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Topic: Russian piano school  (Read 51597 times)

Offline steinway88

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Re: Russian piano school
Reply #50 on: January 08, 2004, 01:03:47 AM
If your interested in russian technique try reading up on Simon Barere. He was said to be one of the best technisions of th 20th century. His student Boris Maxomovich created the Kiev conservatory.

Offline bernhard

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Re: Russian piano school
Reply #51 on: January 08, 2004, 11:59:16 PM
Quote
If your interested in russian technique try reading up on Simon Barere. He was said to be one of the best technisions of th 20th century. His student Boris Maxomovich created the Kiev conservatory.


Any particular book/reference?
The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side. (Hunter Thompson)

Offline bitus

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Re: Russian piano school
Reply #52 on: January 11, 2004, 06:31:20 PM
I was taught the Russian method, since i was in Romania during the comunist years and Russian influence.
The bad aspect of it is that it puts too much accent on the competitive spirit.
The good aspect is that it's very severe and it's challanging. In her 3rd year of playing the piano, my sister had to play Fur Elise and many other pieces that would seem hard for her age... but it was very common for all of us to play hard pieces by the end of 2nd year. Especially american school (if we can talk of one) but mostly western schools are too easy on the student.
By the way... in the Russian School, teachers don't limit their punishment to verbal punishment ;]... but thank God for my teacher :]]
My opinion is that is the best and most serious out of all schools of music.
The Bitus
Be still, my soul: thy God doth undertake
To guide the future, as He has the past.

Offline Pianos2dio

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Re: Russian piano school
Reply #53 on: March 29, 2004, 11:55:35 AM
Hi everybody:
I lived in Russia (actually it was the USSR when I got there) for 8 amazing years. Attended St Petersburg Conservatory. I have read all the posts about the "Russian Piano School", and basically everybody is right on their own way. My first impression when I got there was Wow... students at  the conservatory use Chopin and Liszt just to warm their fingers up .. before getting into the "hard stuff".
Russians start learning very young, sometimes as young as 3. They usually start with traditional melodies (the equivalent of Old Mac Donald..)working right away in positioning the hand, for a couple weeks kids play this melodies (depending of the age they might be playing by ear or reading) using only fingers 3 and 2, since they believe from these 2 fingers everything else comes. (sorry if this doesn't make sense, English is not my first language) Once these fingers are properly positioned for that specific student they start using the other fingers.
Since the very first lesson there is already some technical excersices and later on etudes, transposition is also required, for example: Play "Hot Cross Buns" starting from any white key. By the end of their first year they are playing easy etudes by Czerny , Gedike, Lubarski, etc. easy pieces like Beethoven's German Dance.Ensemble playing and singing is used a lot.  
One thing that is mandatory...Mom, dad..grandma..somebody.must be at the lesson always, taking note of the indications the teacher makes, and they must supervised their children practice (for a couple years at least).
The only thing I disagree is about the "use of the arm".
Yes, they relay on this tremendously, but only after you have learn to use your fingers and wrist, to relax  right away after you use  it, once you have mastered that they start developing your "arms".
From there they just keep going and going. I don't remember them being "Hanon" fanatic, they use lots of diferent composer to develop technic. By the time a student reach conservatory all the technical problems had been solved.Of course, I'm talking here only about what I saw and was taught to do with my own little russian students for my Pedagogy class, in no moment I'm trying to define, or explain "the russian school" if such thing exist. Strict, yes they are..., dedicated 100 %

Offline bernhard

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Re: Russian piano school
Reply #54 on: March 31, 2004, 02:55:43 AM
Thanks for the very interesting post.

What about lesson frequency for the very young? Do they have one lesson per week? lessons everyday?

Also, do they make any concession to games and fun? or is it music centred?

Why do you disagree with the way they use the arm?

Finally, how uniform is the teaching (that is, does every single teacher follows exactly the same approach, or they all have their personal ideas?)

