musical ornamentation

Musical Ornamentation was Once Quite Extensive

Musical Ornamentation was Once Quite Extensive. I refer to the baroque era.  It also was quite a complex art.  As you read, keep in mind music is always a litmus test for what is happening with  civilization.  Below is a portrait of Louis XIV. He was called the Sun King.  His court at Versailles signaled the beginnings of the Classical Baroque era in art. Included in these arts were architecture, music, and fashion. Also, we have a diagram of an excerpt from Chopin’s Nocturne Op. 27 #2 across from Louis XIV. Chopin’s music fraught with exquisite details: Just like the Sun King’s dress. Chopin, having a French father, strongly identified with French culture. He lived for a while in Paris:

Frédéric Chopin was of both French and Polish background.  He grew up in Warsaw. After the 1830 November Uprising in Poland, Chopin settled in Paris.  At age 21, he took up his residence in Paris. He would live in nine other places there until his untimely death at age 39. Even if you do not play piano, look at the musical illustration. It simply looks quite frilly. A few notes could replace the incredible ornamentation use by Chopin. The music in sound parallels the dress of the King.

Chopin – Nocturne Op. 27 No. 2 (Rubinstein) – YouTube

Musical ornamentation by Chopin
Musical ornamentation of the Baroque era was amply revived for the piano by Chopin in the Romantic, about 75 years later.
Image result for picture or painting of elaborate dress from the baroque era
Ornamentation is music is seen in ornamentation in dress. Dress of Louis XIV.

But wait. As if that wasn’t complex enough!

Two Schools of Musical Ornamentation

In addition to the French there was the Italian. The French school demanded being precise. This included with all the ports de voix, cadences, mordents, trills…

In contrast the Italian school permitted arbitrary ornaments. Schooling was combined with personal imagination. This included a number of different ways chords could be rolled.

The great musical bastion of the baroque era was J.S. Bach. He was quite familiar with French ornaments. It is known that he copied the ornaments of Dieupart. However, at times he used those of the Italian school. Like all great composers, his interests were not limited.

Final point: Beautiful melody, as Chopin and other Romantic writers once wrote, is returning. The American melody parallel is the Big Band music of the 1930’s.  An education in ornamentation is part of the total package. Many more blogs will be upcoming on this subject. Keep checking DSOworks.com. Exciting musical events are in the making!

 

 

 

 

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)

Significant rests determine character

Significant Rests Determine Wedding or Funeral

 

Significant Rests determine Wedding or Funeral. Does a composer write rests into his music or not? If he does, the rests have a very specific function. They add lightness or breathing space into the music. We would expect a lack of rests in a funeral march due to its somber nature.  On the other hand, we would expect rests in a Bridal Chorus. On the basic level: A funeral is a sad and heavy occasion = few, if any rests.  A wedding is lighter and definitely joyful. We would expect quite a number of rests. Significant rests, and other factors determine the difference. One of the most tradition funeral marches was written by Chopin. While, the most traditional wedding march for the processional was written by Wagner.

Frédéric Chopin‘s Piano Sonata No. 2 in B minor, Op. 35, popularly known as the Funeral March, was completed in 1839 at Nohant, near Châteauroux in France. However, the third movement, whence comes the sonata’s common nickname, had been composed as early as 1837.  It was played at the graveside during Chopin’s own burial at Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris.[2]

significant rests - Chopin knew when and when not to use them
Everything Chopin notated in the music displays knowledge and genius.

Wagner wrote a bridal chorus in Lohengrin. It uses a similar opening rhythm to Chopin’s Funeral March.  The basic pattern of Chopin‘s motif is  (1) quarter note, (2) dotted eighth, followed by (3) a 16th note, and another (quarter note). However, the musical motif of Wagner‘s wedding march lightens the mood with two rests. They are the 8th and 16th note rests in the featured picture. I suggest the pianist observe these rules when playing for either occasion:

  • When performing the wedding march, release the damper pedal during the rests. This pedal adds heaviness to the music and the occasion. Rather, let the rests come through and punctuate the melody.
  • Conversely, when playing the funeral march plenty of damper pedal is just fine.

Yes, I am available as a pianist for all occasions.

 

 

Johannes Brahms Arch Romanticist

Low Living High Thinking Characterizes Johannes Brahms

Low Living High Thinking Johannes Brahms. I think the featured picture of Brahms portrays his humility and kindness. Johannes Brahms (* 7 May 1833 in Hamburg , † 3. April 1897 in Vienna ) was a German composer , pianist and conductor whose compositions mainly of high romance from the Romantic Era of classical music. In the Romantic period, music became more expressive and emotional, expanding to encompass literary, artistic, and philosophical themes. Famous composers from the second half of the century include Johann Strauss II, Brahms, Liszt, Tchaikovsky, Verdi, and Wagner. Brahms is one of the most important composers of the second half of the 19th century. He was born in Hamburg on May 7, 1833. His masterful of use of counterpoint with beautiful melody are unequaled.

