Saturday, December 27, 2008

Justin Markowitz pianist, composer in recital Dec 28, 2008

Happy Holiday Season to everyone:
I am happy to announce Justin Markowitz, composer, pianist in recital. Justin's dad sent me the announcement of this performance. Good luck to you and enjoy every note you play!!! Merry Christmas. Eva
Hi All,

I’d like to alert all of you regarding Justin’s Premiere performance this Sunday, December 28th, at the Old Town Temecula Community Theater with the California Chamber Orchestra. Justin was asked to perform/orchestrate one of his original compositions, World of Wonders, for this “Festive Music of the Season” show. How many 17 year olds can say they composed and performed one of their pieces with an orchestra??? And if that’s not exciting enough, Justin will return later in the show for an encore solo piano performance of another original composition entitled, Life Cycle.

I understand Temecula is out of reach for most of you; however it would be fantastic if you could attend.

I’d like to wish all of you a wonderful Holiday Season and New Year filled with love, laughter and great music! Cheers,
Todd Markowitz (proud dad)

Performance Date: 12/28/2008, 2:30 pm
Golden Valley Music Society presents the California Chamber String Quintet, an accomplished group of outstanding professional musicians drawn from throughout Southern California, under the skillful baton of Artistic Director Warren Gref.The program will feature Holiday music from around the world, including Greensleeves, Pizzicato Polka, Corelli’s Concerto Grosso, Auld Lang Syne and more.Featured artists include soprano Jaclyn Johnson and pianist Justin Markowitz.Performance: Sunday, December 28, 2008 at 2:30pmTickets: $25 Adults$20 Seniors$12.50 students over 12$2.50 child 12 and under accompanied by an adult

December 28, 2008
Old Town Temecula Theater42051 Main St.Temecula, CA 92590
Purchase tickets online
Performance time is 2:30 p.m.
The California Chamber Orchestra

Warren Gref, the Society’s artistic director and conductor of the California Chamber Orchestra, has played French horn for many years with the San Diego Symphony, the San Diego Opera and San Diego Chamber Orchestras as well as with a number of other Southern California ensembles. He also conducts and teaches.

A resident of the Golden Valley, Mr. Gref has a long list of musical achievements. He won a GRAMMY in 2005 as part of a chamber music recording group. He has performed under the batons of such internationally acclaimed conductors and composers as Leonard Bernstein, Aaron Copland, Esa-Pekka Salonen, John Williams and Zubin Mehta. David Zinman, Murry Sidlin, Michael Stern, Christopher Seaman and Edo de Waart have been his conducting mentors.
Along with producing quality music, both as a player and a conductor, he puts priority on making fine music accessible to a wide audience and to bring live music to school-age children. He is involved in an array of educational offerings, bringing more than a dozen assemblies to valley schools and coaching local young musicians.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

The Jakarta Post - The Journal of Indonesia Today

The Jakarta Post - The Journal of Indonesia Today: "'I want my recitals to be different, because my point of piano playing is basically speaking a language on piano and sharing my story on piano. I want people to understand the story. It is a kind of magic circulating between the audience and me. We are one together, the piano, audience and I. It is definitely not a traditional piano recital with a black suit.'
For his concert in Jakarta this year, (Adam) Gyorgy plans to play some new improvisations, followed by virtuoso pieces that are almost acrobatic classical repertoires. This, he believes, will attract a younger crowd."

Adam Gyorgy is an extraordinary pianist, the choice of repertoire is unusual: a Liszt Paraphrase and improvisations amongst others. I wish, I could attend. Good luck, as always.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Beethoven, Czerny Liszt teaching technique and today's take on technique

I found this great dissertation of 1992 of the comparisons of how Beethoven, Czerny and Liszt taught. I took the liberty to copy this paragraph of Czerny's teaching that so much reflects what I am confronted with daily in my life as a piano teacher. Daily, I am speaking, teaching, breathing, telling, joking, the very same, unbelievably, almost 200 years later. Let's take a look, this comparative study is well worth reading, please click the link for the entire article:


Untitled: "Here I would like to mention briefly about teaching young gifted students. As Czerny mentioned, generally due to their high sensitivity to music, they may be negligent of their technique, and simply play in a messy way. They may be impatient during practice, and aim too quickly for the 'finished version'. Very often, instead of practising short passages in great detail, they would run through the whole piece as if it was an actual performance. They are too absorbed in listening to the ideal version of the music in their mind. They would not bother to listen carefully to what they are actually playing, nor do they have the discipline to slow down and practise in manageable short sessions. Slowing down is particularly difficult, as it appears to be going against the musical flow: the gifted student may perceive this as a conflict to his musical intentions and leads to frustration. Therefore, instead of insisting the student to isolate the difficulties from the piece and practice slowly, (which from my experience is virtually impossible for a musically gifted child) who would speed up after the first few bars, I propose to use short passages (a few bars) which do not belong to the text, but with similar technical demands. In this case, the student is clearly told that his aim is to acquire technique for subsequent musical expression, and he is only required to practice for technique. In an apparently incomplete "excerpt", there are no tendencies of musical flow which would urge them to rush through. Hence he would be better able to focus his attention in completing the task."