Best wishes,
Bernhard.
The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side. (Hunter Thompson)

Offline anda

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Re: Russian piano school
Reply #55 on: March 31, 2004, 10:51:37 AM
Quote
I was taught the Russian method, since i was in Romania during the comunist years and Russian influence.
The bad aspect of it is that it puts too much accent on the competitive spirit.
The good aspect is that it's very severe and it's challanging. In her 3rd year of playing the piano, my sister had to play Fur Elise and many other pieces that would seem hard for her age... but it was very common for all of us to play hard pieces by the end of 2nd year. Especially american school (if we can talk of one) but mostly western schools are too easy on the student.
By the way... in the Russian School, teachers don't limit their punishment to verbal punishment ;]... but thank God for my teacher :]]
My opinion is that is the best and most serious out of all schools of music.
The Bitus


sorry, but i have to disagree - all the above may be true for certain teachers, but they are very few. as for the russian school, is pretty much like what churchill (i think i'm not mistaken) said about democracy - it's very bad, but it's the best we've known so far.

Offline anda

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Re: Russian piano school
Reply #56 on: March 31, 2004, 11:01:08 AM
Quote
Thanks for the very interesting post.

What about lesson frequency for the very young? Do they have one lesson per week? lessons everyday?

Also, do they make any concession to games and fun? or is it music centred?

Why do you disagree with the way they use the arm?

Finally, how uniform is the teaching (that is, does every single teacher follows exactly the same approach, or they all have their personal ideas?)

Best wishes,
Bernhard.


usually, it's 2 one hour classes per week. i prefer 4 1/2 hour classes per week for young kids (i found it works better).

concessions... most of us (of course, up-tight teachers who have to look up in the dictionary for the word "smile" don't) practice exercises in the form of playing - personally, i teach finger, wrist and arm exercises from the begining (i believe if you focus on the fingers and let the kid do whatever with his/her arm or wrist, s/he will develop bad habbits that are so difficult to correct later).

teaching is supposed to be uniform - it used to be at some point, but isn't anymore. we have some books (pretty much the same) about teaching (my personal bible is neuhaus method as well as 2 other books by romanian teachers) but they do not tell you what you should do exactly. they present some principles in teaching - be careful with this or that, take care of... and so on. based on the principles i agree with (from my personal experience as pianist), i developed my own exercises. and the same goes for many of us.

i have had in the past teachers who had french, german and russian training, so i have had contact with these important schools, and i choose the russian school for being the most complex and being the most help in developing the kid into a (perhaps sometimes) pianist.

Offline Pianos2dio

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Re: Russian piano school
Reply #57 on: March 31, 2004, 11:59:11 AM
quote:Bernhard link=board=perf;num=1070796095;start=50#54 date=03/31/04 at 00:55:43]Thanks for the very interesting post.

What about lesson frequency for the very young? Do they have one lesson per week? lessons everyday?

Also, do they make any concession to games and fun? or is it music centred?

Why do you disagree with the way they use the arm?

Finally, how uniform is the teaching (that is, does every single teacher follows exactly the same approach, or they all have their personal ideas?)

Best wishes,
Bernhard.[/quote]

Hi Bernhard:
Here are the answers to your questions:
The lessons are at least twice a week. at least 45 minutes. Now, keep in mind that I'm talking about kids that go to Music school (Elementary music school) where everything goes around music, besides the normal subjects "normal schools' have. So the 45 minutes lesson is enterily dedicated to piano, there is somebody else that will take care of the theory part. They use games, lot of them including story making a popular one.  at that stage teachers are really "sweet" , "playfull" but still strict enough to keep control.
About the arm, I don't disagree with Russian, I desagreed with some comments that gave the impression that just by the use of the arm your are going to obtain a clear touch. Arms are an esential part of the technic, as well as fingers.
Now the hardest question. For what I saw and studied they are "general rules" that are basically followed by everybody when it comes to technic, now about interpretation... that is a different deal. for example the St. Petersburg COnservatory has it's Piano Department that has 3 different  "Professors in Charge" (sorry my English again is not helping!) each one of these "Professors" manages a group of teachers that follow different aproaches to interpretation. an easy example : the use of pedal in Bach. Teacher from one group might use it and they explain way, the other might not use it and they explain why.... and that goes on for almost each composer. My "Profesor in Charge" was Tatiana Kravchenko . Hope this was of some help
Best regards,
Criseida

