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Chopin Madmen of the piano redux Piano Piano Freaks Only!

Madmen of the piano redux

In an earlier posting titled “Madmen of the piano” I focused on composers. Here let’s focus on the pianists.

I’ve recently spent a lot of time updating my Chopin collection; seeking out the greatest pianists I can find.  The more I listen to these virtuosic dynamos … the more amazed I am that the human body can accomplish these feats. How can fingers move so rapidly? How can the rythym and timing of striking the right note go on and on … when it’s different between the two hands? – Sometimes a variable speed, rythm, reach and tone going on between the two hands. I don’t get it. I mean… they don’t all have a touch of Tourettes Syndrome do they!?

(*I remember reading that some Tourettes people have much faster reflexes and mechanical movements than normal)

Just listen to, and watch, what 10 fingers, 2 hands, 2 wrists and forearms can do!

(My vote for the “impossible” goes to Cziffra in the video)

Claudio Arrua plays Chopin’s Etude #1 op. 10


Georges Cziffra – Chopin Etude Op. 25 No. 2


Martha Argerich – Chopin prelude 16, op. 28


Vladimir Horowitz – Franz Liszt / Tarentella

You have to see this to believe it!

Piano Schubert Schubert: spirituality and inherent weirdness!

Schubert: spirituality and ‘inherent weirdness’!

Here’s what a music reviewer wrote about this late piano piece by Schubert:

I find it hard to account for the intensity of the spiritual response that the slow movements of late Beethoven and late Schubert produce in me…  the slow movement of D960, one of the last creations of a desperately ill 31-year-old-man who has lost his Catholic faith, is frightened out of his wits by the ordeal that lies ahead, and yet produces music of the most magical serenity.

Piano sonata #21  D960/ second movement


And this second piece with its ‘inherent weirdness.’ It fascinates me how accu

rate, poetic and articulate some music critics can be!

In the great Andantino movement of the A major, the pianist is alive to its inherent weirdness as Schubert sends a nostalgically beautiful melody off the deep end to fragmentation, then reassembles it into a broken shadow of itself.

Piano sonata #20 in A major second movement

Schubert PS 20 second movement


Female Composers LONG PLAYING SELECTIONS Piano Schumann, Clara The only woman! Women!

Clara Schumann – the only woman?!

Clara Schumann wrote:

“I once believed that I possessed creative talent, but I have given up this idea; a woman must not desire to compose — there has never yet been one able to do it. Should I expect to be the one?”

It never occured to me until today when I began researching Clara’s work; that not a single Classical composer – ranked as a “Great” –  was a woman!  How very strange. Well Clara Schumann was certainly an accomplished composer, and what a person! She raised 8 children (4 died before her) cared for a husband who became more and more unstable, befriended and grew very close to Brahms and still found time to  tour extensively! – acknowledged as a virtuoso pianist.

So here’s to the  ‘only woman’ on the site –  (so far) Let’s make it a Long Play Selection. (approx. 25 minutes)

(* dig that horn!)

UPDATE: Clara is no longer the only female composer on the site. Go here for a comprehensive look at the female composers.

Clara Schumann


Drei Romanzen, Op. 22 (arr. for horn and piano): I. Andante

Drei Romanzen, Op. 22 (arr. for horn and piano): II. Allegre

Piano Trio in G Minor, Op. 17: III. Andante

Piano Trio in G Minor, Op. 17: IV. Allegretto

Romance in B minor

Brahms Cigar smokers' anthem? Piano

Brahms cigar smokers’ anthem?

I was put off a bit by Brahms during my initial ‘musical education’ because of some bombastic riffs I’d encountered. Over the past weeks I’ve been obsessing on his music. Listening to a lot and reading commentary/critiques. Learning about his life and musical influences. (*note: there is now a Long Playing Brahms)

In this, the second movement of his third piano sonata, I think Brahms is inviting us to drift away. Perhaps he felt like this when he smoked his cigar and watched the sun set.

02 – Piano Sonata No.3 in F min, Op.5 – Andante espressivo


Afterthought: For those of you who might not know … Brahms was a cigar smoker. I’ll just betcha this was one of his smoking tunes!

A little Satie (and then some more!) Bassoon Piano Satie

A little Satie (and then some more!)

Eric Satie wrote 3 piano pieces he called  Gymnopédie.

This is a transcription of the second Gymnopedie for piano. Transcribed for piano and bassoon.

