High Stepping on the Steinway at World Class Gasparilla Inn

High Stepping on the Steinway Piano at World Class Gasparilla Inn. I feel like I have a special connection with Steinway grand pianos. My primary teacher on piano was Mischa Kottler. He kept two Steinway grands in his studio. For my lessons, I played on one. He accompanied and demonstrated on the other. What kind of teacher was Mischa? I quote Greg Philliganes in Keyboard Magazine. 

High Stepping with Mischa Kottler

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. Mischa 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. 

High Stepping on his Steinway was Mischa Kottler
Mischa Kottler preferred old vintage Steinways just like the ones I now play at the Gasparilla Inn.

I also have Mischa to thank for instilling in me speed and precision. He also instilled in me the desired to look for the “truth” in music. What is the music really about? How do you convey it?  Again, thanks to Mischa, I have year round employment. . Until Dec 18, I will be at the Crab and Fin in Sarasota. See events on DSOworks.com. Then, Gasparilla from Dec. 19- April 1 2018 for six nights weekly. I play on a newly rebuilt Steinway Grand. The parts were special ordered from Germany. In between, my wonderful agent Fitz Otis at Jay Goodley Entertainment Group books me any other time I am available. My advice to students: Work hard. Be serious. And yes, I have a couple of openings for piano lessons in Sarasota.

 

 

 

Keyboard consideration was quite flexible for J.S. Bach

Careless Music Editors Point the Wrong Way

Careless Music Editors Point the Wrong Way. I am a proud graduate of Cass Technical High School in Detroit. The school was a four-year university preparatory high school in Midtown Detroit, United States.[2][3] The school is named in honor of Lewis Cass, an American military officer and politician who served as governor of the Michigan Territory from 1813 until 1831. The school is a part of Detroit Public Schools. In the 1960’s Cass Tech two major musical curriculum. Both were college prep. The school had some 30 college prep courses of study. You could even major in aeronautics. We actually had an airplane in one of the rooms that you could work on for assembly or repair.  In the music courses the  students were wise to editors. We all spoke of a professional frustration cycle. It went from soloist to conductor to editor. Editors, we half-jokingly said, wanted to get revenge on everyone else. Obviously, they couldn’t be successful at the first two professions. Not bad for high school kids!

Careless music editors were bantered about at this High School in Detroit
My High School Alma mater was Cass Technical High School in Detroit

J.S. Bach omitted placing tempo, phrasing or dynamics in his works. Over zealous editors quickly stepped in.  I quote Edward Hughes from G. Schirmer  & Co. I think he is one of the good ones. Edwin Hughes taught at the Ganapol School of Musical Art in Detroit from 1910 to 1912, the Volpe Institute of Music in New York from 1916 to 1917, and the Institute of Musical Art in New York from 1918 to 1923. He lectured at various schools. From 1920 to 1926 he was special editor of piano music for G. Schirmer, Inc. He toured widely in the USA and Europe after the close of World War I; performed duo-recitals with his wife, the pianist Jewel Bethany Hughes, and also gave master-classes. He also had opinions about careless music editors.

Careless Music Editors Over-Edit

I am currently working on the Bach Prelude and Fugue in A minor. It is transcribed for piano by Franz Liszt. Publisher is G. Schirmer Inc. Hughes humbly states about his editing: “The phrasing is to be regarded more as indicative than complete. Of himself he states “There is no desire to appear arbitrary in matters of pedaling, touch and so forth. Also bear in mind: “In the democracy of art there is no final authority on such subjects.” I think these are the words of a great man.

Finally, if anyone is interested I have  I have one or two openings for piano students in Sarasota.

Mischa and I in our Sarasota Home
My instructor, Mischa Kottler, studied with Emil von Sauer- a pupil of Franz Liszt. I acquired a Master of Music degree from Wayne State University under Mischa.

