piano competitions

Piano Competitions Have Judges on Edge

Piano Competitions Have Judges on Edge. My source is an excellent book on piano playing. David Dubal wrote it: “Reflections from the Keyboard”. He interviews numerous keyboard artists about their trials and tribulations. Being a judge at competitions is also certainly trying. Why?  I felt that pianist Jorge Bolet was particularly relevant in this regard.

 

Image result for pictures of record jacket by pianist Pierre Bolet
A great master at the piano.

Bolet emphasizes how perfection is expected with piano playing. This is primarily due to the recording industry. He believes this has destroyed  a great deal of “music making.”  That is because recordings are of such mechanical perfection that any imperfection in actual performance is severely frowned upon. The other source of homogeneous playing is competitions.

Bolet on Piano Competitions

This piano legend actually states “Competitions have done more harm to piano playing than anything else.” In many competitions there are some 15 judge. Those he enter have to try to get all the votes. To do this they must not antagonize any of the judges in any way. Nothing must be different or worse yet, controversial. Any personal idea is shunned and looked down upon. Bolet states that as a result whether you listen to 10, 20 or 30 pianists, they all play alike. That affects the status of piano playing in general. No one becomes outstanding.

My Own Piano Instructor- Mischa Kottler

My own teacher was Mischa Kottler. He was the official pianist with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. Mischa also directed the music at WJR in Detroit. His waiting list for students was incredibly long. Once you got to start, he often went with the Symphony on tour. I grew up in Detroit. Listen to him playing Chopin’s Minute Waltz. He actually plays the difficult passages with double notes in the right hand. The main help I credit with is avoiding hand injuries at the piano. He taught:  (1) Hand positions, (2) The proper way to scales and arpeggios.  (3) Showed me the regimen that I still practice daily. (4) How to play with a singing tone. (5) How to: “Present the melody on a silver platter.” (6) Above all else: He was a fanatic about proper fingering. Mischa never seemed satisfied with  editors. He learned his art and fingering from Alfred Cortot and Emil von Sauer in Paris in Vienna in the 1920’s. Would he have lost at a piano competition for his originality? Perhaps?

So What Am I doing Now?

I’ve never been so busy. I’ve just return from New York where my wife and I workshopped our original opera, Patra. All our singers had won auditions with the NY Met Opera. Check out our Patra website, Patraopera.com. Professionally I play 52 weeks a year. I’m scheduled to play my 11th winter season in Boca Grande at the Gasparilla Inn.  The owners have just reconditioned their Steinway Grand from 1924. You be the judge: Are piano competitions necessary? Perhaps.

 

Even in his 80’s and 90’s his abilities were stellar.

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resort number 1

Resort number 1 Seems Like #2 Home with my 11th year

Resort number 1 seems to be my 2nd Home. My 1st home graces in sunny Sarasota.My profession as a pianist takes me to Boca Grande. There, I play at the Gaparilla Inn.  The Inn captures the charm of a bygone era of Florida hospitality. It again claims its throne this year as resort #1.  The Inn’s style is stately and grand. It offers glamour that recalls the heyday of mid-century Floridian beach resorts.  A slower pace of life is offered.  “It’s Old Florida at its best with modern updates.” Activities abound at the resort. Sport offerings include golf, tennis, croquet, boating, and other misc. water sports . You’ll want to have in your list of memories its Beach Club views of the Gulf of Mexico. More information: the-gasparilla-inn.com

Resort number 1 has Interesting Guests

resort number 1
Some of the celebrities who have frequented the Inn

 

Pianist David Ohrenstein will play for diners on the isle of Boca grande

David is scheduled 6 nights weekly in season on this island resort. On a typical night you can hear music by Cole Porter, George Gershwin. You’ll authentic ragtime by Scott Joplin. The Inn was actually built at the height of the ragtime era. He also loves the great classics. His  regular list this time of the year is  a 30 minute rendition of principle dances from the  Nutcracker Suite by Tchaikovsky. He plays Jupiter from the Planets by Gustav Holst. He loves to play the theme from the King’s Speech. It is the slow movement of Beethoven’s 7th Symphony.  Excerpts from principle operas are often included. His favorite popular song to play is “Killing Me Softly.” The arrangement he has by George Shearing is so beautiful that many diners have to wipe tears from their eyes.

Be sure to also catch David and his wife, Sharon, as they workshop their new opera comique, Patra September 1 -7 on Schroon Lake in New York.

PATRA – Opera Comique by Sharon and David Ohrenstein. Join the Fun!

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Patraopera.com is the site that features our new opera comique. Our Sarasota cast  just completed a concert presentation in Sarasota at the West Coast Black Theater. In New York we will also feature top young singers in the U.S.A. and Europe.