Offline nad

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Re: Russian piano school
Reply #58 on: March 31, 2004, 02:35:41 PM
When I started with lessons I had a dutch teacher. After some years the music schools in my area started a project. I was put in a 'talent-class' along with some other pupils from my teacher. It was a sort of cooperation bond with another teacher who brought along some of his pupils. That other teacher was Markov (my current teacher) who studied with Victor Merzhanov. I got two lessons a week, each 45 minutes. It was kind of funny because I now had two teachers who both were very different in teaching. My old teacher was more focused on technique and accuracy, where the other teacher focused on more parts. Technique, hand position, the whole body position (about which my old teacher never really 'taught' pardon my english), interpretation and tone shading. He talked about both things you did well and did wrong. Emphasizing what you did really good is very motivating, instead of only hearing what you don't do good (which my old teacher tended to do).

Also, Markov's pupils were in general much higher in level than my old teacher's. His method of teaching worked better, I am sure of that since I now have him as only teacher. (Except for teaching he also still performs, and teaches on music schools as conservatory's and he also gives masterclasses. Where my old teacher only taught at music school).

That's what i noticed. I am not 100% sure whether this difference solely is caused by two different traditions of piano school, but I tend to think so.

Offline rohansahai

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Re: Russian piano school
Reply #59 on: August 30, 2004, 09:30:33 AM
The Russian School is not ONLY about technique and relaxation etc. It requires a complete change in attitude in order to study it. For instance, there is a thing called intonatsiia, a way of distinguishing intervallic relationships; accelerating during a crescendo; playing as if you are massaging the keys, then only you will get the tone that the great Russian masters produced! I will be posting soon, an article by John Bell Young (i'm sure you all know about him) in which he has criticised the "American ignorance" towards the MUSICAL aspects of the Russian School. One example is, for instance, always making a delay while approaching a long note and distinguishing between small intervals and large intervals, obviously by delaying again. This is just a theoretical explanation to something which is very inbuilt in the Russian School, teachers dont teach this; students get it automatically.
Waste of time -- do not read signatures.

Offline bernhard

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Re: Russian piano school
Reply #60 on: August 30, 2004, 12:34:09 PM
Quote
The Russian School is not ONLY about technique and relaxation etc. It requires a complete change in attitude in order to study it. For instance, there is a thing called intonatsiia, a way of distinguishing intervallic relationships; accelerating during a crescendo; playing as if you are massaging the keys, then only you will get the tone that the great Russian masters produced! I will be posting soon, an article by John Bell Young (i'm sure you all know about him) in which he has criticised the "American ignorance" towards the MUSICAL aspects of the Russian School. One example is, for instance, always making a delay while approaching a long note and distinguishing between small intervals and large intervals, obviously by delaying again. This is just a theoretical explanation to something which is very inbuilt in the Russian School, teachers dont teach this; students get it automatically.



This is interesting. Could you expand on it? Especially the taken-for-granted elements, the ones that students learn “by osmosis” so to speak?

Best wishes,
Bernhard
The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side. (Hunter Thompson)

