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finger tapping, staccato (Read 6763 times)

Offline nick

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finger tapping, staccato
« on: January 04, 2014, 02:14:11 PM »
Looking for some good advise please.
 I read the posts on tapping and found it interesting. I tried this and wonder why this would be more helpful than a relaxed hand, fingers on the key staccato? If one has the concept that the most relaxed hand is essential, and the staccato is done with finger in contact with key, wouldn't this be more fruitful practicing?
  Also, I find that when I get to my fourth finger in rh going upward, say 3 4 5, the fifth just shows a slight curling impulse, just barely visible. If I concentrate more and repeat, I can do it with no movement at all. Staccato it is easier to avoid movement. I assume this is the goal, to gain control so that over time the speed can increase with this same finger contact with keys and no movement from neighboring fingers?

Nick

Offline awesom_o

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Re: finger tapping, staccato
«Reply #1 on: January 09, 2014, 01:06:57 PM »
I'm not sure what your question is.

Relaxed-hands and touch-from-the-key-surface are always fruitful for practicing.

The purpose of finger-tapping is for students to develop the feeling of what it's like to play with relaxed hands.

Too often, when attempting to relax the hand, students unwittingly allow the natural structure of the hand to break or collapse.

Some people's 5th finger naturally collapses at the last joint without it causing any significant barriers to their piano playing, e.g. my girlfriend and the famous Polish pianist, Rafael Blechatz.

Not sure if I answered your question: can you be any more specific?

Offline nick

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Re: finger tapping, staccato
«Reply #2 on: January 18, 2014, 01:09:42 PM »
I'm not sure what your question is.

Relaxed-hands and touch-from-the-key-surface are always fruitful for practicing.

The purpose of finger-tapping is for students to develop the feeling of what it's like to play with relaxed hands.

Too often, when attempting to relax the hand, students unwittingly allow the natural structure of the hand to break or collapse.

Some people's 5th finger naturally collapses at the last joint without it causing any significant barriers to their piano playing, e.g. my girlfriend and the famous Polish pianist, Rafael Blechatz.

Not sure if I answered your question: can you be any more specific?

If the hand is relaxed, nice form, fingers on the keys, why not staccato instead of finger tapping? Won't one get more out of it since the feeling of relaxed hand is present and yet one uses ones small muscles to depress the key?
  Finger tapping one does feel relaxed but the small muscles of the hand are not involved. I can understand it if one really has no idea about being relaxed when playing and just briefly doing it to get the idea. Other than that I don't get it. yes?

Maurice

Offline awesom_o

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Re: finger tapping, staccato
«Reply #3 on: January 19, 2014, 04:34:05 PM »
If the hand is relaxed, nice form, fingers on the keys, why not staccato instead of finger tapping? Won't one get more out of it since the feeling of relaxed hand is present and yet one uses ones small muscles to depress the key?
 

Sure! As I said before, finger tapping is more about developing the imagination rather than the actual playing apparatus.

Offline nick

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Re: finger tapping, staccato
«Reply #4 on: January 19, 2014, 09:37:50 PM »
Sure! As I said before, finger tapping is more about developing the imagination rather than the actual playing apparatus.

Ok

Offline nyiregyhazi

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Re: finger tapping, staccato
«Reply #5 on: January 20, 2014, 02:55:06 AM »
If the hand is relaxed, nice form, fingers on the keys, why not staccato instead of finger tapping? Won't one get more out of it since the feeling of relaxed hand is present and yet one uses ones small muscles to depress the key?
  Finger tapping one does feel relaxed but the small muscles of the hand are not involved. I can understand it if one really has no idea about being relaxed when playing and just briefly doing it to get the idea. Other than that I don't get it. yes?

Maurice

You're coming at this from too much of a disconnected logical point of view, yet the logical side is compromised by the fact that you're only the looking at the very surface of what actually goes on.