Catherine Marchese – Emile Naoumoff_02_Deuxieme Gymnopedie


Trying to find out Who transcribed it? –  from the original solo piano to piano with bassoon –  I googled until weary! … never did find out. Did Satie himself do it? Or the players on this piece? (Catherine Marchese and Emile Naoumoff) Some listener might leave a germain comment clearing this up! – please do if you’re out there.

Anyway it was so nice to be listening to Satie again this afternoon… what the heck – how about some more?!  Here are three pieces joined together running approx. 8 minutes. (I love the first one)

Satie collection


1)  5ieme Gnossienne  Modere   2)  Caresse    3)  Cafe-Concert Songs- Je Te Veux

Bach Great Composers pay tribute to other "Greats" Piano Rachmaninoff Violin

Rachmaninoff does Bach!

Here’s another example of how interesting it is when a composer does ‘transcriptions’ of another’s work. (*for more, see the Post titled, “Great Composers pay tribute to other Greats”)

Here are 3 movements from Bach’s Partita #3 for solo violin in E major – transcribed by Rachmaninoff for piano.

First the original violin followed by piano.  (*after the music read a more in depth analysis of Rachmaninoff’s effort)

Nobuko Imai_08_Partita No. 3, BWV 1006 I. Preludio


Idil Biret_06_01_J. S. BACH Prelude, Gavotte and Gigue Prelude


Nobuko Imai_10_Partita No. 3, BWV 1006 III. Gavotte en Rondeau


Idil Biret_06_02_J. S. BACH Prelude, Gavotte and Gigue Gavotte


Nobuko Imai_13_Partita No. 3, BWV 1006 VI. Gigue


Idil Biret_06_03_J. S. BACH Prelude, Gavotte and Gigue Gigue


With a few exceptions, Rachmaninov was generally quite faithful to the source music of his transcriptions. In this Bach effort, however, he added contrapuntal parts and harmonies because the original was written for solo violin. Yet the music has a mostly Bachian flavor and some have surmised that Bach himself would have made very similar modifications had he fashioned a keyboard version. That said, there are more than a few snippets of Rachmaninov’s voice in this effort, especially in the opening prelude where there are echoes in the contrapuntal writing of some of the Etudes-Tableaux and the first movement of a work to come in 1940, the Symphonic Dances. The prelude is lively and light, busy with typical joyous Bachian contrapuntal activity. The ensuing Gavotte is even lighter and playful — gracefully dainty, actually — just the kind of music not expected for Rachmaninov to have a hand in. The closing Gigue is also light, but Rachmaninov gives it a little muscle in his bass harmonies. He also makes it quite a colorful affair, all of its nearly two minutes brimming with an infectious joy.


Mendelssohn Long Play (Lieder Ohne Worte)

Lieder Ohne Worte – Songs without words. A series for solo piano Mendelssohn wrote over various periods in his life. I find them incredibly simple and straightforward in their emotional expression. Clear, uncomplicated and easy to digest! Mendelssohn himself resisted attempts to interpret the works too literally, or add words to the pieces to make songs; and he had this to say:

What the music I love expresses to me, is not thought too indefinite to put into words, but on the contrary, too definite. {Mendelssohn’s own italics}

Hmmm … sounds pretty Zen to me! Here are 9 pieces from the series. (the first number is the Opus number and after the / is the number of the piece within that opus)

(Opus 85 / #4) –   (67 / 1)   (30 / 1) (The third piece approx. 6 minutes in just blows me away! I love it. It also appears in another Mendelssohn post on this site)   (30 / 3)   (30 / 6)   (67 / 6)    (62 / 5)   (67 / 2) and finally 19 / 3  (called Jagerlied (“Hunting Song” –  powerful stuff!)

Mendelssohn Long Play

Haydn Heeeer's Haydn! LONG PLAYING SELECTIONS Piano

Haydn’s Long Play

These second movements – (the “slow” movements) – in Haydn’s Piano Concertos; are thoughtful, introspective, gentle and seductive! – Just my cuppa tea!  Some of Mozart’s piano concertos are very close in structure and feeling –  almost like ‘twin compositions.’ However, Mozart is usually regarded as the ‘greater’ – for his depth and complexity.

(*** See the Post: “Good Buddies – Mozart and Haydn”***)

Hmmm … I wonder. Sometimes Haydn’s simplicity and directness seem easier on the ears and just as beatific.