Offline rohansahai

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Re: Russian piano school
Reply #61 on: August 30, 2004, 06:57:11 PM
Well, it is actually pretty hard to explain, but I'll give it a try! My teacher studied at the Moscow Conservatory for 10 yrs under a student of Gilels and his experiences there are really mind boggling. In his entrance recital, his to be teacher came up to the piano while he was playing and looked curiously. After the performance was over, which, my teacher accepts, was not that good on accuraccy as he was probable nervous, his teacher asked something which had nothing to do with accuracy at all! She asked why the sound was somewhat thin and shallow!
Plus, my teacher didn't know the language at all, so what the professor taught used to be very difficult to understand. But, when my teacher heard her play, he immediately noticed that the sound which was produced was fuller and much more intriguing and the effort put in the playing (it was the Rach. D major prelude) was just phenomenal. The torso was inclined at a very sharp angle to the piano and the entire system(shoulders to the fingers) seemed to be involved. But, as my teacher had gone there as a university level student, what the shoulders had to do was not her concern. It was more a sort of a critical analysis of the piece than the technique!
So, my teacher then went to the Central Music School, got permission to just sit and watch the teachers there teach youngsters the technique and then came up with the following conclusions:
1. Even in the simplest of pieces, the entire body HAS to be involved! It produces a great difference even on a piece as easy as the G major menuet by Bach.
2. This automatically results in excellent phrasing, the crescendos seem to have a very natural and seemingly obvious accelerando, and the music seems to have a sparkle and life that you won't get otherwise.
3. Now, also, he learnt that the convenience of the piano can be its biggest disadvantage. Comparing it with a violin, for instance, the violinist would after every phrase have to shift the bow back in order to continue, giving the effect that the music is breathing. The same being not necessary on the piano(All the notes are in front of you), the breathing part is often neglected and the music becomes dead and mechanical.
4. Coming to the term I used in my previous post , ''intonatsiia"; it is actually the russian equivalent of intonation, but has a much wider meaning than what you would normally imagine. You have to create tension and excitement BETWEEN notes! This is the highlight of intonatsiia. Distinguish larger intervals from smaller ones by slightly greater delays. Long notes should always be approached with a delay. A very good example is the middle section of the G minor prelude of Rachmaninov. In the very beginning of this section, the fourth chord in the right hand(CDF#C) and all similar ones, should be approached with a delay i.e. between the one before it and itself! The same is to be applied everywhere, not only Rach, but also Bach, Mozart and literally everything. Its just that in Bach and Mozart, you have to be a little more selective.
Points 1-3 are NOT taught in conservatories. Children there get it by seeing their teachers play. They, when they grow up and become concert pianists won't be able to explain why they do it, its just there! But, such was not the case with my teacher as he had to study it like science!
In conclusion my hint is that, if you follow all what is above, even the simplest piece you play will require a lot of effort, and you will look BUSY while playing, but the result is phenomenal! Also, remember that the worst complement you can get is "What EFFORTLESS playing!". Effortless playing might have the accuracy, but it will NOT convey the emotions, it will be flat and bland! After all, there is much more to piano playing than just speed, accuracy and bravura!!!!!
Waste of time -- do not read signatures.

Offline rohansahai

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Re: Russian piano school
Reply #62 on: August 30, 2004, 07:10:51 PM
Hey, I missed out some things there!
To observe the above methods, Emil Gilels' recordings are the best bet! I wouldn't advise Richter because Richter had such a great technique that his playing always used to have an interpretation that used to highlight his technique a lot! With Gilels (especially in his Beethoven) , you can notice everything above: the MASSAGING of the keys to the delays......
Also, to get a genuine feel of things, as my teacher says, you have to feel Russia. Read Russian literature, poetry, the culture and then only you will get the FEEL of their piano school!
Waste of time -- do not read signatures.

Offline bernhard

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Re: Russian piano school
Reply #63 on: August 31, 2004, 01:40:05 AM
Quote
Hey, I missed out some things there!
To observe the above methods, Emil Gilels' recordings are the best bet! I wouldn't advise Richter because Richter had such a great technique that his playing always used to have an interpretation that used to highlight his technique a lot! With Gilels (especially in his Beethoven) , you can notice everything above: the MASSAGING of the keys to the delays......
Also, to get a genuine feel of things, as my teacher says, you have to feel Russia. Read Russian literature, poetry, the culture and then only you will get the FEEL of their piano school!



Thank you for the detailed explanation.

I do not agree with everything, but some of the things you mentioned (especially the treatment of intervals) are definitely worth keeping in mind.

Best wishes,
Bernhard,
The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side. (Hunter Thompson)

Offline ag

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Re: Russian piano school
Reply #64 on: August 31, 2004, 03:15:17 AM
The problem is that Bernhard is rusophobic, so this discussion that has been going on for almost a year, unfortunatly, turned out to be pointless.  Instead of talking about the techniques of the russian school, the only thing that Bernhard tried to do, was to prove that no such thing as a russian school exists.  Everyone IS entitled to their own opinion, I guess.

Offline rohansahai

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Re: Russian piano school
Reply #65 on: August 31, 2004, 11:44:36 AM
Bernhard said earlier:
Everyone mentions Gilels, Richter and Ashkenazy. But if the Russian School (0r whatever other school/system is out there) is so amazing, how come we can count their products on the fingers of one hand? What happened to the millions of piano students that went through it and we never heard of?