Your argument is little different from saying why do x (where x is anything other than a technically perfect final execution of a piano piece) when you can just do a perfect execution of that piece instead. That's a obviously silly extreme, but it's no less silly really, to assume that if you intend to be relaxed, you'll necessarily be doing everything efficiently. Just because a single staccato note is not going to fall on its arse as obviously as launching right into a whole Chopin Etude unprepared, it doesn't mean that your action was perfect or even "relaxed" in any of the right places, simply because you intended it to be. Incidentally, what I learn most from tapping is that my fifth is usually TOO relaxed in certain places- and disconnected from the key. When tapping, I learn to bond it with the key better- which neither means stiffness nor a state that merely trying to be "relaxed" could ever lead me to.

Look up Feldenkrais. There are things called "parasitic contractions"- where doing one thing automatically triggers totally needless muscle contractions elsewhere that are generally not perceived at all- which is exactly why merely trying to be "relaxed" does not magically separate them from the movement they become attached too. When you are moved passively by external forces, these are no longer triggered by the intention to move- as the whole idea is NOT to intend to move. The brain gets a new experience of the movement without the wasted efforts. Then it gets better at actively instigating the movement, with the bare minimum of contractions that actively contribute to it.

Functional Integration lessons are based entirely on these issues, in Feldenkrais. A rational person (which I am myself) tends to be tempted to call bullshit on this sort of thing, but you really need to experience one of these yourself, to have any concept of how much freer the body can become- literally instantly after the lesson.

On another level, it can actually be rather complex to rationalise the best way to move the finger. Scraping back in a scratching motion forces wrist tension to stop everything getting forced out of alignment by a reaction force. There's a particular path where the finger lengthens out just right to move the key without any indirect quality- and hence no reaction dragging the wrist forward and up. I've given exercises for feeling this path for yourself in my first core technique post of my blog, about basic finger movements. However, it's perhaps easiest of all to learn the simplest movement by experiencing it passively- rather than having to figure out how to make it happen. You then just learn the "feeling". I like to tackle these things from both angles (with a condensed rationale behind the path of a finger movement, as well as various means of going by "feel") but some stuff cannot be learned merely by deliberation. You have to create conditions in which to merely experience something in the right way- like when a teacher actively manipulates you into performing the right movement. You can be your own teacher with these kinds of exercises.

Offline nyiregyhazi

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Re: finger tapping, staccato
«Reply #6 on: January 20, 2014, 03:08:38 AM »
To add that though, I scarcely learn a thing from Gould's version of tapping. However, Richard Beauchamp's version (where you tap not on the tip but further back along the finger) is hugely productive. It teaches me about the right preliminary state of interaction between finger and key and it teaches me much more about the specific movement that is efficient and productive. Simply tapping the tip gives me nothing like as rich and useful an experience. I also find it rather uncomfortable to tap there- as it squashes against the key at the bottom, for a moment.

Offline nick

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Re: finger tapping, staccato
«Reply #7 on: January 20, 2014, 09:52:39 PM »
You're coming at this from too much of a disconnected logical point of view, yet the logical side is compromised by the fact that you're only the looking at the very surface of what actually goes on.

Your argument is little different from saying why do x (where x is anything other than a technically perfect final execution of a piano piece) when you can just do a perfect execution of that piece instead. That's a obviously silly extreme, but it's no less silly really, to assume that if you intend to be relaxed, you'll necessarily be doing everything efficiently. Just because a single staccato note is not going to fall on its arse as obviously as launching right into a whole Chopin Etude unprepared, it doesn't mean that your action was perfect or even "relaxed" in any of the right places, simply because you intended it to be. Incidentally, what I learn most from tapping is that my fifth is usually TOO relaxed in certain places- and disconnected from the key. When tapping, I learn to bond it with the key better- which neither means stiffness nor a state that merely trying to be "relaxed" could ever lead me to.

Look up Feldenkrais. There are things called "parasitic contractions"- where doing one thing automatically triggers totally needless muscle contractions elsewhere that are generally not perceived at all- which is exactly why merely trying to be "relaxed" does not magically separate them from the movement they become attached too. When you are moved passively by external forces, these are no longer triggered by the intention to move- as the whole idea is NOT to intend to move. The brain gets a new experience of the movement without the wasted efforts. Then it gets better at actively instigating the movement, with the bare minimum of contractions that actively contribute to it.