I’ve been practicing the six numbers of opus 118. Very seldom does he change a time signature in any one of these numbers.  However, like Chopin, he often changes meter within the context of the music. Thus both Brahms and Chopin would write in 3/4. But the feeling of the beats are 2/4 time. Then, the beat flows back to the designated 3/4 time.

Low Living High Thinking  is How the Giant Named Johannes Brahms Grew Up

 

Low living high thinking, This was the birthplace of Johannes Brahms.
Johannes Brahms grew up in the first floor dwelling to the left of the door. A great man grew up in a small apartment tenement.

Young Brahms became the the conductor of a Choral Society in Detmold. He was also Court Pianist and Teacher of the royal family. The post came with free rooms and living expenses.  He resided at the Hotel Stadt Frankfort. It was located exactly opposite the castle where he worked. He brought about quite a change in his lifestyle by his own efforts! Also, he could talk about almost any subject. One of his sayings was: : “Whoever wishes to play well must not only practice a great deal, but read many books.” My source is Story-Lives of Master Musicians by Harriette Brower, 1922 Frederick A. Stokes Company, page 306.  Now you can see why I chose the featured library picture. And yes, a poor person with character, determination and knowledge can make a tremendous success out of life.

 

 

Chopinesque also includes baroque techniques

Chopinesque Includes a Love of J.S. Bach

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:

Works for keyboard (BWV 772–994)
  • 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.

Where you may hear the Chopinesque playing of David Ohrenstein
Home of a magnificent just rebuilt vintage Steinway Grand from the 1920’s. Larry Keckler, a master technician, just rebuilt it. David plays here 6 nights weekly starting Dec, 20th.

How, Music is in the Biblical Name, David

How, Music is in the Biblical Name, David: OK, so my name is also David. I’m a composer/pianist. Pure co-incidence. The Hebrew language can lift the fog that lies between the similarities between music and David. In Hebrew letters, David is spelled “dalet, vav, dalet”:  דוד. As a letter and  a number actually share the same symbol in Hebrew, we have:

  • Dalet- the 1st letter equals 4
  • Vav- the 2nd letter equals 6
  • Dalet-the third letter equals 4.

Now, I hope not too many of you will be upset with this quote from Aristotle:”The elements of numbers are the elements of things and therefore, things are numbers.” The most obvious connection of numbers with things are musical intervals. They use set ratios between two number.

ALL ABOUT THE “PERFECT” MUSICAL FIFTH OF DAVID

The basis of both ancient and modern tuning is the musical fifth. Here is the ratio of the two tones:

  • For every time the higher of the two tones vibrates three times,
  • The lower note vibrates two times
  • To hear these notes just think of the opening 4 tones of “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star”. The second two are a fifth higher than the first two.

Now let’s look at the numbers behind the name of David:

  • 4 to 6 reduces to 2 to 3. By interval ratios this defines the lower fifth from a starting tone,
  • then 6 to 4 reduces to 3 to 2. This defines the higher fifth from a lower starting  musical tone

David’s power came through his music. He harmonized with the natural plan. This is why the Bible speaks of him as a musician first and and ruler second.

MY UPCOMING BOOK, MUSIC UNDER THE ZODIAC

At this point, I must mention another upcoming project (too many projects!). I call the book Music Under the Zodiac. It is based on a unique way to align the 12 key signatures with the 12 signs of the zodiac. It will be used to advance musical therapy. For example, if you have a headache, listen to the music in F# minor.    So much is recorded on Youtube that is free. Most important, pick a pianist with a good touch. Arthur Rubinstein is my favorite in this regard. I also plan to make piano recordings of music that uses my inspired system of therapy. I have several examples of touch in the music of Debussy on my front page of DSOworks,com.  Francois Couperin le Grand wrote a treatise on this subject in 1717. It is called L’Art de Toucher le Clavecin. Then, if you care to, e-mail me about the effect of the music you’ve listened to.

  • Chopin- Polonaise Opus 44 in F# minor
  • Chopin- Nocturne Opus 48 #2
  • Brahms- Sonata in F# minor
  • J.S. Bach- Prelude and Fugue No. 14 Book II of The Well-Tempered Clavier
  • Rachmaninoff- Concerto in F# minor opus 1.
Astrology Signs, Birth Signs, Zodiac, Astrology
The Discovery I Made Between Key Signatures and the Zodiac Can Help the Cause of Musical Therapy. Keep Watching For My Book: Music Under the Zodiac. It’s 3 or 4 months away from publication on this website. I’ll try to hurry!