Well, my answer to that is simple! There were (and still are)  hundreds of pianists as good as the above mentioned ones, if not better. Its just that in the Soviet times VERY FEW pianists were allowed to go out. Now, things have become different as more and more stress is being laid on technique (The Chinese etc. have become experts at it!). Piano playing is becoming more and more mechanical and stress is being laid on accuracy rather than emotion. Remember, it is when you are emotional that you make mistakes! (This applies to real life as much as piano playing). But if you are not emotional, the playing will be flat and dead regardless of how accurate it is.
Also, referring to Bernhard holding the view that no such thing as a Russian school exists, I want you to know that it DOES and is far superior musically than any of the others! This view is held by me, an INDIAN, because I've seen the difference when my teacher plays a piece as simple as the Bach menuet . (I'm neither Russian nor Western, so, I guess I won't be biased!).
Also, I see no harm if others who are not sure about it believe in it! At least, you won't miss out on it just in case if it did exist!
Waste of time -- do not read signatures.

Offline dinosaurtales

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Re: Russian piano school
Reply #66 on: August 31, 2004, 06:26:11 PM
There ARE hundreds of pianists, some of whom escaped, like Alexander Paley, who is AMAZING.  But I believe Boris Berman and Vladimir Horowitz were also Russian schoolers.  We could start a list like we did for composers and it would go on and on...
So much music, so little time........

Offline ronald

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Re: Russian piano school
Reply #67 on: April 10, 2005, 07:26:50 AM
If you want to study with a former pupil of Neuhaus you have great opportunity at Masterclasses on www.kubalekpianocourses.com . Maestro Zdenek Hnat is winner of Prague Spring Competition and he is most renowned teacher in Czech Republic. And Mr. Antonin Kubalek from Canada was friend and well-adored collegue of Glenn Gould.
I got a big scholarchip for this event! I think you'll get it, too... Just visit the website or write me pohl.r@centrum.cz
Ronald

Offline ramseytheii

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Re: Russian piano school
Reply #68 on: July 16, 2005, 01:39:42 AM

But then I came across Charles Rosen’s “Piano notes” (Penguin) (highly recommended reading):

“(..) there is no optimum position for sitting at the piano, in spite of what many pedagogues think. (…) The height at which one sits does affect the style of performance. It isdifficult, for example, to play bursts of virtuoso octaves fortissimo when sitting very low. That is one aspect of piano technique that Glenn Gould, for example, could not deal with (…) nevertheless, the low seated position enabled Gould to achieve a beautiful technical control of rapid passage-work with different kinds of touch.”


But I must disagree with the eminent Mr Rosen, there are recordings of Gould and virtuoso octaves, for example Prokofiev Sonata 7, or Ravel's La Valse.  Also this from Otto Friedrich:

"...somewhere in New York, when Gould was in town for one reason or another, and he sat down at a ipano and whirled through a thunderously Horowitzian chain of double octaves.  'And he said, "I can do that,"' [Joseph] Roddy recalls.  '"Anybody can do that!"'"

Walter Ramsey

Offline bernhard

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Re: Russian piano school
Reply #69 on: July 16, 2005, 09:29:08 AM
But I must disagree with the eminent Mr Rosen, there are recordings of Gould and virtuoso octaves, for example Prokofiev Sonata 7, or Ravel's La Valse.  Also this from Otto Friedrich:

"...somewhere in New York, when Gould was in town for one reason or another, and he sat down at a ipano and whirled through a thunderously Horowitzian chain of double octaves.  'And he said, "I can do that,"' [Joseph] Roddy recalls.  '"Anybody can do that!"'"

Walter Ramsey

I think the point Rosen is making (and I agree with it) is not so much that Gould could not do double octaves, but rather that his sitting position (very low – in his favourite chair which he brought to concerts the way the pianists of old brought their pianos), made it impossible to do them with ease.

So the question here is: In New York, when he demonstrated that he could indeed do double octaves – as you say – how high (or low) was he sitting? Did he have his favourite short-legged chair with it, or was he using the (high) bench of his host? Do you have any information on this?