Czerny was one of the greatest teachers of the time. I grew up playing his exercises and the more I read about his teaching, the more I admire what he accomplished in his life. Czerny seemed to understand perfectly that each student was different and that each physique was different. His many exercises seemed to bring enough variety for developing each technical area.

I also agree with Beethoven to use a relaxed hand and to move each finger as little as possible. I show a similar idea to my students: the finger, comfortably curved, touches relaxed the top of the keys (hand is curved, fingers are curved, not flat) and you depress each key from the top of the key to the bottom of the key, about 5/8".
Liszt plays with a flat hand and fingers. It seems he had a very large hand and could acquire amazing dexterity in all fingers. Not everyone could do that, Schumann completely ruined his hand, his playing and technique by attempting something similar using a mechanical device.
Here is a reference to Schumann's injury: from attempting to acquire complete independence in the 3rd and 4th fingers.
Here is a reference to the Chiroplast device that Liszt suggested using:

Liszt: " Then he stressed the great need of flexing and relaxing the fingers in all directions by multiple exercises for at least three hours a day; these exercises would include varied scales in octaves, thirds, arpeggios in their inversions, trill, chords and finally, everything that one is capable of doing. When one has perfectly flexible and strong fingers, one has conquered the greatest difficulties of the piano."

Definite YES, not enough attention to scales, chords and arpeggios is given in most modern piano lessons. The foundation, regardless how tedious, must be acquired sooner or later or larger repertoire cannot be learned.

Almost 200 years later, Czerny's teachings are an absolute stand-out and still stand true today.

My conclusion, teaching piano technique, after a life long quest searching for answers:

1. You must sit correctly (weight over your feet, knees end about where the keyboard starts, midsection - your core - pulled up, slightly leaning forward, absolutely lose shoulders and arm)
2. Floating arm; the function of the arm is to move the fingers over the right keys and drop the gravity weight into the fingers.
3. The hand stays as relaxed as possible and returns to relaxation instantly, allowing instant tension (depression of the next key) again.
4. Pain is an indicator that you are doing something wrong. Stop, find a way to relax, find a motion that works and try again. Use the levers of your back, upper, lower arm, wrist and hand.
5. Finger movement up and down is too restrictive

Scales, chords, arpeggios, Hanon exercises are an absolute must. Starting very young students with scales is quite possible and fun using my fingering charts and practice instructions. They work with any physique and any age. The tone is singing, always musical and well timed. As suggested, there are also other great finger exercises for more advanced students -- I have not had a chance to look them over, but am certain they fulfill a 20th century purpose of developing physical motion and movement in varied exercises on the piano. (Take a look at Ganz and Persichetti)

Absolutely do not let your mind wonder while practicing; the suggestions of practicing scales for hours and reading a book at the same time, as Liszt had suggested, well -- I guess I could see the point -- but truthfully, I do NOT see the point. IMHO, we do not have that much time at hand to just sit and brainlessly wiggle fingers, even if it might be scales. Part of the exercise is to be there, while watching the fingers move and stay focused with the tune like a mental exercise to not let your thoughts wonder elsewhere. For a successful performance you need exactly that: stay with the music, the tunes, project the feelings and leave other thoughts out of the picture.

There is another interesting point, though: Liszt suggests to sit straight up and actually lean a bit back, with the head more backwards: On trying that, I can feel that the upper arm actually relaxes, making a gravity sound possible with a relaxed arm weight. Well, the singing sound will only emerse, once all unnecessry tension has vanished. Liszt experimented with various touches, devices and techniques.

Nevertheless, I stay with my conclusions which I have found to work with everyone, no exception.

I hope you enjoyed my little excursion to 160 - 200 years ago.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Music Review - Emanuel Ax and Yefim Bronfman - Pianists Let Intuition Take Over at Carnegie Hall -

Music Review - Emanuel Ax and Yefim Bronfman - Pianists Let Intuition Take Over at Carnegie Hall - "Playing piano-duo repertory when musicians can neither see each other’s hands nor easily give visual cues requires an ability, like that of synchronized swimmers, to execute unison passages and chords almost by intuition. Emanuel Ax and Yefim Bronfman, both exemplary musicians, are longtime friends (they live in the same Manhattan apartment building), and they offered an impressive display of congenial pianistic collaboration at Carnegie Hall on Friday."

Oh my God! Suddenly I MISS Vienna, the music scene, while looking at this great photograph of these two great artists having so much FUN! I used to attend weekly recitals, the greatest of greats performed -- all in walking distance! Long evening gown, jewelry, fur coat. Five minute walk to the tram, wait 5 minutes, tram ride 5 - 10 minutes, right there. you even survived the walk in heels. Blessed with the greatest music, live.
Here: Oh well, mostly memories -- or 90 minute drive 1 way without traffic,....
Thank goodness for the Internet, most is at my fingertips now -- forget walking distance....