Functional Integration lessons are based entirely on these issues, in Feldenkrais. A rational person (which I am myself) tends to be tempted to call bullshit on this sort of thing, but you really need to experience one of these yourself, to have any concept of how much freer the body can become- literally instantly after the lesson.

On another level, it can actually be rather complex to rationalise the best way to move the finger. Scraping back in a scratching motion forces wrist tension to stop everything getting forced out of alignment by a reaction force. There's a particular path where the finger lengthens out just right to move the key without any indirect quality- and hence no reaction dragging the wrist forward and up. I've given exercises for feeling this path for yourself in my first core technique post of my blog, about basic finger movements. However, it's perhaps easiest of all to learn the simplest movement by experiencing it passively- rather than having to figure out how to make it happen. You then just learn the "feeling". I like to tackle these things from both angles (with a condensed rationale behind the path of a finger movement, as well as various means of going by "feel") but some stuff cannot be learned merely by deliberation. You have to create conditions in which to merely experience something in the right way- like when a teacher actively manipulates you into performing the right movement. You can be your own teacher with these kinds of exercises.

For the sake of learning, let's assume my statement is accurate, that the hand and everything that is supposed to be relaxed is. That way one moves forward in the discussion.
I get the idea of finger tapping and it is different than the effect of staccato. I would think if the piece calls for it practice it, otherwise not sure of the benefit. No more questions from me.

I do know about the slightest muscular movement from non playing fingers, so no need to look up the guy you mentioned. I see it in my own hand. This I practice to avoid.

Nick

Offline nyiregyhazi

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Re: finger tapping, staccato
«Reply #8 on: January 21, 2014, 12:10:06 PM »
.

Offline nyiregyhazi

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Re: finger tapping, staccato
«Reply #9 on: January 21, 2014, 12:12:46 PM »
You're trying to be ultra-logical, but some of the things that are neglected from consideration make your assumptions actively illogical. You might as well argue that there's no benefit to a boxer to lift weights or to run in the park- because in the ring he only needs to block, punch and take punches. Why would a piece ever actively call for tapping the fingers? You're not appreciating the difference between learning processes and end results. The same logic would ban all slow practice and demand that we simply sit down and execute full-speed Chopin Etudes from the first rendition.

You're right that movements of other fingers show these parasitic contractions, but that's only the obvious surface. Stopping the movement doesn't mean necessarily stopping the contractions. When you deliberately try to prevent them by mere willpower, there's a high chance that you do so not by releasing them but by tightening additional muscles. Only tapping gives the true experience of taking them out of the picture, by eliminating the neural signals that they are associated to. Human perception is woefully inaccurate and misses all kinds of needless efforts- that are not removed by intending to relax. These kinds of exercises train it to get better and expose what we otherwise miss- thus improving our ability to both perceive superfluous efforts and to genuinely relax them

It would be all very nice to start with the assumption that everything that should be relaxed is, as you began your post by suggesting. But anyone who doesn't play to virtuoso level already makes such reckless and blindly hopeful assumptions at their peril. You can't move a discussion forward by pretending that something almost certainly untrue is so. The fact that half of the important places won't be relaxed at all, unless you're already playing to super high level, is exactly why we benefit from exercise that improve the senses- rather than simply assuming that if we intend to relax unnecessary efforts then that'll be enough to achieve the result.

Offline nick

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Re: finger tapping, staccato
«Reply #10 on: January 21, 2014, 07:16:39 PM »
You're trying to be ultra-logical, but some of the things that are neglected from consideration make your assumptions actively illogical. You might as well argue that there's no benefit to a boxer to lift weights or to run in the park- because in the ring he only needs to block, punch and take punches.

I was afraid of this direction. There are many boxers who instead of jogging for cardio, do.... more boxing, bag hitting etc. We could go on back and forth for days if we go in this direction.


