Proper Piano Practice Means Precision. I began my piano studies at age 11. The date was August 24, 1958. This was exactly two months before my October 24th birthday. I would turn twelve. At my first year piano recital, I played the entire Moonlight Sonata by Beethoven from memory. The teacher I studied it with was a Mrs. Foster. I forgot her 1st name. My apologies. In retrospect, I played it terribly. The reason for this shortcoming will became apparent. in the blog. My apologies. The way to Proper Piano Practice was later shown to me by my nest teacher, Mischa Kottler, but:
I didn’t listen to his most basic advice. I thought I was quite advanced at age 15. He told me to (1) practice slowly and (2) hands separately. My adolescent mind told me, “that’s for babies.” Of course, I never told him that. But as it turned out, I was wrong. When slow practice and intense concentration unite, the results are outstanding. First, here is a taste of this great virtuoso-pianist, teacher. Kottler would play it for an encore. Even when he was in his nineties he could finesse his special arrangement of Chopin’s “Minute Waltz.”
Minute Waltz (Mischa Kottler Version)
Kottler had the ability to see the future when it came to his piano students. I studied with him for years. When I was 25, he looked straight at me and said: “You’ll get good when you’re in your sixties.” He was serious. Naturally, that comment did not sit well with a 25 year old. I’m well into my sixties, Finally, I have seen the “proper piano practice” light. Here’s the core of the method I now started to use. It’s never too late.
Play any two fingers on either hand. With one finger play a white key. With another pick a black. Play the two notes at the same time.
Unless you intensely concentrate on what you just did, the notes are likely to be perhaps 1/10th of a second apart!
Now think of how difficult it is to play even more tones at the same time. Add to the formula, using the fingers on both hands.
Multiply this spread out sound by an entire piece of music. You have a mess.
How has Proper Piano Practice Helped Me?
In one word, employment. This December 20th, I’ll begin my 9th winter-spring season at the Gasparilla Inn. On Boca Grande it is favored place for VIP’s. Off-Florida season, there are also no shortage of jobs. Currently I play at the Crab and Fin Restaurant . It is on St, Armand’s Circle in Sarasota. Of course, a lot more goes into successful piano playing. If you wish to know more elements, I’m also available for piano lessons in Sarasota.
Special Birthday for My Teacher, Mischa Kottler. How many people can still be outstanding in their fields of endeavor when they are in their nineties? I guess that when you are that aged, every birthday is a special birthday. The active aging honor mostly goes to creative artists and musicians. When Mischa Kottler was 94, he flew, without escort, to Sarasota to visit us. “Us” is my wife, three children and me. He shows up at the Sarasota-Bradenton airport sporting a handsome blue sport coat wearing a baby blue colored French beret. Music kept him young and vital until his last days. He stayed with us for weeks at our Sarasota home. There I was lucky to receive regular piano lessons from this great master once more. For our family and friends he flawlessly played the version of Chopin’s Minute Waltz that on youtube below. Another famous musician who actively lived into his nineties was James Hubert “Eubie” Blake (* 7 February 1 887  in Baltimore , Maryland ; † 12. February 1983 in New York City , New York ). He was an American jazz pianist and – Composer who influenced the development of Ragtime and early jazz. Music and the arts definitely offer “a retirement profession.”
Chopin-Kottler Waltz 6 in D♭ major, Op 64~1
Special Birthday and a Special Man, Mischa Kottler
Mischa Kottler was a pianist, born in 1899. As a young man in New York, he played for Sergei Rachmaninoff, impressing Rachmaninoff with his own third piano concerto. Rachmaninoff recommended Kottler study in Europe; he went and became a student of Alfred Cortot in Paris and Emil von Sauer in Vienna, the latter being a pupil of the great Franz Liszt. Back in the United States, Kottler was lead pianist for the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. In 1933 he became musical director of WWJ radio in Detroit. He was chairman of the Piano Department at Wayne State University, and was a major influence on young pianists.