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Classic piano jazz - ragtime jazz from Eubie Blake: "The higher class fellows who played things from the big shows looked down on this music. Nobody thought of writing it down. It was supposed to be the lower type of music, but now it is considered all right. I don’t quite get that part of it”.
Eubie Blake, quoted in Rudi Blesh, Combo USA."

What a great musician. Such fabulous rhythmic pulse. Always, in teaching the standard classical repertoire, I attempt to focus on rhythmic pulse. Even classical music sounds so much better, if there is a natural pulse, than just NOTE PLAYING.

Growing up in Vienna, I remember the very same derogatory attitude towards Jazz, Rag, Blues music. And of course, I fell in love with it.

A few years ago, I was teaching a very young exchange student from Germany. She had piano for maybe 3 years and grew up with the very same "straight jacket" mentality that I grew up with in my own teens: Upon interviewing her parents, the dad proudly announced: "We only play classical music, not this Jazz, Broadway or other "low grade music". I had to quickly swallow and keep my thoughts to myself (which is difficult). She was attempting to practice and learn a difficult Theme and Variations work by Beethoven, obviously lacking technical foundation, musicality, feeling, phrasing, breathing and advanced musicianship to play this piece well. Coming from Germany, she had correct notes and note values and was hammering away, note by note, quite good for her age and length of study. I found the identical attitude towards music in her that i was brought up with: "Music starts when you can play Sonatas and other difficult works, until then, there is no value in playing." A very difficult concept to digest. I remember revolting against this thought when I grew up; I LOVED listening to the rock bands in the 60s and early 70s, collected several LPs of Blues and Rock music on a trip to England in the 70s, but on the other hand still LOVED playing classical music. But I wanted more. I wanted to know WHY popular music was so popular while classical music had it's followers but was more "stale".

The answer is really in the BEAT, the pulse. Playing Baroque music, requires a perfect pulse to sound beautiful and stylistically correct. Many pieces stem from actual dances of the time. Classical pieces require a similar pulse, but a little less strict in some instances. If we look at the Schnabel edition of the Beethoven Sonatas, we will find the many metronomic tempo markings that Schnabel used himself, that are a very good standard of interpretation of this style. Romantic music requires much more freedom in pulse (rubato playing).

All classical music will sound FABULOUS if practiced and played with the correct choice of PULSE.
Training a good solid time sense (pulse) in classical piano, takes time and needs to be trained from the very beginning piano lessons through performance levels later.

The essence of music is rhythmic pulse and musicality expressed. When we diligently rehearse these concepts in our daily practice (starting with scales) and in each piece getting ready for performance, we get good results every time. Although I do not actively advertise my scales manuals, I feel I do need to mention, that a step by step approach on training piano basic technique, scales and pulse is explained in great detail. Please, go to for more information. I am making new manuals and free reports available as I get them ready.

Take advantage of integrating some of these concepts into your own practicing to increase enjoyment and efficiency.

I enjoy teaching here tremendously, since there really are no further barriers of "low class music". Teaching Rags, Jazz and many other 20th century and 21st century music styles is very refreshing and enjoyable.
Alex Few, age 14, just won 1st place in the CAPMT Honors auditions category B, performing the Scott Joplin Maple Leaf Rag (as well as the BWV 889 Prelude and Fugue WTC II, JS Bach and the Op 27 No 2 "The Moonlight Sonata" 1st movement by Beethoven).
The judges appreciated the musicality and energy and "fun" in the Scott Joplin piece.

I just cannot say it often enough; "I love hearing good music".

Daily scale practice, how to get results

DSCO concerto winners perform - Arts & Living: "I could not have been more amazed at Capone's masterful and impressive execution of playing high and low scales and at his overall performance throughout this difficult folk-influenced piece. Because Capone is a sophomore, the Davidson community will have a few more years to continue hearing his brilliant performances with the DCSO."

You see, this is really a very nice critique on a performance of scales in a difficult pieces in recital. Regardless which instrument, the control, polished and flawless execution of "basics"- scales is always expected, but it is refreshing to read a review where they are commented on. Quite obvious, there are performances of lesser quality.

If focused correctly with the goal in mind, that excellent performances are possible and a LOGIC consequence to proper practicing, the daily "chore" of working scales should not be more than a refreshing, easy "walk in the park" of beautifully executed structured sequences of sounds. Any agony or frustration will not result in "usable" scales now, later or anytime.

The other day I had a student play scales, as fast as she could (fourth year piano), sort of getting through the notes, lose wrist, correct notes, correct fingering BUT: the notes were uneven, there was no evident rhythmic pulse, no beauty of tone. Why practice in a manner that will NOT RESULT in the ability to play more difficult works? Students need to be reminded DAILY, that all practice needs to lead to eventuating in a RESULT now and later. The result NOW needs to be USABLE, beautiful scales totally under control AT THE CURRENT SLOW SPEED. Later on at a faster speed. The focus must be: TOTAL CONTROL at ALL SPEEDS from the very slowest to the very fastest.
Good luck in your daily practice.

