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A Fresh look at Piano Competitions

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Soap Box: Time for a fresh look at Piano competitions - Murray McLachlan (Originally published in 'Classical Music Magazine' in 2008 Traditionally the music profession has tended to be divided into pro and anti factions with regard to competitions, and of course this has led to lively discussion and debate in magazines such as ‘Classical Music’ and elsewhere. However one could say that there has tended to be a much more relaxed, philosophical attitude from those in favour of competitions in recent years. Perhaps this is because a significant number of very talented...

A Glimpse of Murray McLachlan as a Teacher

Two recent essays have recently been released for publication offering a glimpse of Murray McLachlan as a teacher. Both refer to his contributions to 'Lot Music' the summer school which McLachlan was invited to for the first time in July 2003 and to which he will return next year: Lot Music A Lotite's view Jenny Macmillan A warm welcome, stunning surroundings, gorgeous weather, convivial company, delicious food and inspiring teaching all help to create a relaxed atmostphere for an incredible music course for adult pianists. Lot Music takes place in the Lot Valley, a picturesque area of south-west France. For seven years, Anne...

Anton Rubinstein (1829 - 1894)

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Anton Rubinstein was born in 1829 at Vichvatijnetz a village on the river Dniester near the frontiers of Podolsk and Besserabia. His father was a Russian who obtained his modest income by leasing land in the Vichvatijnetz region. Anton was born into a large family and one of his earliest memories was of the entire family, including servants boarding a big covered wagon in order to move to Moscow. Anton's mother realised he was musical and devoted considerable time to his training. However he was not introduced to the works of the great masters and his studies were based on...

Basic warm up exercises

1 Basic posture-check, with weight balanced between the feet, (standing up first, then with same approach seated with stool at correct height and correct distance from the keys, a straight back, and relaxed neck). ‘Dropping and flopping’. ‘Imaginary suspension from strings’, with complete relaxation. Feeling blood circulation to the finber-tips. 2 ‘Gripping’ exercise with firm fingers but relaxation behind them- fingers down on 8 notes and then checks on thumbs, wrists, elbows, shoulders, neck and trunk in turn. 3 Basic 5 finger independence exercise with 5 fingers on the keys and each one playing in turn. No other movements allowed....

Creativity in motion: The artistic legacy of Ferruccio Busoni

As we leave behind the specialised militant tendencies prevalent in certain influential musical circles at the end of the last century, it is refreshing to consider the potential for inspiration which the great Italian-Austrian composer, pianist, conductor, author and teacher Ferruccio Dante Michaelangiolo Benvenuto Busoni (1866-1924) can offer society today. That he was one of the greatest figures as an executant in the history of the piano has long been established, but his towering achievements as a re-creator, prophetic essays and his sonorous Bach transcriptions have always over-shadowed his compositional output. Initially it was as though many could not contemplate...

Creativity in motion: The artistic legacy of Ferruccio Busoni - Part 2

Perhaps it is a weakness of the human ego that 'originality' is deemed more glamorous and historically 'significant' than work which is more obviously linked/associated with previous generations, yet ultimately it is the quality of what we do rather than the deed per se that counts. In any case it is probably well-nigh impossible to create something of lasting value which is entirely separate from the work of older generations, and Busoni was well aware of a 'theory of systematic progress', looking to youth and the future whilst continuing to steep himself in the classics. For this reason he was...

Ferrucio Busoni (1846 -1924)

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Ferruccio Busoni, the Italian-Austrian composer-pianist has has been called 'Doctor Faustus of the Keyboard'. His greatest pianistic achievements were in blockbuster works such as Beethoven's 'Hammerklavier' and Liszt's B minor sonata, for he brought a new 'monumental' style to interpretation, one which drew on pedalling of unparalled colouristic variety. Technically, Busoni was virtually infallible. His pupil Percy Grainger once said that Busoni never played 'wrong' notes - not once in all of the concert performances he had attended! Busoni's repertoire was enormous, embracing virtually every composer from Bach through to Liszt. The monumental Bach-Busoni edition in seven volumes bears witness...