To this day I am also still actively sporting my piano profession. From Christmas to Easter I play 6 days/week in Boca Grande at the Gasparilla Inn. It is a favorite spot for VIP’s. I’ve recently completed my 8th year at the Inn. On the summer season, I just started playing on St. Armand’s Circle at the Sarasota Crab and Fin. I also offer piano lessons in Sarasota to aspiring musicians. Check out events on DSOworks.com
Pachelbel Canon is Still Popular 350 years Later. Today is June 14, 2017. I have my first summer job in Sarasota, Florida in 20 years. I’ve been a regular in New York state and at the Gasparilla Inn on the isle of Boca Grande. Currently I play a well guarded and kept Yamaha console piano outdoors at the Crab and Fin on Saint Armand’s Circle. The setting is under a covered patio. My assigned times are Monday evening 6 -10 pm. Afternoons are Tuesdays and Wednesdays 12:30 to 5:30 pm.
Anniversary Couple Requests the Pachelbel Canon
A gentleman comes up to me at about 2:30 pm. That was today, Wednesday June 14, After hearing me play selections by Beethoven, he thought there was a possibility that I could play the Canon. He and his wife featured it at their wedding. June 14 was their anniversary. Among the Beethoven selections he heard me play on the piano was the 2nd movement from Beethoven’s 7th symphony. It was used as the theme for the movie, The King’s Speech.
One reason for my success so far as public piano player: Play orchestral transcriptions on the piano. That was a specialty of Franz Liszt. It worked admirably for him. Basically the public loves hearing familiar orchestral works well played by the intimacy offered by a single piano player. Among the transcriptions that I regularly play at the Crab and Fin in the summer; and during the winter at Gasparilla Inn are:
“Jupiter” from the suite The Planets by Gustav Holst.
Selections from Carmen by Georges Bizet.
The Barcarole from Tales from Hoffman by Offenbach.
Tales from Vienna Woods by Strauss
The Beautiful Blue Danube by Strauss
The American in Paris by George Gershwin
Song of India by Rimsky Korsakov. The list goes on and on.
Shortly I will post my own rendition of a piano transcription of Pachelbel’s Canon in D. Keep checking DSOworks.com for my Pachelbel posting. I also have a few openings for piano lessons in Sarasota.
Beer Versus Coffee and Johann Sebastian Bach. Bach is cool. I love his sense of humor and strength of spirit. Speaking of spirits: During J.S. Bach’s life there were two distinct points of view in Germany with regards to beer versus coffee. In this incredible battle J.S. Bach, a humble and poor musician, took on Frederick the Great. First a little background on the man Bach fought against in the beer-coffee battle:
Frederick II (German: Friedrich; 24 January 1712 – 17 August 1786) was King of Prussia from 1740 until 1786, the longest reign of any Hohenzollern king. His most significant accomplishments during his reign included his military victories, his reorganization of Prussian armies, his patronage of the arts and the Enlightenment in Prussia, and his final success against great odds in the Seven Years’ War.
Now, enter J.S. Bach to face King Frederick the Great. An edict by Frederick the Great declared: “It is disgusting to notice the increase in the quantity of coffee used by my subjects and this must be prevented. His majesty was brought up on beer and so were his ancestors and his officers. Many battles were fought and won by soldiers nourished on beer, and the king does not believe that coffee-drinking soldiers can be depended upon to endure hardships or to beat his enemies in case of war.” My source is a quote by Victor Borge in My Favorite Intermissions.
Bach’s Coffee Cantata is close to being an opera. His Coffee Cantata #211 has a plot, recitatives, and arias. Had money been raised for scenery and costumes, it would have been a baroque opera. Bach wrote it in defiance of the king’s edict. Basically, in the cantata, a daughter’s father tries to reason with her to kick the coffee habit. After all kinds of threats, in desperation he promises to find her a handsome husband. Marriages were pre-arranged in those days. However, as Borge states: “She (daughter in the cantata) and Bach (the composer) have the last laugh together”. The daughter confides that she would only marry the man that lets her drink all the coffee she wants.