Teaching this so obvious concept is almost like needing to REMIND a student to breath: "now, make sure you take a deep breath and then blow it out, etc. or you will choke!". Do I need to mention that? Of course, not. Well scales are similar: If you continue to "noodle" scales now, you certainly will "die" trying to play more difficult pieces later. Is that so difficult to understand? Well it must be, since it's a daily battle for most (even in my studio).

But for those students where everything comes together and we get beautifully played scales at several slow to medium speeds (for starters), then we really have a good foundation to build on. And patience is a very good virtue!

Piano playing is like solving a 10,000 piece puzzle. Each stone needs to fit perfectly to result in the final solved picture. Each day's scales practice equals 1 stone. Maybe now you can understand WHY a bad daily 10 minute scale practice session will only destroy the beautiful expected result for now and down the road.

Each note in every scale needs to be "cultivated" like a budding rose.
Simply put, enjoy each note and scale played well. And as you see in the review above, scales appear in most all pieces and if well performed are an absolute delight to listen to.

Learning HOW to practice and perform scales is really NOT THAT DIFFICULT, if you know how. Maybe, I can make a difference sharing my years of dedicatd practice and finding answers on how to PLAY.
Back to practice!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

CAPMT Honors Auditions November 15

Pianist, Alex Few, 14 years old received 1st place in the CAPMT Honors Auditions District IV Riverside, CA, November 15, 2008, Category B (grouped by age).
She performed the Scott Joplin Maple Leaf Rag, the BWV 889 a minor Prelude and Fugue by JS Bach WTC II and the 1st movement of the Moonlight Sonata Op 27 No 2 by Beethoven.
The judges comments:..."you didn't just play notes. You were in touch with the "feeling" of each piece and you were expressive throughout." "Wonderful energy, musical and fun" (about the Joplin Maple Leaf Rag)
Alex will be moving on to perform in the State Finals, February 7, 2009 in San Mateo, CA.

Pianist, Sai Sivapalan, 13 years old, took Alternate Winner in the same event, with the G Major Prelude by Bach BWV 860 and two brand new pieces in his repertoire, that he learned in the last 3 months: "The Sunken Cathedral" Prelude by Claude Debussy and the 3rd movement of the Walstein Sonata, Op 53 by Beethoven. Judges commented in particular: "You have a lovely singing tone."
My sincerest congratulations to both pianists. I am looking forward to many beautiful performances in the near future.

the piano lesson | Qomplesso

the piano lesson Qomplesso: "“A pianist must play two versions of the same song simultaneously. Have each version fight and complement the other. While your hands are doing two different things, you must be excellently aware of both, Qimmah. Pulling your mind in several directions and then… Then–if that is not enough to handle– one must offer his/her heart. Putting your spirit behind the duality. And paying special attention to that as well.”
“A lot, yes?”
“A lot…. I believe I can do it though.”
“Ah, that is because Qimmah…”
Please don’t.
“You are destined to attain balance. You Will attain balance. And the piano, as you have come to it, has found you.”"

I found this absolutely great little post about a Buddist Piano Teacher and one lesson. I think, I got balance now. Great way to start learn piano.

Please, enjoy

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The ultimate nightmare

Cello-piano duo is close, but no cigar - Arts: "A critic should really be seated in the audience, and I was given the questionable privelege of sitting on stage with the performers. Rather than being able to focus all my attention on their playing, however, I was occupied turning the pages for Melnikov. I might have enjoyed this concert more had I been able to relax, and I might not have been so critical of Melnikov had I not been following along with the score."

I just found this less than favorable review and consider it the ultimate nightmare. Just think, the performer's worst "enemy", the critic, is turning your pages!! What agony. Just wanted to share this one. Please, find an unbiased page turner next time!
What a hard lesson to learn.

San Bernardino concert to feature Mozart piano concerto | Inland News | | Southern California News | News for Inland Southern California

San Bernardino concert to feature Mozart piano concerto Inland News Southern California News News for Inland Southern California: "Fialkowska said simply, Mozart is perfection. 'He uses all the right musical words. Every note is full of value. If you take away a note, it's wrong; if you add a note, it's wrong.'
For this reason, she said, Mozart is very difficult to play.
'The problem with Mozart is that he uses exactly the right notes, and if you play one wrong note, the audience knows. It's in the ear. You simply can't mess with perfection. This piece pours forth like fine wine.'
To Fialkowska, Mozart's compositions are deceptively simple. 'He makes it sound absolutely spontaneous. Even the surprises, of which there are many, are comfortable and right. It's all absolutely logical.'"