You're right that movements of other fingers show these parasitic contractions, but that's only the obvious surface. Stopping the movement doesn't mean necessarily stopping the contractions. When you deliberately try to prevent them by mere willpower, there's a high chance that you do so not by releasing them but by tightening additional muscles. Only tapping gives the true experience of taking them out of the picture, by eliminating the neural signals that they are associated to. Human perception is woefully inaccurate and misses all kinds of needless efforts- that are not removed by intending to relax. These kinds of exercises train it to get better and expose what we otherwise miss- thus improving our ability to both perceive superfluous efforts and to genuinely relax them

I do not use force, exertion, to prevent other fingers from moving. I use awareness. Can't we just move on!!!

Let's leave this thread alone and go to my other thread which is more relevent.

Nick

Offline nyiregyhazi

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Re: finger tapping, staccato
«Reply #11 on: January 22, 2014, 10:24:58 AM »
I was afraid of this direction. There are many boxers who instead of jogging for cardio, do.... more boxing, bag hitting etc. We could go on back and forth for days if we go in this direction.

I do not use force, exertion, to prevent other fingers from moving. I use awareness. Can't we just move on!!!

Let's leave this thread alone and go to my other thread which is more relevent.

Nick

Do those boxers also build their six packs by punching bags and getting punched alone? No, they will almost certainly require exercises to target those muscles. Anyway, the point is not about boxing. That was simply an example to illustrate that it's false logic to try to write something off because the end product does not feature it in a transparent or overt way. Boxing is one of many counterexamples to the idea that you should only practise the activity in its final form. In a whole range of fields, benefits come from practising things that are not necessarily immediately relevant to the final product in an obvious way, but which have perfectly genuine objective benefits. Trying to be too logical about it is dangerous, as we cannot immediately see everything that we'd need to make fully informed logical decisions. I've lost count of how many things formerly seemed logical to me, but turned out to be based on an incomplete perspective that rendered the logic invalid. The type of casual surface logic that says anything without a glaringly obvious link is irrelevant fails to stand up to scrutiny.

Regarding the awareness, I'm not attacking you. I'm sure you try to be as aware as possible. But that doesn't mean it's perfect. When you reach the limits of what current awareness picks up, you need ways to expose those limits and go further still. Assuming you're not at the volodos level of technique, you will have things that are simply inherently outside of your awareness, regardless of your good intentions. I wouldn't have reached the level where I'm currently polishing up liszt's Rigoletto paraphrase without pretty decent awareness. Yet I still discover really very big holes indeed when I use tapping and over holding exercises to bring in new and different experiences to what I can get from conscious intents during regular practise methods. Always be open minded to room for improvement, or by definition you actively shut down avenues to improve (by convincing yourself that there is nothing to be improved). There's more to be learned by accepting a likelihood of significant blind spots and being open to fallibility of your perceptions, than by assuming that all is well as long as you intend to relax. If it were that simple, most pianists would be at virtuoso level.

PS. I'm not dismissing awareness by any means, but my favourite exercises reduce the need for awareness in the end product. The best ones train a totally unconscious "feel" that comes about by itself. There are many things I understand rationally as concepts, but only performing the right kinds of practical exercises makes them happen reliably.

Offline nick

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Re: finger tapping, staccato
«Reply #12 on: January 22, 2014, 07:50:14 PM »

PS. I'm not dismissing awareness by any means, but my favourite exercises reduce the need for awareness in the end product.

I will always choose awareness. thanks for the input!

Nick

Offline streetsahead

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Re: finger tapping, staccato
«Reply #13 on: January 29, 2014, 10:36:54 PM »
Quote
Look up Feldenkrais. There are things called "parasitic contractions"- where doing one thing automatically triggers totally needless muscle contractions elsewhere that are generally not perceived at all- which is exactly why merely trying to be "relaxed" does not magically separate them from the movement they become attached too. When you are moved passively by external forces, these are no longer triggered by the intention to move- as the whole idea is NOT to intend to move. The brain gets a new experience of the movement without the wasted efforts. Then it gets better at actively instigating the movement, with the bare minimum of contractions that actively contribute to it.

