Piano Mastery with Harriette Brower

Post Date: 4 July 2018
Post Type: Piano Things


Piano Mastery with Harriette Brower and Great Pianists of the Past and Present

It is always a great pleasure to gather together with student pianists each Wednesday at Chetham’s school of Music in Manchester for performance classes. These generally last for an hour and are arranged in year groups. As well as listening to students perform, frequently discussions and talks are arranged, with visitors to the school sometime taking classes or adjudicating competitions. For the final Wednesday of the 2017-18 academic year it seemed a good idea to listen to some of the great performers of today and yesterday, and this included recording of Rachmaninov, Horowitz, Rubinstein, Gilels, Gould, Schnabel and Myra Hess. Listening to Bartok and Shostakovich playing their own music was revelatory, and from our present era it was inspiring to hear former Chetham’s student Peter Donohoe performing Rachmaninvov’s Third Concerto live in the Tchaikovsky competition https://youtu.be/ExvGb0_GdkI , as well as Yuja Wang in Bartok’s Second Concerto https://youtu.be/2Z_ICVD4nDU , Lang Lang in Balakirev’s Islamey https://youtu.be/W29Bh8qXqes
and Stephen Hough (another Chetham’s alumnus) in Chopin https://youtu.be/_7clLMVWPsA

Of course, with six classes and a whole range of students of differing ages it was not possible to let everyone hear everything, and the range of riches on offer now for us all to listen to and enjoy is extraordinary- from all eras of recording history. But for all of us one remarkable book could prove especially illuminating and inspiring: Piano Mastery: The Harriette Brower Interviews, edited with and introduction by Jeffrey Johnson (Dover ISBN 0-486-42781-1).


Though it is possible to obtain a second-hand copy of this for less than £5, it is an exceptionally rich and extraordinary book, written by an indefatigable lady who started interviewing the greatest musicians of her time well over a century ago. I was thrilled to receive this book as a gift from a friend and can wholeheartedly recommend it to everyone as it contains interviews with Ferruccio Busoni, Leopold Godowsky, Sergei Prokofiev, Sergei Rachmaninov, Percy Grainger, Harold Bauer (who gave the world premieres of many French masterpieces including Ravel’s ‘Gaspard de la nuit’) Joseph Hoffmann, Moritz Rosenthal and Ignace Paderewski, as well as 34 other master pianists. An extraordinary treasure house that make fascinating reading.
Of course there are many other ‘core’ books that are useful to have at hand when considering literature around pianists, and these include Harold Schoenberg’s The great pianists of the twentieth century’ https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/383251.The_Great_Pianists , ‘Pianists at Play: Interviews, master lessons and technical regimes by Dean Elder’ https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/30307648-pianists-at-play?ac=1&from_search=true
Also recommended is Joachim Kaiser’s ‘Great Pianists of our time’ https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/457199.Great_pianists_of_our_time
And also ‘The Art of the Piano’ by David Dubal https://www.amazon.co.uk/Art-Piano-Performers-Literature-Recordings/dp/0671492381/ref=la_B001H6SFXK_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1530708576&sr=1-2#reader_0671492381

This is just a small subjective selection, but hope it stimulates curiosity, exploration and discovery. The world is our musical oyster and it is great to look forward to enjoying lots of wonderful performances from outstanding figures from history as well as from today via YouTube, Spotify and via CDs and even -for some- black vinyl discs. Happy listening!
Murray McLachlan