Trevor Stephenson demonstrates how to tune 18th-century Well Temperament. Shows how to listen for beat speeds in thirds and fifths. Demonstrates the differences between just and tempered intervals.
This is played with wonderful fluidity and emotional depth. I have heard recordings of this piece played by “international pianists” on concert grand pianos, who have music degrees and been to conservatoires etc, but this completely self taught pianist playing on a digital piano plays it so much better in my opinion!
Mark Fowler only started learning piano at aged 18, and taught himself to play BY EAR!! Yes, that’s right- he couldn’t read sheet music, had no teacher and learned by himself. At the age of 33 this is what he has achieved. This is how talented he is. Many international pianists started the traditional way at aged 5-8 with teachers, doing music degrees etc.
As someone who struggles with sheet music and sight reading, I love discovering self taught pianists- it is proof that there are many ways to learn Piano- we are often told that we HAVE to have a teacher- that we cannot learn alone; we HAVE to learn the traditional way, must do scales, must learn to read sheet music before we can play Piano- pianists like Mark Fowler show otherwise.
Where and how did you study music?
I am completely self-taught. I simply practiced on a daily basis most of the time throughout my life. I never practiced scales or traditional techniques to enhance my technique or musicality, I often played, or rather attempted difficult pieces that were beyond my level of playing, thus by practicing them I eventually improved my overall playing this way.
There is perhaps no right or wrong; that each of us can reach into ourselves, forge a connection with our pianos, and find that inspiration, let the beauty of the Piano, our hearts and music come together to find our own natural way to play. In Mark’s case his desire to just play flowed…
Mark Fowler was born in the city of Peterborough, England in 1979. He started playing keyboards at a fairly young age but did not take piano seriously until 18. At 21 he bought his first piano and since then has progressed at a phenomenal rate to reach the standard of playing he is at today. Completely self taught, Mark believes his early love and passion for classical music by composers such as JS Bach, Beethoven and Mozart is what motivated and consequently drove him to learn piano by himself.
From a young age Mark could not read sheet music and so developed an innate ability to learn music by listening to it, or to play ‘by ear’ as it’s more commonly known by today. Mark is now capable of both learning music ‘by ear’ or from sheet music/score, and has a vast and constantly expanding repertoire list, most of which he knows from memory.
Amusing piano anecdote..
Working in a shop that sells pianos, one is gradually inured to the musical endeavours of small children. Not for us a joyous rendition of 4’33”; instead we are generally treated to some of Stockhausen’s less poetic creations, sometimes accompanied by parental entreaties of, “Be gentle, Molly!” and “Careful, Henry!” but, more often than not, completely disregarded by the supervisory adults (who seem strangely seasoned to the musical inventions of their infant prodigies – much as if they worked in a music shop, in fact). Thus it is, thus it will ever be.
And so it was that, at around four in the afternoon, as I was on the way out of the door to fetch some milk for our afternoon tea, I was unsurprised to hear another Mozartian genius hammering away at one of our pianos – the very expensive one which lives by the door…
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Tom Service explores Beethoven’s writing for the piano, with Misha Donat and David Owen Norris.
Here is the Fantasy Opus 77, discussed in the talk played by Ronald Brautigam on fortepiano. Hear the difference between this and a modern piano!!!
Recently Dr. Godoy turned the technology on a fascinating question: How were such classical pieces as Mozart’s Variation K. 500 and Hummel’s Etudes, Opus 125, originally played, and how might that have made a difference in sound and in audience reaction?
To find out, Dr. Godoy struck up a collaboration with Christina Kobb, a doctoral candidate at the Norwegian Academy of Music and head of theory at Barratt Due Institute of Music in Oslo. Ms. Kobb has developed an unusual expertise: She has learned how to play the piano according to techniques described nearly 200 years ago.
As a visiting student at Cornell University in 2010, she researched 19th-century pedagogical piano treatises — essentially, instruction manuals for piano playing. The techniques that they described, she realized, differed drastically from those she had been taught.
“I was not following even the most basic instructions given to beginners at the time,” Ms. Kobb said. “I wondered, ‘Would this make a difference in my playing?’ ”
For the next three years, she gradually replaced her modern way of playing with 19th-century technique, gleaned from around 20 treatises. Most were written in Vienna in the 1820s, while a few were published in France and England. Her primary source, however, was “A Complete Theoretical and Practical Course of Instructions on the Art of Playing the Piano Forte,” the seminal 465-page treatise published in 1827 by Johann Nepomuk Hummel, one of Mozart’s students.
While modern players tend to hunch over the keys and hold their forearms nearly perpendicular to the keyboard, 19th-century style dictated that pianists sit bolt upright. The posture prevented players from bringing their weight to bear on the keyboard, instead forcing them to rely on smaller finger movements. The elbows were held firmly against the body, with forearms sloping down and hands askew.
As Ms. Kobb became more fluent in this approach, she found that certain movements — jumping quickly between disparate chords, for example — became swifter and more fluid. “The elbow against your body serves as a sort of GPS, so you always know where you are,” she said.
Chords and scales sound smoother and can be played faster, Ms. Kobb also found, and dramatic pauses between notes — often a matter of physical necessity rather than of style — are lessened. The old style also allows the performer to be more discriminatory and subtle in choosing which notes to stress, Ms. Kobb learned, producing a performance that is subdued by today’s standards.”
Daniel Barenboim has unveiled a new piano at Royal Festival Hall, London, in advance of his Schubert cycle at the venue. The Barenboim-Maene concert grand piano was conceived and commissioned by Barenboim, and built by the Belgian instrument maker Chris Maene (with support from Steinway & Sons).
At a press launch earlier today, Barenboim explained that the model reconciles the quality of a Steinway instrument with the varied colour registers of nineteenth-century instruments. The distinguishing features of the instrument are its straight strings, double bridge and horizontal soundboard veins.
The project began after Barenboim played Franz Liszt’s restored grand piano in Siena, and was struck by its transparency and clarity. Barenboim collaborated with Maene, using parts from Steinway, to realise his vision. Only two of the instruments currently exist, with the creation process taking 18 months and approximately 4,000 hours of labour.
Barenboim has already performed publicly on the instrument, having played complete Schubert cycles in Paris and Vienna. He performs the Schubert cycles in London between 27 May and 2 June 2015.Barenboim took pains to emphasise that the new model is not in any way better than any other, but merely an alternative. Barenboim said: ’It’s like falling in love – you want to go everywhere with that person!’
Barenboim will perform a complete cycle of Schubert’s piano sonatas over four concerts at the Southbank centre between 27 May and 2 June. He will perform both Brahms concertos on the instrument at Royal Festival Hall in January 2016.