Musical Transcriptions Were One of Bach’s Priorities

Musical Transcriptions Were One of Bach’s Priorities. However, he often transcribed his own works. Most think of transcription by people other than the original composer. For example, Franz Liszt transcribed some of Bach’s organ works for the piano. In fact, Liszt wrote transcriptions for piano of a wide variety of music. Indeed, about half of his composing work (approximately 400 out of 800 items) are arrangements of music by other composers.[52]

Musical transcriptions contributed to Liszt's popularity.
Liszt give the musical public what they wanted- musical transcriptions

During the period 1730-1733 Bach wrote seven concertos for harpsichord and strings. Most were musical transcriptions from his own violin concertos. Bach had a passion for transcriptions. He seemed to be never satisfied with any definitive version of his musical output.  I quote Wanda Landowski in her book, On Music: “His versatile and restless spirit refused to be limited to the use of any one particular instrument or even to instruments in general.”

Reason for Musical Transcriptions

What other reason can there be for writing a composition for different instruments? Perhaps business. It allows you to sell more copies.Instead of selling to only violinists, you can , also sell music to other instrumentalists. Also transcriptions makes a person popular with the public. If they enjoy a particular  work, they can also hear it played by a piano player. Liszt became rich enough to help many composers of his time.  Yes he was a great pianist. However, I feel his transcriptions propelled him to the top and gave him the reputation of being the greatest.

For years I worked as a transcriber for Rubinoff and His Violin. He too made a fortune.  He called me his best arranger in his lifetime of performing. Enjoy our concert at Scott’s Oquaga Lake House. We gave it in 1984. Witness the audience going wild over a violinist at age 87. I am playing the piano. Also, see for yourself what a difference arrangements can make. Also I have one or two openings for piano lessons in Sarasota.

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Lost Concert “Rubinoff and His Violin” on Oquaga Lake, 1984

Lesley & Ohrenstein
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Libra Music Has Verve

Libra Music as Effected by Instructor, Franz Liszt

Libra Music Has Verve and Drive to Spare. The month of Libra takes place September 23 – October 23. Some sources have a give or take of a day or two. The following is based on my upcoming book, Music Under the Zodiac. Hopefully, it will overall intention is to make musical therapy more pointed. However, much is also written in the spirit of fun.

Composers born during the month of Libra music include: George Gershwin, John Philip Rameau, Dmitri Shostakovich, Paul Dukas, Heinrich Schutz, Camille Sain-Säens, Giuseppe Verdi (Joe Green translated to English), Ralph Vaughan Williams, and our featured composer: Franz Liszt.

Libra Music as Written by a Libra Comoser
Franz Liszt’s music had the power, verve and drive of Libra, an air sign.

What was Liszt’s thought process that made him a great virtuoso? It was his approach to piano practice. This I gleamed from my own teacher, Mischa Kottler. He didn’t say “practice, practice, practice.” Many used to say, the way to Carnegie Hall was directed by this repeated word.  Mischa  rather said, practice slowly and one hand at the time. Kottler learned the art of piano practice from Emil von Sauer. In turn, Sauer studied with Franz Liszt.

Image result for picture of Mischa Kottler for the blog on changing music
Mischa Kottler, my teacher, studied with Emil von Sauer. In turn, Sauer studied over two summers with Franz Liszt in Austria.

Liszt not only practiced slowly. He would practice each element of the music slowly. He would practice being rhythmically precise with each hand. He would work the dynamics that he wanted. If two notes were to be played by the right hand, he would strike them exactly together. Playing as close as possible to exact togetherness was most important. It makes each note resonate more beautifully.  A 10th of a second brake between even two notes was not to be tolerated. He developed a special technique for playing the ubiquitous two note phrase.

So why am I not touring the world as a great pianist? Like so many, I was too impatient. Slow and hands separate practice was not for me. I thought I was better than “slow”. Now I’m older. This type of practice is making all the difference in the world.