I could not agree more. Often students perform a Mozart piece and the pulse, the articulation the beauty of shaping each individual even tiny phrase as part of a longer line is not thought through enough in practice. This makes Mozart very difficult to play, not to over play or not play too fast, missing the essence of the beauty of simplicity.
Anyone who can play Mozart beautifully is a definite Master of the piano.
And the Mozart piano concerto #27 is also one of my favorites, goes right under your skin -- so touching.
Do not just play NOTES, or only scales, play FEELING, melodic expressions, crescendo when the melodic line rises, diminuendo when it lowers, as if you were singing the tunes.
All the best, as always]Eva

In The Music Studio: To Work on Exercises or Not to Work on Exercises...That is the Question...Indeed.

In The Music Studio: To Work on Exercises or Not to Work on Exercises...That is the Question...Indeed.: "Also in the worth mentioning list is Alexander Peskanov's 'Russian Technical Regimen for the Piano'. Here Peskanov covers all scales, arpeggios and chords in every key with Russian harmonic patterns. Single note and double note, broken and blocked. This is one of my personal favorites, Peskanov sticks with the basics and I have to admit that the Russian pattern for scales, arpeggios and chords make the exercises much more interesting to practice. My other personal favorite which I almost built a shrine for is Franz Liszt's Technical Studies in three volumes. This are not the etudes but actual technical exercises"

Amazing, I have not heard anyone mention the Liszt Exercises in 35 years. I have at least one of the books in my library, but feel they take a more mature technique and a larger hand to master.

The staples in my "for every physique" piano exercises, is definitely Hanon and yes, once you have mastered all Major and Harmonic, Melodic, Natural Minor scales, using my scales fingering charts, practicing each set of Major and parallel Minor scales (Harmonic, Melodic, Natural) 4 octaves, absolutely correct fingering, with metronome, working towards an effortless smooth sound (not a hammered harsh sound) -- yes, once you have learned your basics, you can start working the Peskanov "Russian Technical Regimen" single note scales, broken chords, block chords and arpeggios. Any one of my students whom I could interest and motivate to spend quality scales practice time, has improved by leaps and bounds.

Anyone who just "hammered" scales who did also not work for a beautiful, expressive sound had much less progress or fun with scales. Anyone who could express beauty in their scales, with an effortless touch, floating arm weight, fingers falling in place, sound like smooth even pearls in the most expensive jewelry store,... now, we got something useful for later pieces. And they all use scales, chords arpeggios one way or another.
Happy practicing

WKBT La Crosse, WI-NewsChannel 8-Young Pianist to compete in Piano Concerto Competition in St. Paul

WKBT La Crosse, WI-NewsChannel 8-Young Pianist to compete in Piano Concerto Competition in St. Paul: "He says it's something about the music that's always attracted him to the piano.
'It makes such a nice sound. And you can really feel the music, You can feel the sadness and happiness, excitement,' said Bobby".

What an excellent way of stating the essence of the music experience. I am very happy to mention, that it is not difficult to bring out one's own feelings in music and for anyone any age, it is a great experience being one on one with your own inner self -- your own World of Music.

Adult, early beginner, child protege and anyone in-between: start connecting with your own inner feelings, your own emotions, try playing them out into your piano room, letting the sounds of your expression reverberate.

Winning is not everything; the daily journey of unfolding what you have inside you, plus good foundation as in good practice habits and scales will take you a very long way.

Cannot wait to hear your practice in your next lesson, excuse me, piano playing party (minus the fattening donuts).


Community : Man sets piano music free : Half Moon Bay Review, California

Community : Man sets piano music free : Half Moon Bay Review, California: "Man sets piano music free
Artist, musician deconstructs pianos to get at more music inside
By Stacy Trevenon [ ]
Published/Last Modified on Wednesday, Nov 12, 2008 - 02:42:48 pm PST
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Mauro Ffortissimo calls himself a “piano liberator.”

More precisely, the native Argentinian, a 24-year Coastsider and co-founder of the Enso gallery in Half Moon Bay, has made an art out of taking apart the complex construction that makes up a piano in order to play the music he can find in the parts that remain.

Another reason he deconstructs pianos is to make art out of the innards of a piano."

I am absolutely certain, that several of my piano students would absolutely LOVE to take the piano apart, so practicing does not need to continue. But that then would not get you through your piano exams, would it?

But you see, the difference is, art is re-assembling, re-arranging, making a public statement, exhibiting and sharing the created effect. The audience looks on and reacts emotionally.

On the contrary, a piano technician just takes a piano apart and does not make a public statement of the different pieces.

If I can spin this concept further: playing scales: if you just play notes (even with correct fingering and fairly even), if you only "report correct notes" with your playing, it is still not ART!! It's another bad rendition of the "CHORE OF SCALES"

But we are working so hard to play scales, making them sound BEAUTIFUL and artistically, melodically and musically pleasing. Then we are preparing the path to using the very same scales in more advanced pieces and a good portion of the hard work learning these pieces is already completed, with well learned scales.