This is a LONG long playing selection. First you’ll hear the piano Concerto in F, Hob. XVIII/F2 … followed by the second movements of the following Piano Concertos: 3,4,5,9 and 11

Haydn long play

Cello Couperin Hey - what about Couperin?! Piano

Hey – what about Couperin?!

Francois Couperin popped into my mind the other day. I thought:

‘Wasn’t he an important Baroque composer?… Then how come I only have one piece by him in my library?”

So I went surfing in my paid download sites. I found that Bach loved his 4 volumes of harpsichord music – Richard Strauss and Ravel admired his music and Brahms piano music was inspired by him.
Since I don’t like the harpsichord or vocal (and that’s mostly what he composed) – I was looking for other stuff. I found these pieces adapted for the piano (originally for harpsichord) AND some killer cello!

The piano artist  on these pieces, Alexandre Tharaud, says about the first piece below: ” I have a particularly soft spot for Duphly’s La Pothoïn, which for me is one of the loveliest pieces ever composed for keyboard.”



More ‘piano adapted’ pieces from the Tic Toc Choc series. I like these two from the series: La Visionnaire and Les Jumeles

la visionnaire


les jumeles


And then some ‘killer cello’ I love this first one

Pieces en concert / Prelude



more lovely cello Pieces en concert / Plainte

pieces en concert plainte

Brahms Just for fun Piano

Just for fun (a short piano piece by Brahms)

Brahms Intermezzo in C major, op. 119 no. 3 just for fun! I’ll bet Brahms had fun composing it, and the pianist playing it

brahms intermezzo in c major op 119 no 3


* AFTERWORD: This post has become very interesting as a result of Taneyev’s comment below! I’ve learned so much from his astute comments. The most important lesson so far has been not to put on the site the first rendition of a piece that I hear: But rather to listen to as least several and try to get a sense of what the composer might have really intended. Or … to go with an Artist who is known to specialise in interpreting the particular composer. I hope you find this piece interesting enough to read the comments (click on comments above – just under the Post title), listen to all the versions here … and maybe even come back with “THE ANSWER” (that is: What is closest to Brahm’s original score?)

Here’s Wilhelm Backhause

Brahms intermezzo op. 119 C major


Here’s Idil Biret *note: a 3 second delay

Brahms Intermezzo in C major Idil Biret


And here’s Jon Nakamatsu

intermezzo grazioso e giocoso

Piano Scarlatti


Reading how Scarlatti was admired by Horowitz, Chopin, Brahms and others; I had a look in my files and found I only had 2 pieces by him! Quite an oversite. So I downloaded a collection of his sonatas played by Yevgeny Sudbin. Scarlatti (b. 1685 d. 1757) was born the same year as Bach and lived 7 years longer.

From Wikipedia:

The many sonatas which were unpublished during Scarlatti’s lifetime have appeared in print irregularly in the two and a half centuries since. Scarlatti has, however, attracted notable admirers, including Frédéric Chopin, Johannes Brahms, Béla Bartók, Dmitri Shostakovich, Heinrich Schenker, Vladimir Horowitz and Marc-André Hamelin. The Russian school of pianism has particularly championed the sonatas.

Scarlatti’s 555 keyboard sonatas are single movements, mostly in binary form, and are almost all intended for the harpsichord (there are four for organ, and a few where Scarlatti suggests a small instrumental group). Some of them display harmonic audacity in their use of discords, and also unconventional modulations to remote keys.

555 keyboard pieces! Wow. Well here are just 4 of his Sonatas. The first two “exuberant” and the next two “thoughtful”.

Yevgeny Sudbin_01_Keyboard Sonata in B flat major, K 545


Yevgeny Sudbin_03_Keyboard Sonata in F minor, K 365




another in g minor, not sure what K#!

Yevgeny Sudbin_11_Keyboard Sonata in G minor

Bach LONG PLAYING SELECTIONS Music for the mundane! Piano

Music for the Mundane

In this LONG PLAY selection – J.S.Bach provides the perfect “background music” for mundane tasks! Cleaning out that junk drawer, ironing (does anyone iron anymore?!), gardening or just wandering around the house wondering what to do next. His Goldberg Variations provide the background. First the Aria, followed by 8 of the variations.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Don’t give up! There is a pause before the music kicks in on this one. About 10 seconds.

Goldberg variations by 9 Andras Shiff.mp3


UPDATE: see the comment on this one. My “source” slightly retracted his claim that Shiff was “the man” for Bach piano! So let’s hear Gould do the Aria.