Libra Music in the Balance of Fast and Slow

Finally, let’s tie all this into the scales of Libra. The opposite of very slow is ultra fast. By slow practice, you acquire precise and accurate speed. One extreme rocks the other. You can “practice, practice, practice” and never get good. As Mischa would said to me: “David, you are only perfecting your mistakes!” If practice takes hours upon hours, it’s because of the requited painfully slow tempo of meaningful practice. I changed my mode of practice late in life. It’s making all the difference in the world. And yes, I have room for a couple of piano students in Sarasota.

 

 

 

Andante Tempo Chaos

Andante Tempo Chaos as Tempo Lacks Resolution

Andante Tempo Chaos as Tempo Lacks Resolution. I enjoy reading books on music. Landowska on Music is such a book. Wanda Aleksandra Landowska (5 July 1879 – 16 August 1959) was a PolishFrench harpsichordist whose performances, teaching, recordings and writings played a large role in reviving the popularity of the harpsichord in the early 20th century. She was the first person to record Johann Sebastian Bach‘s Goldberg Variations on the harpsichord (1933). She became a naturalized French citizen in 1938.[1]

Landowska we lwowie.jpg

Wanda Landowska in 1937

Her chapter 10 is  entitled “Of Movement and Measure.” I was enthralled by her method of defining the word “andante”. I felt it was necessary to share it with my readers. The differing descriptions of this term can leave a person confused. You might ask, is there even a real answer? She also compares the descriptions of Andante with Andantino. Musicians, read the quotes and decide for yourselves.

Musical Dictionary Andante Tempo Chaos

  1. Le Dictionnaire de l’Academie Française states:  Andante- moderate movement.
  2. Littré: Andante- not too fast or too slow.  Andantino- slower than Andante.
  3. L’Encyclopédie:  “Andante” slow movement.  Andantino – faster than Andante (an obvious contradiction with #2).
  4.  L’Encyclopédie des Gens du Monde: “Andantino”- faster than andante. However, under the word “Movement” we find”Andantino” is slower than andante!
  5. L’Encyclopédie Moderne: “Andantino” means a slower measure and a certain regularity in movement, more in keeping with stiffness than with gravity.
  6. Larousse: “Andante”- moderate movement with a tendency towards slowness. “Andantino” -word indicating a modification of movement (whatever that means).
  7. I’ve saved what I think is the best quote for last:  Le Nouveau Larousse- Andantino- more animated. All musicians agree on this subject!

Well, what source are you going to believe? Perhaps the performer factors into the andante-andantino equation. A most beautiful description of Andante came from the incomparable lady,  George Sand. She was Chopin’s companion and lover. “Autumn is a melancholy and gracious andante which admirably prepares the solemn adagio . Please share this with friends. Perhaps this blog illustrates why most can’t seem to agree on anything- even andante.

George Sand by Charles Louis Gratia (c. 1835)

Proper piano practice without being precise is time tossed in the river.

Proper Piano Practice Means Precision

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.”

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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 Pianist Age 94

Special Birthday for My Teacher, Mischa Kottler

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 [1] 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

Maestro Mischa Kottler came to visit with our family on his special birthday
A young David (the blogger) and older Mischa at age 94.

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.

 

Pachelbel Canon Remains Popular for 350 + years

Pachelbel Canon is Still Popular 350 years Later

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.

Photo of Crab & Fin - Sarasota, FL, United States
Diners Love to Listen to my rendition Pachelbel’s Canon in D at the elegant Crab and Fin outdoor setting.

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.

 

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You’ll hear everything from the Pachelbel Canon to Billy Joel while dining or enjoying a beverage at the Crab and FIn

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

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.[3] 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.

Friedrich Zweite Alt.jpg
Portrait of Frederick the Great; By Anton Graff, 1781 who fought the Beer versus coffee Battle with Bach.

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.

beer versus coffee
Beer versus Coffee – In this case I think I would prefer the coffee.

 

proper musical rendition

Proper Musical Rendition Has Multiple Choices

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 music radio host, known for his sonorous speaking voice, humanistic approach to music appreciation, and popularization of classical music.[1] 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.[2] He also published the book Inside Music.[3] 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.

Posted by DSO Works on Sunday, May 28, 2017

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.