Why is stuff like this never, ever put into a physiological perspective? It's indecipherable when put in this way and depends on metaphor and colorful language instead of physical movements and joint positions (i.e. reality). Has the word involuntary been removed from the English language? Or the words joints and tendons?

The only real part of what you wrote is the last sentence, the rest is pretentious goggledegook. Bending of the last metacarpal joint due to an adjacent finger bending their last metacarpal joint can not be removed or "fixed" completely. All you need to say is "use a lighter touch" not any of this nonsense.

Anyone is free to test by holding their hand about 1/4 (or less) inch off a flat surface and pressing just their fourth finger onto the surface. As you hit a certain amount of force to the tip of the 4th finger against the surface, your last metacarpal joints will begin to bend in some of your other fingers. You will never and neither will anybody else get rid of this action at all possible values of downward force you apply from the last metacarpal joint of the 4th finger to the surface(barring genetic abnormalities in tendons or hand structure). You can get around it by attempting to hold your other fingers straight while this happens but that is not a light touch and it's not relaxed either. If anyone wants to contest this with a video they better have a way to measure the force being applied by the 4th finger for the viewer to see as well as not using their arms to apply force (another way to get around these involuntary actions).

Offline nyiregyhazi

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Re: finger tapping, staccato
«Reply #14 on: January 29, 2014, 10:45:04 PM »
Why is stuff like this never, ever put into a physiological perspective? It's indecipherable when put in this way and depends on metaphor and colorful language instead of physical movements and joint positions (i.e. reality). Has the word involuntary been removed from the English language? Or the words joints and tendons?

The only real part of what you wrote is the last sentence, the rest is pretentious goggledegook. Bending of the last metacarpal joint due to an adjacent finger bending their last metacarpal joint can not be removed or "fixed" completely. All you need to say is "use a lighter touch" not any of this nonsense.

Anyone is free to test by holding their hand about 1/4 (or less) inch off a flat surface and pressing just their fourth finger onto the surface. As you hit a certain amount of force to the tip of the 4th finger against the surface, your last metacarpal joints will begin to bend in some of your other fingers. You will never and neither will anybody else get rid of this action at all possible values of downward force you apply from the last metacarpal joint of the 4th finger to the surface(barring genetic abnormalities in tendons or hand structure). You can get around it by attempting to hold your other fingers straight while this happens but that is not a light touch and it's not relaxed either. If anyone wants to contest this with a video they better have a way to measure the force being applied by the 4th finger for the viewer to see so they are not cheating.

Perhaps you'd like to clarify what part of the statement you felt was a "metaphor"? I wrote in nothing but precisely defined objective terms, not in "metaphor". I can only presume that you are using the word metaphor as metaphor for something, or that you didn't actually bother thinking about what I wrote before leaping to casual assumptions. I am talking about neurological connections between the signals that cause different muscles to contract- which is extremely objective and tangible. Metaphors are something that I have very little time for, in all but a handful of contexts.The fact that you are unfamiliar with the concepts does not make them hippy talk. Go and research the works of Feldenkrais (who was an accomplished scientist), if you're interested in learning something about the links between neurology and movement and the plasticity of how the brain is able to adapt. It's a matter of adapting electrical signals so as to trigger different combinations of muscles contractions- not of throwing meaningless metaphor around.

The exercise you describe is all very well, but the fact is that if a finger gets moved PASSIVELY (ie. by an external force) you can minimise additional movements that are associated to the finger movement, compared to when you are actively instigating it. Parasitic contractions are part and parcel of all movements we make and Feldenkrais was not indulging in metaphor when he coined the phrase. The fact that parts of the body are linked in various organic and natural ways (that cannot be overcome) does not mean that there are not ALSO completely superfluous efforts attached to the movements we perform. While some things cannot be physically separated, others are completely unnecessary and merely the result of neurological habits (ie patterns within the brain) that can be changed and separated out from each other. You speak as if pointing to the existence of clementines might disprove the existence of tangerines, yet there are two completely different issues that exist independently- yet which you have failed to distinguish from each other, within your overly simplistic post. What you have pointed out is that physical connections exist- and that's correct. It does not disprove the fact that we humans link unnecessary muscle contractions into our neurological patterns for performing particular movements- or that passive movements train the brain to separate useful muscle contractions from those that are unnecessary (or even an active hindrance) for a particular movement.

