of various teachers as they work with students on that repertoire in which Russian artists have always particularly excelled – Beethoven, Chopin, Liszt, Rachmaninov and Prokofiev:

  • Beethoven’s Appassionata: A Performer’s Commentary, Samuil Feinberg
  • Three Answers to Questions about Beethoven’s Sonata Appassionata, Sviatoslav Richter
  • Work on Beethoven’s Sonata in A major Opus 101, Heinrich Neuhaus
  • Chopin Etudes (based on classes with Samuil Feinberg), Maria Eshchenko
  • Reflections on Chopin’s Fourth Ballade, Yakov Flier
  • Notes on Chopin’s Ballade in F minor, Alexander Goldenweiser
  • Chopin’s Fourth Ballade in F minor, Konstantin Igumnov
  • Lessons with Yakov Flier (on Liszt’s Mephisto Waltz No 1 and Prokofiev’s Sonata No 3), Nina Lelchuk Lelchuk
    Yakov Zak as Teacher (on Liszt’s B-minor Sonata, Schumann’s Etudes Symphoniques, and Rachmaninov’s Paganini Rhapsody), Olga Stupakova

Christopher Barnes
, professor of Slavic languages at the University of Toronto, has translated hitherto unavailable essays, critiques and lectures from the leading teaching lights at the Moscow Conservatoire. Pursuing a parallel interest in music, he studied piano privately and is known as a lecturer-recitalist and a broadcaster on Russian musical topics. He is currently at work on a monograph on Scriabin and a history of Russian pianism.

This book on amazon.com


  1. Susanna Galli Says:

    Much needed this book on the Russian Piano School
    Thank you

  2. Alan Barber Says:

    I have this book! It is well worth the price–a lot of sound information and advice on how to perform many of the staples of the repertoire.
    I also recommend most highly “The Art of Piano Playing,” by Heinrich Neuhaus, who for many years taught at the Moscow Conservatory, and whose pupils included Radu Lupu, Emil Gilels, and the incomparable Sviatoslav Richter.

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