Category: solo piano



~ Chucho Valdes



Spartacus" Love Theme – Nardis – Bill Evans Solo

lesser-known-composers: Chopin – Mazurca en fa…


Chopin – Mazurca en fa menor Op 68 Nº 4 (Version revisada)

lesser-known-composers: Eric Lu – Mazurka in A…


Eric Lu – Mazurka in A minor Op. 17 No. 4 (second stage)

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The Fryderyk Chopin Institute, Polish Television TVP

gottahavesoul: Glenn Gould – Bach Toccatas BW…


Glenn Gould – Bach Toccatas BWV 910 – 916

music to clear the mind and escape, if only briefly, from the chaos of this world…

mikrokosmos: Beethoven – Piano Sonata no. 2 i…


BeethovenPiano Sonata no. 2 in A Major, op. 2 no. 2 (1795)

After the drama of the first sonata, we are put in a new soundscape. More sunny, carefree, like walking in the woods during Spring and taking pictures for instagram. But because of it’s lighter tone, surprising technical difficulty, and being “early” Beethoven, it isn’t played that often in concert. Which is a shame because it is a gorgeous piece, and it shows a lot of forward-thinking gestures. Compared to Haydn’s or Mozart’s piano sonatas, the sound is fuller, there’s more dynamic variation, and the music spans the keyboard. There’s a greater depth to the sound. The work opens with a simple introduction that sounds like a cuckoo call, and given Beethoven’s affinity for nature it isn’t a stretch to say this was intentional. Despite the evocation of a sunny day out in the woods, this movement has a lot of difficult passages mostly due to one of the main recurring patterns being a rush of notes in an upward scale. We also get some transitions and modulations that sound like a premonition of Schubert [or more accurately, Schubert loved Beethoven and took after him]. The slow movement is much different from the types that precede it. The melody is singing out over “plucked strings”, the piano is treated almost orchestrally. The full sound comes from large chords for the full hand that are not afraid to go far from the center. The next movement is like a little scherzo, graceful and kind of funny, a little rush of notes like a surprised deer or dog. There is an agitated middle section that seems to come from nowhere, but then we hop back into the opening section. The last movement opens with a long scale that then leaps a large interval back down, like a soprano showing off. This is soon contrasted by a very stormy and pounding section. But the graceful scales come back with surprising lyricism. It’s a lovely work that’s a bit of a hidden gem among the other treasures he wrote.


1. Allegro vivace

2. Largo appassionato 

3. Scherzo: Allegretto

4. Rondo: Grazioso

Pianist: Daniel Barenboim

mikrokosmos: Mozart – Piano Sonata no. 8 in a …


MozartPiano Sonata no. 8 in a minor (1778)

I dislike people who say Mozart is “pretty” music, or who proudly put him on in the background as they do homework. Sure, he has a lot of gorgeous moments, but there’s more to Mozart than the Classical Music for Dinner CDs you find at Walmart. The piano sonata tended to be geared toward middle class amateurs who could afford pianos in their homes. The piano was not the concert instrument we think of today. So solo piano music tended to be lighter, more cheerful, but also places for the composer to have fun. Scarlatti filled his sonatas with intense energy, and Haydn filled his with musical jokes, and while Mozart’s first sonatas fall into expectation and convention [pretty melodies, charming passages, not-so-serious music to sit in the parlor with], this sonata is different. It is only one of two piano sonatas he wrote in the minor. And it has more power than the others so far; its writing is almost orchestral at times, foreshadowing Beethoven and the rest of Romanticism. This could be under the ‘sturm und drang’ category, and people like to speculate “why” Mozart chose to write it. It’s possible this is another outpouring of grief from the death of his beloved mother, and the disturbingly abusive condemnation from his father because of it. The piece opens with a mis-step grace note throwing us into the symphony-like textures. As expected, the drama is contrasted with a surprisingly sunny passage, and the two play together. But in the minor, we have this restless pulse, and a surprising amount of chromatic notes. These things sound great to us, but we probably are missing out on the “full power” of not being exposed to music like this before. The development takes us into an impressive multi-voice run, again making me think of symphonies. The slow movement comes in with a single melodic line, and here we do get “pretty Mozart”. The melody floats up in the clouds. Here it does feel as if not a single note is out of place, even when he throws in grace notes and chromatics to complicate things. The last movement rushes in with a quiet sinister melody over an awkward rhythm. A B section lightens the mood, little horn calls, but we go back to the intro. Then the melody is tossed around in different registers, and before we know it we are slapped by the final chords.