 

דוד
דוד
דוד
דוד
דוד
דוד
דוד

Melody and 3/4 Time are Returning

Melody and 3/4 time are returning. Music that is heavy on square, off beat rhythm and simple chant but lacks beauty of melody and rhythmic variety has overstayed its welcome. They have been like guests that just won’t leave.  These guests, by the way,  have names. I call them the three “R’s”:  Rock and Roll and Rap. Most of their rhythms are square . They dominate through 4/4 or 2/4 time meters.  Two of the guests, Rock and Roll, insist and the constant hypnotic repetition of the “upbeat,” beats two and four. These three guests tend to avoid triple meter like the plague. To them, the words and melody of the 1936 song “By Strauss” music by George and lyrics by Ira Gershwin represent a worst case scenario: Ira  Gershwin writes about how a melody in 3/4 time literally goes lilting through the house. By the way, you can enjoy By Strauss in the classic movie, the 1951 production of : An American in Paris. It is a showstopper It is danced with comedy and verve as only Gene Kelly can.  The movie was inspired by the 1928 orchestral work with the same title by George Gershwin. It also features some of Gershwin’s most loved songs. The climax is a 16  minute  ballet on the 1928 orchestral work.  By the way, the movie won 8 academy awards.

Detail from frontispiece to Thomas Wilson’s Correct Method of German and French Waltzing (1816), showing nine positions of the Waltz, clockwise from the left- where the musicians are seated (from Wikopedia)

THE EFFECT OF TIME METERS ON THE PUBLIC

Duple (2/4 and 4/4) meters have sharp angles. Just watch a conductor outlining the angular motions with his baton. Triple meter can be conducted with a baton going in circles. When  understanding time meters and their effects,  the alchemical “squaring of the circle” takes on new meaning: Duple meters are earthbound. The square is associated with the alchemical element of  of earth. The circle represents heaven. Squaring the circle means bringing heaven to earth. The circle represents spiritual qualities- Qualities that are beautiful but you cannot touch.  We need to paraphrase “squaring the circle.” Since the angular rhythms have been so prominent for the last 60 years, we need to “circle the square” with 3/4 time and melody.

OUR RICH WALTZ TRADITION

 I recommend this needed return to melody written in three-four time meter. It will help with our spiritual survival which ultimately helps our physical survival.  This task is up to the composers.  One such popular waltz number is by Cat Stevens, Morning Has Broken. Norwegian Wood by the Beatles is another. You Light Up My life by Joe Brooks is a third example.  Schubert wrote a collection of waltzes. Brahms has a book of waltzes. Chopin, of course loved waltzes and gave the Viennese waltz a Polish twist.  Remember Strauss, the waltz king, which the Gershwins championed as I just wrote about above. The old minuet is in 3/4 time.  Let’s look to these rich traditions of the past. Then we can turn around to face the future, knowing that our lives will be happier as a result. Incidentally, the ancient Greeks had the same thoughts about music – that music affects character.  They called this musical property  by the name of “ethos”.

Mischa Kottler- A Visit By the Legendary Piano Instructor

Mischa and I in our Sarasota Home
Mischa and I in our Sarasota Home

A VISIT FROM THE LEGENDARY MISCHA  KOTTLER

Mischa Kottler – A visit by the legendary piano instructor. Here’s how it all started: The phone rings.  I pick it up and hear, “David, this is your piano teacher, Mischa.” I was incredulous .  Having left Detroit, Michigan 10 years earlier, I remembered that Mischa Kottler was in his eighties  just before I had moved to Sarasota.  I said to the voice on the phone: “That’s a joke. Who is this, really?”

Minute Waltz (Mischa Kottler Version) – YouTube (to be amazed beyond words, click on you tube words and watch)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aziJb4KAcwA
Dec 28, 2013 – Uploaded by Joseph Beels

Chopin’s Minute Waltz, with a twistMischa Kottler playsRachmaninoff’s Third Piano Concerto, Movement #1 – Duration: 15:18. by Joseph  …

The voice said, “Really, it’s Mischa and I hear that you have more children than I know piano concertos.”

Mischa with our children
Mischa with our children

At that moment, I knew it was Mischa because his gruff, Russian accent now matched his familiar sense of humor.  To my shock, he said he would love to fly to Sarasota to visit me and my family. To which I, without hesitation, said , “Yes.”   He also said he would be happy to give me piano lessons in the exchange.  To which I immediately said,”That would be a dream come true!”