From all I read about Gould, I got the distinction impression that he loved to be a “contrary” person. I can imagine his teacher telling him (they were always arguing): “Glenn, Glenn don’t sit so low, you cannot play the piano in this posture”, and Gould replying “Yes you can Mr. Guerrero, and I will show you!”.

Best wishes,
Bernhard.
The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side. (Hunter Thompson)

Offline ramseytheii

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Re: Russian piano school
Reply #70 on: July 16, 2005, 03:46:29 PM
I think the point Rosen is making (and I agree with it) is not so much that Gould could not do double octaves, but rather that his sitting position (very low – in his favourite chair which he brought to concerts the way the pianists of old brought their pianos), made it impossible to do them with ease.

So the question here is: In New York, when he demonstrated that he could indeed do double octaves – as you say – how high (or low) was he sitting? Did he have his favourite short-legged chair with it, or was he using the (high) bench of his host? Do you have any information on this?


Sorry, I don't have any more information.  It was only an anecdote published in a Gould biography.  But I read the Rosen quote as, paraphrasing, "virtuoso double octaves are the only aspect of piano technique Gould couldn't deal with," not, "couldn't deal with without changing his height at the keyboard."  I doubt the recordings of pieces where he does display virtuoso octaves, involve him sitting in a different chair, though I don't know that for certain.  But did he ever sit in a different chair making his recordings?

Walter Ramsey

Offline bernhard

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Re: Russian piano school
Reply #71 on: July 16, 2005, 07:19:51 PM
If you read Rosen’s quote in full, you will see that the main focus of the paragraph is the correct bench height (he argues that there is no such a thing) rather than Gould’s technical shortcomings. His point is that different bench heights may have different advantages/disadvantages, and then he uses Gould as an example (no doubt because of Gould’s radical low bench height) of how the low height favours some techniques and is disadvantageous to others.

In regards to Gould’s bench, it was not even a bench. It was an old chair (yes, it had a back and all), and Gould sawed the legs off, so that he was almost sitting on the floor (yes, that low). There are videos of him playing in his chair, and I for one cannot really understand how he can play at all at that height.

He was completely attached to the chair, and carried it everywhere (I think in the “Art of the Piano” video there is a clip of him playing one of the Bach concertos in front of a huge audience – in Russia, I believe – in this very chair). And yes, he always recorded in his chair.

He also had a favourite Steinway piano, which he had engineered extensively, so that the characteristic “Gould sound” had far less to do with any special touch than with the piano itself. He also carried this piano everywhere and whenever possible he would record on it too (he first played on it in some theatre, fell in love with its sound and eventually purchased  it from the theatre). Then disaster struck. In one occasion, when moving the piano, they let it drop and it cracked. Although Steinway manage to rebuild it, Gould claimed that the piano was never the same again (and I believe him!). This piano is now in a museum in Canada dedicated to Gould.

(Google “Gould’s piano” and you may see a picture of it – I know it exists in the net because at some point I came across it).

Best wishes,
Bernhard.




The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side. (Hunter Thompson)

Offline m

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Re: Russian piano school
Reply #72 on: July 17, 2005, 05:58:42 AM

He also had a favourite Steinway piano, which he had engineered extensively, so that the characteristic “Gould sound” had far less to do with any special touch than with the piano itself.

Well, one of my favorite Gould's recordings is "Glenn Gould meets the students of Moscow Conservatory". Lev Vlasenko (who was translating the meeting) told me that Gould used Conservatorie's piano.  You cannot miss that "Gould sound" on the recording.
Hell, you cannot miss it even when he plays organ...

Quote
Then disaster struck. In one occasion, when moving the piano, they let it drop and it cracked.


Franz Moor (who worked on Gould's piano) in his book gives quite a different version, and I tend to believe him.

It is actually quite interesting to read this thread. So many legends, so many misconceptions. There were so many posts here that I even dont know where to start.