Good luck

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Beethoven: Piano Sonatas Vol VIII (Opp 109, 110, 111): Andras Schiff - the Sunday Times review review | CD reviews | Music - Times Online

Beethoven: Piano Sonatas Vol VIII (Opp 109, 110, 111): Andras Schiff - the Sunday Times review review CD reviews Music - Times Online: "This final instalment of Andras Schiff’s Beethoven cycle differs from its predecessors because none of the sonatas it contains — the last three Beethoven wrote — is recorded in concert. Schiff is consequently able to explore these complex worlds in a remarkably relaxed and spacious way, though without compromising any of the music’s inherent tensions. Some feel his playing is almost too mannered, but he is careful to observe Beethoven’s instructions. Yet he means every nuance and, through his realisation of the intensity and clarity, the poetry of these works enables them to move, elate and transform anew.
ECM New Series 476 6192"

This must be another absolutely fabulous thought-through interpretation of Beethoven's last Sonatas. Schiff's understanding of the composer, his attention to detail make him a very remarkable pianist. One of my present time favorites pianists. I cannot wait to hear these interpretations.
Maybe one of my young students will perform one of these Sonatas in several years. In my opinion, a teacher's dream to have young pianists perform these works -- and played well.
Well in our studio, we still have a few years to go.... In other words, practice those scales and arpeggios and these Sonatas will not be that far away.
I remember many years ago, practicing the Op 111. This sonata is still one of my very favorites. Absolute mastery of classical composition. A masterpiece that took music decades into the future.
All the best

Monday, November 3, 2008


KunstHausWien: "KunstHausWien

Colorful areas, irregular forms, many grown over with lush green plants: this is how painter Friedensreich Hundertwasser (1928 - 2000) encouraged new impulses – and not only to Vienna’s architecture. He also created an exhibition center offering a permanent exhibition of Hundertwasser’s works as well as changing exhibitions of exciting contemporary art."

Please, visit this link -- I walked by this artsy house, daily, on my way to school before it was rebuilt by Hundertwasser and during the remodel.

I am wondering how the Riverside County Planning Department would consider such a building -- it certainly does not have a "matching exterior color" or "roof design". (They denied our 1200 sft storage and garage addition -- pathetic)

Music Capital

Music Capital: "Music Capital

Welcome to the world’s music capital! More famous composers have lived here than in any other city – in Vienna, music is literally in the air: Waltzes and operettas have their home here, and so do musicals 'made in Vienna,' which have conquered international audiences."

More to come, I grew up inVienna, walked to the Conservatory and to School enjoyed the architecture, enjoyed our subscription to the Opera, Theater, Konzerthaus and Musikverein. Now, I enjoy the memories, the web is bringing the World to your finger tips.

Epoch Times - Interview With Finalist From NTD’s First International Chinese Piano Competition

Epoch Times - Interview With Finalist From NTD’s First International Chinese Piano Competition: "Mr. Na has a deep appreciation for the power of music. “It’s something for the soul, like food for people. It’s possible to live without music, but it would be an empty life,” says Mr. Na."

What a great attitude, right from my heart. If you only play to collect trophies and placements, you will soon be out of medal reach. Listeners come to enjoy YOUR ARTISTIC INTERPRETATION, the emotional response is what matters. This is what you hear in our lessons from day 1 on. If you play Music for Little Mozarts at age 3 - 5 or Beethoven Sonatas and Rachmaninov, your emotional involvement is really the essence. Of course, technical, style and note accuracy cannot be omitted, either.

Yes, truly, I want it all -- this is what I LIVE FOR. Hearing great music in our lessons.
Feel blessed.
I will be hearing your scales, chords -- don't forget those: most of your theory is understanding scales and chords using scales notes; broken chords and arpeggios are still the black sheep in our practice, but when you get better, daily cultivating of your basics, practicing your pulse by counting loudly will get you quite far in a short time.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Epoch Times - The Ultimate Goal of a Successful Piano Performance

Epoch Times - The Ultimate Goal of a Successful Piano Performance: "“Mozart’s music contains a sense of the pure innocence of a child, which can make people feel happy and pleasant. If the participants try to use Mozart’s music to boast their skills, they may end up deviating from the original intent conceived by Mozart. Mozart’s music is simple but very hard to perform precisely.”
The first sonata learned by someone starting piano may very well be a Mozart sonata. Yet the same piece may be performed on stage by an outstanding concert pianist. The music of Mozart is a delicate masterpiece in which performers can reveal Mozart’s unique faithfulness, child-like naiveté, truthfulness, and peacefulness."

I tell everyone, the most difficult music to play are second movements of Mozart piano concertos, since there are so few notes to be played but needing to be played so beautifully, requiring artistry, control, creativity and technique to express. It takes mastery of touch to make 1 single note sound beautifully ringing through the entire auditorium, touching the hearts of many listeners.
Of course, the other very difficult pieces are very fast pieces, but that I did not need to mention.
I hope, you feel blessed we are working on these skills daily. Start with beautifully played scales, chords, arpeggios and Hanon exercises. Learn to BREATH while playing your most fundamental pieces and exercises. The more difficult pieces will come in time.
Foremost, enjoy your own playing.

