Chopinesque Includes a Love of J.S. Bach. My piano instructor was Mischa Kottler. In the 1920’s Kottler went to Europe. He had a recommendation from Sergei Rachmaninoff to study with Alfred Cortot. From Cortot, Kottler learned about the influences on Chopin’s compositional style. These influences included Polish folk music, the classical tradition of J. S. Bach, Mozart and Schubert. Mischa also emphasized how crucial study of J.S. Bach was for playing Chopin properly. So how this affect my musical education?
My Chopinesque Education at Wayne State University
I received both Bachelor of Music and Master of Music degrees from Wayne State University. While at Cass Tech High School, I began my studies with Mischa Kottler. Before I even graduated high school, Mischa was appointed head of the piano department at the university. They gave him a studio right next door to the head of the Liberal Arts Music Department’s office. In this manner those applying could hear the most wonderful music issuing forth next door. You could always tell when the student was playing and when Mischa was playing. Mischa used a phrase for good piano instruction. He called it: “going through the mill.” The “mill” included a continual stream of J.S. Bach. As soon as you completed one book of Bach’s works, he took you to the next level. These volumes included:
- Inventions and Sinfonias
- Four Duets from Clavier-Übung III
- English Suites
- French Suites
- Miscellaneous suites
- Partitas for keyboard (published as Clavier-Übung I)
- French Overture, from Clavier-Übung II
Properly playing baroque counterpoint was key to effective Chopin. Cortot felt this was mainly to be acquired by playing Bach. When Kottler gave his lessons excercises came first, They would include finrst finger independence exercises, then Czerny, Cramer etc. Then came Bach. Afterwards came classical sonatas, romantic works and something 20th century-ish. Chopin was Mischa’s favorie composer. Below is a sample of him playing the minute waltz by Chopin. As you listen to the work, his virtuoso counterpoint is simply incredible. Who today could play it like Mischa? In the meanwhile, I am available for piano lessons in Sarasota until the season in “kicks in.” A vintage Steinway grand from 1924 was just rebuilt by management for my 8th year at the Gasparilla Inn on the isle of Boca Grande. See you there starting Dec. 20 Through April 14. I play six nights weekly.