Mischa’s famous students

Mischa had guided the careers, at least in part, of such notables as Seymour Lipkin, Ruth Laredo,  and Cynthia Raim.   Mischa’s student frequently went on to win piano competitions.  He even gave advice to Van Cliburn, who flew in from Texas for fingering solutions to a Brahms Piano Concerto.  My father and I saw van Cliburn leave as I arrived for my piano lesson.  I was told at the time by Mischa to keep Van Cliburn’s visit a secret…. which I have until now.   You may remember that Van Cliburn was an American pianist who achieved worldwide recognition in 1958, at the age of 23, when he won the first quadrennial International Tchaikovsky Piano Competition in Moscow at the height of the Cold War that actually opened the doors to better Russian-American relations.  Ah, the merits of great music, well-played!

Mischa and I at the piano with my daughter
Mischa and I at the piano with my daughter

If you were accepted as a  Kottler student,  you might have to wait about 1-2 years just to start, his lesson time was in such demand.  Even then, acceptance didn’t mean regular piano lessons.  Since Mischa was the official pianist of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, he would tour for months.

Mischa’s own legendery teacher – Alfred Cortot

A visit from the legendary Mischa Kottler. Wow! That Mischa was actually coming to stay with our family was beyond my wildest dreams.  When he arrived at our home, this man at 94 years of age, sat down at our not so great piano and played Chopin’s “Minute Waltz”.  It is incredibly difficult to play in tempo with single notes, but  Mischa played it with double notes in 3rds, 4ths and 5ths in the right hand at the same tempo that other pianists are only able to play it one note at the time.  Mischa mastered this most difficult art under the instruction of Alfred Cortot….who had studied with  a pupil of Chopin.  Kottler studied with Cortot at the Paris Conservatory during the 1920’s because of a recommendation from a very impressive pianist composer – Sergei Rachmaninoff.   Kottler had auditioned for Rachamninoff.  I was told by Kottler that Rachmaninoff said to Kottler, ” You have to go to Paris and study with Cortot.” and gave him a a personal letter of recommendation.

Another notable Mischa 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 Misha more than anything else. 

Now you see why titled the blog: Mischa Kottler- A Visit By the Legendary Piano Instructor

 

 

Unique Finger Exercises for Pianists

franz liszt finger exercises
Franz Liszt Had Unique Finger Exercises

Numerous pianist-composers have written their own finger exercises. At times these exercises were performed away from the piano and were termed “finger gymnastics.” E. Piccirilli mentions in his book, Gymnastics and Massage of the Hand, published in 1914 in Rome how the conductor of La Scala, Tonassi,  had seen Franz Liszt use such exercises before sitting down at the piano. A detailed description is given in Piccirilli’s book.   These finger gymnastics were confirmed by a blind keyboard player, Luigi Modulo, who was the organist at S. Simon Grange. Modulo said that Liszt had shown these exercises to a friend of the director of the Institute of Padua; and that the institute produced the best students. I will deal with these forgotten exercises in future blogs.

Carl Czerny and the Beethoven lineage

Carl Czerny  wrote exercise books to facilitate the playing of Beethoven; among them were The School and Velocity and The Art of Finger Dexterity. My own instructor, Mischa Kottler, demonstrated his lineage back to Beethoven and the Czerny exercises and directed me on how to play Czerny’s studies.   Mischa studied in Vienna in the 1920’s with Emil von Sauer, who studied with Franz Liszt, who studied with Carl Czerny who studied  four years with Beethoven himself. Beethoven was a great innovator of piano technique and passed his secrets on to his students.  I know which of the techniques I employ were, in fact, used by Beethoven. I have already blogged on this website about his innovative prepared thumb and will blog about other key techniques.

Cortot’s elaborate finger exercises based on Chopin

Chopin wrote two volumes of concert etudes; his opus 10 and opus 25. They include studies in every key.  We see the influence of J.S. Bach who Chopin not only admired and regularly practiced; but also imitated Bach’s use of diverse key signatures in his own compositions.  After studying with von Sauer, Mischa then went to Paris to study under Alfred Cortot. Cortot, in turn, was tutored by a pupil of Chopin. When I was taught the Chopin etudes, Mischa insisted that I purchase the edition written by Cortot. I had to send my order to Paris in order to purchase it.  Alfred Cortot wrote an introduction with elaborate instructions for each etude. I had to play these”pre-study” studies for Mischa as part of my “going through the mill”. For my next blog I will discuss a great study for assisting small to medium sized hands, which I invented;  so, I am at liberty to demonstrate it.