Beer Versus Coffee – Coffee Wins (at least in the Coffee Cantata #211)
For years J.S. Bach gave weekly coffee concerts at Zimmerman’s Coffee House in Leipzig. Isn’t it amazing how something as simple as beer versus coffee could create such conflict. Please share if you like this Bach blog. Oh yes, I am available for piano lessons in Sarasota, should you want to study some of the music of this great master. I also play Bach’s entire Italian Concerto on St Armand’s Circle in Sarasota at the Crab and Fin restaurant. Days are Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday -check events on DSOworks for details. Yes, the Crab and Fin serves coffee, coffee drinks and beer. Your choice.
Proper Musical Rendition Has Multiple Choices. For this blog I reference one of my favorite books, Inside Music by Karl Haas. Karl Haas (December 6, 1913 – February 6, 2005) was a German-American classical musicradio host, known for his sonorous speaking voice, humanistic approach to music appreciation, and popularization of classical music. He was the host of the classical music radio program Adventures in Good Music, which was syndicated to commercial and public radio stations around the world. He also published the book Inside Music.I grew up in Detroit. Karl Haas was one of the Detroit’s musical luminaries. When I started to play the piano at age 11, I composed a piano concerto in Eb minor (six flats). Also, at my 1st year piano recital I played the entire Moonlight Sonata by Beethoven from memory. I still play it at on St Armand’s Circle at the Crab and Fin Restaurant. See events on DSOworks.
After this initial start, my father then took me to Karl Haas for an interview. Haas was giving some piano lessons to a few students. He was getting busy with his radio program on WJR in Detroit so he recommended that I go to Mischa Kottler. Kottler was the head of the piano department at Wayne State University. I also began a 20 year association with Rubinoff and his Violin through the college. Here’s how it happened: I had just completed a piano lesson with Mischa . Mischa had his studio next door to the Liberal Arts Music Office. Rubinoff called the office as a was walking past. He was looking for an accompanist/arranger. Professor Morris Hochberg summoned me in to talk with Rubinoff. The rest is history.
By special request, here is a story about Rubinoff And His Violin – The Fascination Waltz (1905) and how he approached the music with style and finesse.
Proper Musical Rendition and Rubinoff and His Violin
Karl Haas states in Inside Music that a performer must always question the validity of the “subjective tastes of the editor.” That even applies to fingering. He tells a story about studying a Beethoven Sonata under the guidance of famed German pianist Artur Schnabel. Karl found the fingering extremely difficult that Schnabel penciled into the score. On questioning Schnabel, he replied: the fingering was simply ” a prompter to try ways by yourself in order to find the one best suited to your digital needs.”
Rubinoff both questioned and interpreted music in countless ways. Typically he would try difference rhythms, as I explain in the youtube video. He would change phrasing: Which notes to emphasize, or which to drop off on. The point is, the public loved his interpretations. If the proof of the pudding is in the tasting, his pudding was great. Some years in the 1930’s he could make $500,000.00.
Conclusion: Success in music, as well as in in other disciplines, is based on questioning and analyzing the subject at hand in great depth for proper musical rendition.
Ancient Burial Sites Used the Perfect Fifth Ratio 3/2. Many Neolithic cultures placed the numbers of harmonious ratios of musical intervals into their buildings and environment. How can musical intervals possibly apply to burial sites? What was the purpose of seeking harmonious intervals for interment? Where and when did this happen?
The tradition belongs to yin-yang concept of the ancient Chinese
The ideal was the 3/2 ratio. Three parts yang to 2 parts yin. 3/2 defines the musical interval of a perfect fifth. The higher note vibrates 3 times; for 2 of the lower.
The tradition characterizes ancient burial sites in China. I found what I thought was such a location in Wiki commons. It is pictured as the ALMATY, KAZAKHSTAN. See featured pictured above.