First of all, there are much more great Russian pianists than were mentioned here. Definitely muuuuch more that could be count on one hand. And I mean GREAT ones. Nobody knows their names on the West. Many of them were worshiped in Russia. Many of them ended working in small Conservatories, and even in music schools. There were many reasons for that, and political and antisimetic are probably the most important.

Yes, there is Russian Piano School. It is not about how relaxed you are, how you use your arms, body, and how strong your fingers and how much you played Hanon. It is a cultural phenomenon. It comes from Russian painting, literature, theater, etc. It comes from general education, musical education, from emphasis of all cultural life, etc., etc.

I spent in Russia my first 27 years, and was privileged to study in Moscow Conservatory with Lev Naumov. Something tells me that I know little bit about Russian Piano School. 

Offline bernhard

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Re: Russian piano school
Reply #73 on: July 17, 2005, 09:36:36 AM
Well, one of my favorite Gould's recordings is "Glenn Gould meets the students of Moscow Conservatory". Lev Vlasenko (who was translating the meeting) told me that Gould used Conservatorie's piano.  You cannot miss that "Gould sound" on the recording.
Hell, you cannot miss it even when he plays organ...

Franz Moor (who worked on Gould's piano) in his book gives quite a different version, and I tend to believe him.

So let us unravel it by parts then. First, Glenn Gould piano and bench:

The information about Glenn Gould’s piano being dropped by movers can be found in this site:

https://aix1.uottawa.ca/~weinberg/gould.html
(They even have a gif clip showing how it happened).

The Steinway CD318 piano was Gould's prize possession and he used it to make all his recordings through the 1970's. This animated gif records the moment when the piano was dropped by movers cracking the casted frame holding the strings. (Hey! you don't get this kind of information just anywhere.) Although an attempt was made to repair it, Gould complained that his piano never sounded the same again.

You can see a picture of it and of his chair here (in its present restored state):

https://www.collectionscanada.ca/5/7/a7-3102-e.html

(notice that the chair has no seat anymore. Peter Gutmann, on this site:

https://www.classicalnotes.net/columns/gould.html

tells us that:


“He crouched below the keyboard, sitting 14 inches off the floor on a chair his father had built and which he insisted on using his entire life. He refused to have it reupholstered, and so after the original padding wore away it became a medieval torture device, with only a single narrow beam running down the middle of the seat from front to back, forcing his entire body weight onto his groin.”


According to this site,

https://www.glenngould.com/timeline.html

Gould discovered his Steinway CD318 piano in 1960 at the Eaton Auditorium in Toronto. It soon became its favourite instrument for both recording and performing and he started hiring it on a regular basis for those purposes. Finally on 14 February 1973 he buys it.

On this site you find this interesting opinion:

https://www.classicalnotes.net/reviews/gould.html

And yet, Gould made no effort to disguise his eccentricities, which are all too often audible. He refused to give up his treasured piano stool, despite its loud creaking every time he shifted his weight. Much of his solo work veered toward aleatory duets with his loud, off-key groaning. But perhaps the most striking combination of care and fluke arose from his favorite piano, an abandoned Steinway upon which he constantly performed "major surgery" to refine its responsiveness and clarity; in the process, though, the instrument developed peculiar buzzes and resonances which Gould claimed to find charming and refused to fix, consistent with, as he put it, his "sober conviction that no piano need feel duty-bound to always sound like a piano."

And:

Until it was demolished in a moving accident, Gould had a single favorite piano from Steinway inventory, known as CD 318, which was reserved exclusively for his use and upon which he performed “major surgery” in order to approach the clarity and feel of a harpsichord; as he noted this wasn't “as great a sacrifice on the part of the makers as you might imagine, since no one else has ever expressed the slightest interest in it.” In the course of adjusting CD 318 for the Inventions session, Gould managed to afflict it with a bizarre “hiccup” effect in the middle register, by which random sustained notes were repeated. Gould acknowledged this in the album notes (to Columbia MS 6622) but professed to find the result charming and justified it as related to “the clavichord's propensity for an intra-tone vibrato.” He went on to assert his “sober conviction that no piano need feel duty-bound to always sound like a piano.” To me, though, the sonic quirk ruins the rhythm and becomes incredibly annoying. Here, then, is an alternate version that avoids this problem while preserving Gould's fundamental approach to these wonderful morsels.