Epoch Times - The Ultimate Goal of a Successful Piano Performance

Epoch Times - The Ultimate Goal of a Successful Piano Performance: "“Take Mozart’s works, for example. When you play the highly difficult technical parts, the piece may sound like a hunting dog pursuing a rabbit in a panic. Alternatively, you may play the same passages sounding like a stream smoothly flowing through the valleys with warmth. The latter is more profound and beautiful. These two ways of expression are completely different. You should let the people sense the pure beauty in the technique, rather than make them anxious and unable to catch their breath.”"

Amazing, we talk about the projection of your inner feelings and breathing in your artistic interpretation, daily.

Epoch Times - The Ultimate Goal of a Successful Piano Performance

Epoch Times - The Ultimate Goal of a Successful Piano Performance: "“Do not overemphasize the technical skills!” said Ma. “A man, merely equipped with fantastic technique and without sense of the subtle essence of the music, is only a piano technician at best. No matter what piece you play, you should explore and appreciate it with your heart. You must be moved first, and then you are able to move others.” She believes that the sounds of the notes that emerge from the black and white keys of the piano, weaved by the pianist’s two hands, disclose the inner world of the participant."

Could not be expressed better.

Epoch Times - The Ultimate Goal of a Successful Piano Performance

I came across this fabulous article by Ms Ma Changz, the quotes I selected are very much from my heart. Could not agree more.
Epoch Times - The Ultimate Goal of a Successful Piano Performance: "The chairwoman of the judging committee, Ms. Ma Changz, said:“A successful pianist should not only be able to grasp the style of each piece and precisely depict the structure conveyed by the composer, but also should be able touch people—this is the most important concern for pianists.”"

Friday, October 31, 2008

The Importance of Scales Practice

I am writing this as I am listening to the artistry of the D Major Mozart Piano Concerto, No 26.

In my twenties, I was so fortunate to have had the leisure in my life to study all 27 of them and perform a few. The music is so fantastic – simple, pleasing, yet with an amazing depth of emotion, very true to my core heartfelt emotions.

And I am, once again reminding myself of the importance of scales practice. I am hearing scales and more beautiful scales woven in this piece. Even when practicing scales, the sounds need to be played like pearls, smooth even, exacting and yes, musical.

Just today, one of my students was playing scales and I could feel my hair start to stand up – in Halloween anticipating mood. Let's briefly discuss: "good scales" and "bad scales":

How do bad scales sound? Wow, you mean you never heard bad scales???? The majority of scales I hear unless rehearsed right, are horrendous: Fingers 2 inches above the keys, snapping, slapping down on the keys, harsh, undefined, uncontrolled sound, forced, too loud, too soft, notes missing, unsteady beat, tempo not in control, note definition never considered, over lapping notes, uneven leggiero (even light almost staccato touch), too clumsy and slow; simply ugly, unmusically performed; thumb turns jerked, wrist locked, flat finger scales (I call these: dry your nail polish scales, hot dog fingers,…)

Now, that we more or less defined "the bad", let's take a look at how scales should be performed: Yes, you guessed right, they should sound absolutely fabulous: even in touch, perfect note definition (each note should have an equal sounding duration, the lift of each finger AFTER playing each note, should be clean, not delayed unevenly).

How do you get evenness in fingers as all our fingers are uneven in length, strength and mobility? Since I have relatively small hands, good, solid technique did not come natural and easy; I had to put my mind to it. In my teens, the forever same answer would have been "practice, practice, practice". But there IS a simple answer that works for anyone's hands, large or small:

Try to play with your fingers as little as possible, leave them relaxed, just get them on the right key and then use your arm to depress the key. With good dedicated practice, you will see results coming little by little; effortless, arm floating beautiful and fluid playing is not acquired over night (no, it takes a little – or a lot – of elbow grease – not exactly the "American Dream" – but absolutely worthwhile) – it is so satisfying to sit down and play beautiful scales and you know, that next Mozart Piano Concerto is not that far away and will sound great as scales are mastered.

Good luck

Eva Martin


The importance of correct fingering

Oh, not another day of bad practicing,…. In my Studio.

When are my students going to learn?

How many more grey hairs should I get from bad practice habits?

I often feel like being the bad witch badgering my students: "You must write in the finger numbers! Each note needs to be exactly defined! You must make a definite decision which finger plays which key!"

Mind boggling, that there are teachers who preach that you should NEVER write ANYTHING into the music book. Maybe, I should refer to Alfred Cortot's study series of Chopin's Op 10 and 25 with sets and sets of fingering advice and rhythmic exercises.

Maybe I should refer to Arthurs Schnabels' edition of the Beethoven Sonatas with fingering and practice advice.

It is so simple and clear, if you do not define the fingering pattern, how can you train your muscles to follow the necessary extension / contraction patterns? How can you leave all this work to the spur of the moment? No wonder, the piece is NEVER FLAWLESS! No wonder, there are memory glitches like you know no tomorrow!!!

If we understand that practicing piano is a physical action that requires to place the correct finger on the correct key to play the correct note – now doesn't that logically require a decision of which finger goes where? Correctly!