The fifth has always been considered a perfect interval. In Western music, intervals are most commonly differences between notes of a diatonic scale. The smallest of these intervals is a semitone. In music, an interval ratio is a ratio of the frequencies of the pitches in a musical interval. For example, a justperfect fifth (for example C to G) is 3:2. There are only 3 perfect intervals in our scale system. They are the octave, fourth and fifth. They are called perfect for the following reason: They vibrate in whole number ratios from 1 to 4. They sound the most harmonious. Major and minor intervals vibrate with higher number integers. Note the following list:
The interval between C and D is a major 2nd (major second).
The interval between C and E is a major 3rd (major third).
The interval between C and F is a perfect 4th (perfect fourth).
The interval between C and G is a perfect 5th (perfect fifth).
The interval between C and A is a major 6th (major sixth).
The interval between C and B is a major 7th (major seventh).
The interval between C and C is a perfect 8th (perfect octave).
Ancient Burial Sites share the 3 to 2 Perfect 5th ratio with other disciplines
(1) Microbiotic cooking uses the 3/2 ratio for healing. It advocates 3 foods that grow above the ground in addition to 2 that grow under.
(2) Chinese geomancers detect yang and yin currents. Yang is the blue dragon, Yin is the white tiger. Yang current takes the path over steep mountains. Yin mainly flows over chains of low hills. Most favored is where 2 streams meet surrounded by three parts yang and 2 parts yin. That was the spot where Chinese ancient burial sites were built.
Chinese believed that proper burial of ancestors controlled the course of the surviving family’s fortune. Great dynasties are said to have arisen from proper placement of tombs. Also, the 1st action of a government facing rebellion was to destroy the family burial grounds of the revolutionary leaders.
If Ancient Burial Sites are Beyond You, Here’s a Simple Musical Exercise to Help Your Health and Fortune
Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star incessantly uses the interval of the perfect fifth. So does Baa, Baa Black Sheep. Sing the first 4 notes of each. With both nursery rhymes, the interval between the 2nd and 3rd notes is a perfect fifth. You have your choice: (1) Sing the first four notes over and over, Or (2) simply and just sing the 2nd and 3rd notes over and over. Another choice is take piano lessons. Play Mozart.
Learning Piano With Mischa Kottler Thanks to My Dad. This blog is in memory of my father. Much of the content will be in my eulogy for my father, Bernard Ohrenstein. He just passed away at age 97. Dad was from Poland. He was a survivor from four years in the camps.
My father saw I had a flare for piano and composing. This was at age 11. He did everything possible to nurture that. I began composing as soon as we got the piano. He arranged for a solo concert of my eastern European flavored music at the local synagogue in Detroit. I was 12 years old when I played the concert. Later that year wrote a musical play. He arranged for a presentation with renowned Detroit Mi and Louisville Ky cantor, Joseph Birnholtz. I had been studying piano with a Mrs. Foster. At my 1st year recital I played the entire Moonlight Sonata by Beethoven from memory.
Learning Piano With Mischa Kottler
Dad then took me to the best, Mischa Kottler. Mischa was considered the finest teacher and prima piano player of Detroit. He headed the piano department at Wayne State University. He was the official pianist of the Detroit Symphony. He had his own radio program with WJR, On it, he played a different program every Sunday. My father paid for my college education and piano lessons with Mischa.
It gets better: When 1st accepted by Mischa, you were placed on a waiting list. Lessons could even be 2 months apart. So what did my father do? Being a jeweler, he made a solid gold ring. He then sent the ring to Italy to finest craftsman. The head of Beethoven was carved intaglio on a sardonyx stone. Beethoven was set into the ring. My father’s plan worked. I got regular piano lessons. Mischa wore the ring at every concert he gave. It was his pride and joy. So what came of my learning piano with Mischa?