Bringing a clementine to the table does not disprove the existence of tangerines.

Offline nyiregyhazi

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Re: finger tapping, staccato
«Reply #15 on: January 29, 2014, 11:31:47 PM »
I will always choose awareness. thanks for the input!

Nick

Two points- merely aiming to be aware doesn't greatly improve awareness skills. Experiencing a whole range of things does. That's why finger tapping is so useful- because it gives experience of something outside of what we normally experience. Secondly, although I was speaking almost entirely about improving awareness (and not being forced to choose between awareness and something else) awareness has limits:



Do you think Richter was  "aware" of every individual finger action? At high speeds, there's a limit to how much awareness you can throw around. A good musician will select key highlights to put awareness into, but they can't be aware of every finger action. Either they've learned how to basic movements on "feel" or they haven't. Awareness is a huge part of the learning process, but a pianist needs to be equally capable of being aware of details (in slower speeds), or flourishing on "feel" itself, with just a smaller number of mental reference notes to guide things. Awareness is massive in the training process, but it's an effortless and consistently successful result that's the goal- not a result that only comes off when you direct your thoughts to just the right place. In that kind of playing, all awareness is really going to tell you is when you monumentally screwed up. The basic actions are just there or not and willpower can only help you survive emergencies (if even that much).

This is exactly why fast and slow should be regularly compared in small chunks. You can have all the awareness in the world, but if you don't have a movement that works fast, it's useless awareness. One of the most valuable parts comes when you play a small chunk fast on feel- and discover whether the movement quality was useful or not. If it wasn't, it's back to the drawing board- no matter how aware you had tried to be during the slower practise. Awareness is merely a tool for trying to zone in on the abstract feel for what works.  


Offline stevenarmstrong

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Re: finger tapping, staccato
«Reply #16 on: January 30, 2014, 12:22:45 AM »

A good musician will select key highlights to put awareness into, but they can't be aware of every finger action.


Agreed. I think we have a certain level of consciousness of our technique when performing - for example, sometimes I have to remind myself to lift through a particular phrase or to "shake out" a succession of fast notes for particular clarity or diction - but I know, at least for myself, I can't think about that technique in one finger at a time unless I'm practicing slowly.

Awareness is a huge part of the learning process, but a pianist needs to be equally capable of being aware of details...

Awareness is massive in the training process...


So true! I'm studying Hofmann's technique at the moment and have found lots gold nuggets of advice. Not that what he says is the only truth but to disregard his advice is simply moronic! He says: "Each note must be, not mentally but physically, heard, and to this imperative requirement your speed must ever subordinate itself".

And

"We are sometimes affected by “thought-laziness” – I translate this word from other languages, because it is a good compound for which I can find no better equivalent in English. Whenever we find the fingers going astray in the piece we play we might as well admit to ourselves that the trouble is in the main office. The mysterious controlling officer has been talking with a friend instead of attending to business. The mind was not keeping step with the fingers. We have relied on our automatism; we allowed the fingers to run on and the mind lagged behind, instead of being, as it should be, ahead of the fingers, preparing their work."

This is exactly why fast and slow should be regularly compared in small chunks. You can have all the awareness in the world, but if you don't have a movement that works fast, it's useless awareness.

I have always been taught to play with fast fingers in slow exercises - a kind of 'snap' like trying to swat a fly - to teach your fingers to be independent and relax as much as possible.
Hofmann again: "Great finger technic may be defined as extreme precision and great speed in the action of the fingers".

Debussy Preludes 1:4, 2:9.
Beethoven Op. 22
Medtner Op. 5
Shchedrin Basso Ostinato
Silvestrov Op. 2