Maybe I should bring up some comparisons to gymnastics: in each routine every single detail is mapped out, each step, each hand movement; no detail, movement or step is left to the spur of the moment. Why would piano, being a physical, artistic activity be any different?

Excuse me, I just would like to hear great music making in my studio. Not mess up after mess up; maybe I am allergic to wrong notes – or better yet, bad decisions bringing about wrong notes as a logic consequence.

This post was inspired by one of my students leaving her Lecuona book in the Studio – I love Lecuona and started practicing the piece, myself. Needless to say not one single finger number was written in the book. First thing, I started defining the melody laying out the fingering strategy, writing my fingering choices and options into the book. Well, if it could be done, I would practice for my students, but I had already years of practicing 8 hours a day, now it's about sharing the conclusions of my dedication.

Happy Halloween!

Eva Martin Hollaus


Beethoven Sonata Op 27 No 2 “The Moonlight” and Andras Schiff: the lectures Classical and opera Music

Hello all:

What a FABULOUS SITE!!!!,,1943867,00.html


An absolute MUST LISTEN to.


Andras Schiff speaks about every single Beethoven Sonata!


I told my students, if you are planning on playing any Beethoven Sonata or the very famous "Moonlight Sonata" Op 27 No 2, you need to listen to Andras Schiff lecture about it. An eye and ear opener.


However, since most of my students enter events judged by judges who may not be familiar with this lecture, I take a more conventional interpretation over this very unconventional approach. But you see I DO AGREE WITH ANDRAS!!! Suddenly this Sonata MAKES SENSE!!!

I am not giving the secrets away; I would encourage everyone to listen to this lecture series.


When I was studying the first movement of this Sonata, I am sure, EVERYONE does at some point in time, I came to prefer an actual Alla Breve tempo, an actual half note Adagio beat, not as often is interpreted as slowly as possible. On the other hand, I do enjoy a well performed and well thought through extremely slow half note beat, but find that an Alla Breve Adagio half note beat is more accurate. But it really all depends how the artist can make the slow beat work for the movement in itself and then for the entire sonata. I grew up with Friedrich Gulda, Buchbinder and Arrau recordings.


In a nutshell: Teaching this piece, I always suggest a beat that is not to extreme either way and that sounds good with the student playing. We start counting as 4/4 then implement the 2/2. Difficulty of this movement is breathing with the cadences, definite triplet accompanying pattern (broken chords) need to be softer, yet dynamically following the melody and placed into the harmonic frame of melody (RH little finger) and LH bass. A good way of practicing is to play the triplets in block chords, analyze the chords a little to help with the memory.

Recordings I suggest to listen to:

Wilhelm Kempff

Vladimir Ashkenazy


Eva Martin Hollaus

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


Hello all and hello to everyone who loves to create piano music:

I decided to name this blog Piano How To, giving many, many helpful hints regarding practicing, playing, performing and preparing performances.

My background is Classical Piano Performance, Coaching, teaching K-12 and Adult, all levels and abilities. I teach a very successful Classical Piano Studio in Perris, CA and am expanding my Piano Studio on the web, sharing my life's dedication with anyone who is interested.

My life's path has taken me from Vienna, Austria (Conservatory of Music) to the USA, playing recitals, accompanying soloists, and participating in International Piano Competitions.

I am often asked: Ms Eva, why are you not concertizing right now? I feel I have a greater value as a teacher, being able to resolve more questions and bring more JOY and HAPPINESS into individual lives by communicating what I have accomplished. All the years of searching for answers HOW TO PLAY PIANO, HOW TO PRACTICE PIANO, HOW TO WORK PIANO TECHNIQUE, what works and what doesn't.

First I always begin with PIANO BASICS. There just is no way around it.
I remember, teaching beginning piano to an adult student. He just could NOT WAIT to get somehow to the end of the book in order to play The Entertainer. He had a the firm belief that no piece was worth while playing or spending time with, until he would be playing The Entertainer. It was difficult making him understand, that even the first note ANYONE ever plays is MUSIC, just by itself. Usually I get this across easily, but somehow, this student was more insisting on quickly skipping through the book. We got through the book in record time. I cannot vouch for the student being able to play each piece note perfect, but at least we started learning what he so much desired. Then, once this piece was more or less out of the way, we could start practicing and working PIANO BASICS.

Many years ago, when I started teaching in the US, I felt it was more important to start PLAYING right away (but correctly) than learning a solid foundation, BEFORE commencing playing.

I still share the same views, just like a baby learns to speak first and read second, I like a similar approach for piano lessons and piano playing.

But teaching 10 years, has taught me, to finally sit down and WRITE DOWN my teaching! It has helped, my students definitely without exception have improved in their piano scales, their chords and arpeggios and through understanding solidly the concepts of TONALITY, their understanding of theory also skyrocketed.

To the best of my ability, I will try to express my conclusions, so they will be available for others.

Good luck to everyone in your journey finding and expressing the enjoyment you have in you through playing the piano. Learn, how to project yourself, your inner feelings into your music.