Even at my current age, I play six nights weekly at the Gasparilla Inn. There, I’ve entertained two American Presidents. Guests have also included members of the British House of Lords. I am currently completing my 8th year.
I married a wonderful book writer-lyricist, Sharon Ohrenstein. Together, we write and produce shows. Below are short youtube samples. They are from our newest show entitled, Golden Roads. Thanks to my dad (and mom, of course) I’ve had a wonderful life filled with love and music. My advise to parents with children: Do any of the following: Give them piano lessons. Teach them to sing; or, to play any other instrument. Joy for everyone will follow. Feel free to share this with friends.
Mischa Kottler Student Endures on the piano. My father had a sense about me. We grew up in Detroit. I immediately took to the piano and composing. At age 12 I wrote a piano concerto. I had only been playing the piano for 3 months. I also played the complete Beethoven Moonlight Sonata from memory.This was at my first year piano recital. We soon arranged for auditions with the best Detroit instructors. Julius Chajes was the director of music at the Detroit Jewish Community Center. Chajes suggested to go to Mischa Kottler since he was quite busy. Chajes also mentioned Karl Haas. Haas was the creator and host of the nationally syndicated program, Adventures in Good Music. Haas also suggested that I audition for Mischa. Finally, I went to Mischa Kottler. He is a brief description of him in Keyboard Magazine by one of his students student.
Another notable Mischa Kottler student – Greg Philliganes
From work with Stevie Wonder while still in his teens, to tours and recordings with Quincy Jones, Michael Jackson, Eric Clapton, and Toto, Phillinganes’ massive discography reads like a “Who’s Who” of pop music, encompassing four decades.
From Greg Philliganes’ interview in Keyboard Magazine
“Sensing that I needed discipline more than anything else, my Mom managed to hook me up with a wonderful teacher named Mischa Kottler. He was a no-nonsense Russian Jewish guy who could crack a pane of glass with one finger. He was a complete badass, and he cooled my attitude out immediately. I studied with him well into my teens.
What kinds of things were you studying with him?
I was studying technique and classical repertoire. He taught me a certain way of playing that I still use to this day: a sense of evenness where your wrists aren’t loose or moving up and down. It’s a totally linear way of playing, where there’s even movement in both hands so your wrists stay perfectly still. Misha would take two fingers and weigh them down on my wrists to keep them from moving. He instilled a sense of dexterity and definition in my playing. If I’m known for my speed and precision, it’s probably due to Mischa more than anything else.
As a Mischa Kottler student
So, how did Mischa impact my career. I am playing my 8th season at the Gasparilla Inn on the exotic isle of Boca Grande. Management thinks of me as part of their corporation. It’s amazing how well you a liked when you are good for business and morale. Management just reconditioned a vintage 1924 Steinway grand. What a difference it makes! “Beautiful, lovely, most enjoyable” …are a few of the positive adjectives. Very few people walk by the piano without patting me on the back. They invariably say, “Good job.” I play 6 nights weekly. This is through April 16. Earlier I had been playing for some 15 years in the Catskill Mountains of New York. This was at Scott’s Oquaga Lake House. Another demanding job: Seven nights a week! Through the training of Mischa Kottler and the generousity and backing of my father, I’ve been enjoying a remarkable long career. I offer piano lessons in Sarasota. Below is a picture of the Gasparilla Inn.
Minute Waltz Glimpse of Chopin’ Genius. When a genius creates, everything he or she does is great. Such is the piano music of Frederic Chopin. The Minute waltz has a touching story attached to it. It was inspired by a dog. The dog belonged to his muse and girlfriend, George Sand.
The “Minute Waltz” is the nickname for the Waltz in D flat major, Op. 64, No. 1 by Frederic Chopin. It was written in 1847. It is a piece of music for the piano. It is sometimes called “The Waltz of the Little Dog” (French: Valse du petit chien). This is because Chopin was watching a little dog chase its tail when he wrote it. The little dog was “Marquis”. He belonged to Chopin’s friend George Sand. Marquis had befriended Chopin. The composer mentioned Marquis in several of his letters. In one letter dated 25 November 1846, Chopin wrote: “Please thank Marquis for missing me and for sniffing at my door.”