On this site, we hear more of the same:

https://www.iolfree.ie/~alexandros/articles/gould.htm

When he sat down at the piano, Gould needed to be just above eye level with the keyboard, which consequently required any concert grand to be up on blocks while he crouched in that special low-slung chair (its seat just 14 inches off the ground). By the evidence of surviving photographs, he bent over the keys like a hunchback. Moreover, Gould searched and searched for the ideal Steinway -- he demanded a very fast action and a crisp, austere sound, without any legato, something, he once said, "like an emasculated harpsichord."

Now, we all know that the internet can be seriously misleading - and I for one am alway happy to see it challenged and imporved -  so, if you have more information (or contrary information), I certainly would be interested in it.  :D

So what is the Franz Mohr story? Was the piano dropped by movers at the Eaton auditorium in 1974 or not? Did the frame crack or not?

I also read somewhere (sorry could not find the source but I will come back if I do) that often when playing in pianos/benches not his own Gould would raise the piano on wooden blocks so as to have his usual low sitting posture. Was that the case when he played in Russia?

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It is actually quite interesting to read this thread. So many legends, so many misconceptions. There were so many posts here that I even dont know where to start.

First of all, there are much more great Russian pianists than were mentioned here. Definitely muuuuch more that could be count on one hand. And I mean GREAT ones. Nobody knows their names on the West. Many of them were worshiped in Russia. Many of them ended working in small Conservatories, and even in music schools. There were many reasons for that, and political and antisimetic are probably the most important.

Yes, there is Russian Piano School. It is not about how relaxed you are, how you use your arms, body, and how strong your fingers and how much you played Hanon. It is a cultural phenomenon. It comes from Russian painting, literature, theater, etc. It comes from general education, musical education, from emphasis of all cultural life, etc., etc.

Well, then we are not really talking about a "piano school", but a "piano (music) culture", right?

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I spent in Russia my first 27 years, and was privileged to study in Moscow Conservatory with Lev Naumov. Something tells me that I know little bit about Russian Piano School. 

So. please, enlighten us. :D (although from your statement it would seem you know quite a lot about the Moscow conservatory and Lev Naumov, not necessarily the Russian Piano school - unless of course you are claiming that this institution and this teacher are the Russian piano school. Are you?)

Best wishes,
Bernhard.
The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side. (Hunter Thompson)

Offline m

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Re: Russian piano school
Reply #74 on: July 17, 2005, 06:51:57 PM

So what is the Franz Mohr story? Was the piano dropped by movers at the Eaton auditorium in 1974 or not? Did the frame crack or not?

Unfortunately, I don't have this book handy at the moment, so cannot double check the facts. I don't remember though, reading that piano was dropped and that was the reason for rebuilding it. (Although, I might be wrong here--it's been awhile since I read this book.) IIRC, Franz Mohr wanted to do it because he felt it was time to rebuild the action. He assured Gould that the character of the action will remain the same. Apparently, it turned out not the case and Gould was absolutely desparate and never touched the instrument again.



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Well, then we are not really talking about a "piano school", but a "piano (music) culture", right?

Can you separate those?

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So. please, enlighten us.

Well, to do it I will need to start with Russian history, culture, education, tradition, folk music and culture, Russian fairy-tales and epic poems, describe country side views and Russian life at all, etc. It is a topic for a good dissertation, or at least lengthy paper. Unfortunately, at the moment I don't have that much time to invest. If you have some more specific questions, please ask.


Offline thomj

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Re: Russian piano school
Reply #75 on: July 19, 2005, 10:37:10 AM
Bernhard - I generally like your writing, but in this thread (perhaps it's because i've tried to digest the whole thing in one sitting?), it seems to me that you're trying too hard to categorise, define, document everything that makes up the russian school. I just don't think it's that simple. And I'm interested to note that nobody has mentioned the ears yet! From my brief experience with "the Russian School", I've learnt that it's a whole different perception about things. It's about having a sophisicated ear above all else. A good ear enables one to execute beautiful phrasing and voicing and legato etc.

Marik! Saviour! A short interjection about 'Russian Ears' would be ace  ;D
 

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