1. Allegro maestoso

2. Andante cantabile e molto espressione

3. Presto

Pianist: Daniel Barenboim

lesser-known-composers: Gertrude van den Bergh…


Gertrude van den Bergh

– Lied für Piano-Forte

Frans van Ruth

la-nero-maestro: Fryderyk F. Chopin  “His musi…


Fryderyk F. Chopin 

“His music was spontaneous, miraculous. He found it without seeking it, without previous intimation of it. It came upon his piano sudden, complete, sublime, or it sang in his head during a walk, and he was impatient to hear it himself with the help of the instrument. But then began the most desperate labor that I have ever witnessed. It was a succession of efforts, hesitations and moments of impatience to recapture certain details of the theme he could hear; what he had conceived as one piece, he analyzed too much in trying to write it down, and his dismay at his inability to rediscover it in what he thought was its original purity threw him into a kind of despair. He would lock himself up in his room for whole days, weeping, pacing back and forth, breaking his pens, repeating or changing one bar a hundred times, writing and erasing it as many times, and beginning again the next day with an infinite and desperate perseverance. He sometimes spent six weeks on one page, only in the end to write it exactly as he had sketched at the first draft.”

( Written by George Sand )

mikrokosmos: Rachmaninoff – Morceaux de Fantai…


RachmaninoffMorceaux de Fantaisie, op.3 (1892)

I was going to make a post only on THE prelude today, but I remembered that I also adored the elegy, and I thought I may as well talk a bit about the full suite. “Fantasy Pieces”, again following the Romantic tradition of free-form music, was written by Rachmaninoff when he was just 19. Think of that! Usually when we talk about composers who wrote great stuff early on, we think Mozart or maybe Beethoven. But still a teenager, Rachmaninoff wrote a suite of gorgeous music, one of the pieces here would become his most popular and loved [to his chagrin]. He wrote the prelude first, and then the rest of the pieces came after, and he dedicated the suite to his teacher Anton Arensky. They are the accumulation of his studies, and show a shift towards a more mature style with craftsmanship and personality. The suite is not necessarily meant to be played as a group, and so you often hear the prelude as a stand-alone work. The opening Elegy starts off like a very darkened Chopin nocturne, and the main melody is full of the expected mourning and disturbingly tragic. This kind of darkness touches in on a lot of Rachmaninoff’s music. The melody sometimes sings out in one voice, sometimes another joins in harmony. And the music isn’t afraid to take sudden harmonic shifts. The middle section has an uplifting melody in the left hand as the right hand glitters over it. After an energetic transition, we come back to the bleak soundworld of the opening, the melody an octave lower. The coda grows louder with passionate descending thirds, and then the final bars go into the bass. The prelude is the most iconic work, and its popularity transcends the rest of the suite. Rachmaninoff was bothered by it the older he got, thinking that the love for the prelude of his teen years overshadowed ‘better’ music he wrote later. But it’s popularity is understandable. It opens with octaves going deep in the bass, part of the nickname “The Bells of Moscow”. They thunder underneath a main melody made up of thick homophonic chords, that has an almost yearning quality. The middle section is made of broken notes falling over each other chromatically, and eventually grows into a frantic passage of chords before exploding into a restatement of the opening, with dense chords slamming in the bass and then the hands jump to play the melody in full chords higher up. For clarity, the music here is written across four staffs. The intensity fills the room with immense pathos. That sounds like overkill with the adjectives maybe, but it does feel like music for an existential crisis. The music calms down a bit before dying away in softer chords, the bells ring out in the distance. After the angst of the opening, we are finally given a break in the form of the “melody”, which softly plays over gorgeous accompaniment, and as with the other works you hear premonitions of mature Rachmaninoff. Using chromaticism to murk up the harmonies, holding onto a gorgeous melody that seems to exist beyond the rhythm of the music, etc. The melody organically develops into an intense passage of chords that then break out into a pretty flourish, before coming back to the opening. The fourth movement, “Punchinella”, in reference to the same Commedia dell’arte character, is whimsical and full of joy, kind of foreshadowing Ravel’s “Alborada del gracioso”, and so with dense chords the music plays around on the keyboard. The middle section again has a main melody in the left hand while the right decorates over it, again keeping in the good mood but more genuine. Then we come back to the opening with its shifting grace notes and fun rhythm. The piece ends with staccato notes across the keyboard. The final work, the Serenade, opens with the melody alone, and comes off as “exotic” music, that is it follows folk writing scales that could be Spanish. It continues the brighter spirit that the second half of the suite has been carrying, while also dazzling with piano technique. Despite being in a minor key and ending with heavy chords, it is still a ‘happy’ piece.


1. Elegie

2. Prelude

3. Melody

4. Polichinelle

5. Serenade

Pianist: Vladimir Ashkenazy