The waltz was published by Breitkopf & Härtel. It was the first of three waltzes in a collection of waltzes called Trois Valses, Op. 64. The publisher gave the waltz its popular nickname “Minute”. The tempo marking is Molto vivace (English: Very fast, very lively), but Chopin did not intend the waltz to be played in one minute as some believe. A typical performance will last between one and a half to two and a half minutes.
The Complex Rhythms of the Minute Waltz Revealed
Just take a look at my 5 measure excerpt above for this:
The treble staff has the 2 beat motif of four eighth notes in measures 1 and 2. The motif is repeated many times during the waltz.
The scale that follows in has 8 eighth notes. They cover 4 beats.
Measures 4 and 5 have a dotted quarter note beginning each measure. The entails 1½ beats each.
Also in 4 and 5, following the dotted quarter are 3 eighth notes. Each 3 note phrase lasts for 1½ beats.
Finally, against all this melodic complexity, we find a steady 1-2-3 beat in the left hand. It takes the form of “Bass-chord-chord.”
So Where Can I Hear David (this blogger) Play Chopin’s Minute waltz?
I am still booked six days a week through April 14 at the Gasparilla Inn. It is on the Florida isle of Boca Grande. There I get my choice of 2 vintage steinway Grand pianos. I played in the “living room” from 6:20 to 7:00 pm. Then I go in the dining room and play from 7 – 9 pm. See you there.
Career – Circumstances that Bolstered Beethoven’s. Here is a brief summary of his accomplishments from Wikipedia: Ludwig van Beethoven (baptized 17 December 1770 in Bonn – 26 March 1827 in Vienna) was a Germancomposer. He wrote classical music for the piano, orchestras and different groups of instruments. His best-known works are his third (“Eroica”), fifth, sixth (“Pastorale”) and ninth (“Choral”) symphonies, the eighth (“Pathetique”) and fourteenth (“Moonlight”) piano sonatas, two of his later piano concertos, his opera “Fidelio”, and also the piano piece Für Elise. When he was a young man, he was a talented pianist. Beethoven was popular with the rich and important people in Vienna, Austria, where he lived.
So, What Bolstered His Career?
Obviously, he played for rich and important people. But, he also held his music in the highest of esteem. Higher than even the royalty, At the time he lived in Vienna. It was the day of the amateur pianist. Aristocrats played the piano. They had a conception of how difficult mastery was. Prince Ferdinand Josel Lobkowitz was one of three that guarenteed him a life long income as long as he stayed in Vienna. This Prince had his own quartet. He played music all day long. Archduke Rudolph was a pianist who took lessons with Beethoven himself. He contributed to his income. The 3rd was Prince Ferdinand Kinsky. He loved vocal music. The times, Beethoven’s location and his incomparable genius launched his carrer. You could say, the right person at the right time. If the times are not quite right for you, be patient. Times also change in cycles. We are over due for lots of wonderful new happenings in the arts.
I have a special connection to Beethoven. It is being 5 generations removed by teaching lineage. Beethoven taught Carl Czerny. Czerny taught Franz Liszt. Liszt taught Emil von Sauer. Sauer taught my piano teacher, Mischa Kottler. I studied with Kottler for some 15 years. One of Beethoven’s inventions, I was told, was the prepared thumb. Also, the 2 note phrase was used to “divide and conquer” many difficulties. Enjoy my youtube presentation called the Paris Piano connection. You can hear me play 6 nights weekly at the Boca Grande Gasparilla Inn. I have a just newly reconditioned 1924 Steinway concert grand. This will be my 8th year of 6 nights weekly from Dec. 20 – April 14, 2017. I also have a couple of openings for piano lessons in Sarasota. The Beethoven tradition of my lineage of teachers must be kept alive!