The art of the piano seminar topics

An Exploration of the Styles and Essential Literature of Important Composers for the Piano

An introduction to musical style

This session examines the essential elements and distinguishing characteristics that constitute proper performance style and fashion in keyboard music of the past three hundred years. The expressive touches, phrasing, tempo, texture, dynamics, rhythm, and evolving performance techniques will be discussed through musical examples taken from the Baroque, Classic, Romantic, Impressionistic, and 20th Century.

Issac Albeniz (1860-1909, Spain)

Albeniz, one of Spain's most important composers, developed a style based upon the richness of his Spanish heritage. He wrote over 250 works, but many are seldom played. His works portray the sounds of the Spanish guitar and rhythms of castanets and the clicks from the heels of dancer's shoes. First Suite espanola, Op. 47: Granada, Sevilla (Sevillanas), Asturias (Legend), Castilla (Seguidillas); Espana, Op. 165; Tango in D; Cantos de Espana, Op. 232: Preludio, Bajo la palmera (Danse espagnole), Sous le palmier, Cordoba

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750, Germany)
Introduction To Bach’s Style

Every pianist must have a basic knowledge of the keyboard works of this great master. His works were known, loved, and taught by every great pianist and composer following him, including Beethoven, Chopin, and Liszt. Everything Bach wrote displayed great talent for melodic, harmonic and rhythmic originality. His works have spiritual power and are the inspiration of pure genius.

Johann Sebastian Bach
Preludes Of The Well-Tempered Clavier, Volume I

The works of J. S. Bach were known, loved, and taught by every great pianist and composer following him, including Beethoven, Chopin, Mendelssohn, and Liszt. Everything Bach wrote displayed great talent for melodic, harmonic and rhythmic originality. His works have spiritual power and are the inspiration of pure genius. Bach’s magnificent Preludes from the Well-Tempered Clavier embrace most of the musical forms in use during the first half of the 18th century.

Johann Sebastian Bach
The Dances

The Baroque dances found in Bach's Keyboard Suites. The spirit of the Allemande, Courante, Sarabande, Minuet, Rondo, and Gigue.

Bela Bartok (1881-1945, Hungary)
Music For The Young: For Children, Part One;
Ten Easy Piano Pieces; Sonatina; Six Rumanian Folk Dances

Bartok, one of the finest pianists and composers of the twentieth century, wrote over three hundred piano pieces ranging from simple music for children to three massive piano concertos. His music was influenced by the folk songs and dances of his native Hungary and is often very physical, appealing to our human instincts. Bartok's musical language is filled with keyless modal melodies, chromatic harmonies, and intervals and clusters in parallel motion, and with rapidly changing meters and unusual complex rhythms. This introduction to his style will study Schumann”music is for the intellect; Chopin’s appeals to our emotions and feelings. Bartok's music is physical and appeals to our human instincts.

Ludwig Van Beethoven (1770-1827, Germany)
Seminar A. Bagatelles, Opp. 33, 119, 126
Seminar B. Introduction To The Sonatas

Beethoven, one of the most famous composers the world has ever known, is one of the great cultural heroes of Western civilization. He spirit is not only of his time but is timeless. His music communicates to people of all ages. His life and music shows a struggle to overcome hardship and to finally transcend the normal level of human achievement. Beethoven expressed virtually all human feelings in sound in the noblest manner, from deep-felt despair to great ecstasy and joy.

Johann Burgmuller
Eighteen Characteristic Studies, Opus, 109
Steven Heller
Twenty-Five Melodious Studies, Opus 45

Johann Burgmuller and Steven Heller were not born French, but they both lived in Paris and wrote numerous short pieces for piano in the Parisian salon style. Their works have been popular with pianists, teachers, and students ever since they were composed. The Studies provide many of the basic techniques necessary to perform and interpret early 19th-century Romantic piano music.

Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)
Intermezzi and Selected Short Works

Brahms, a superb concert pianist with fabulous technical ability, truly understood the piano; His works for keyboard truly “fit the hand.” His works range from enormous virtuoso concert displays to short nocturne-like lyric pieces filled with intimacy, gentleness, and wonderfully expressive piano sonorities.

Muzio Clementi (1752-1832, Italy)
Sonatinas, Op. 36, & the sonatas

Clementi, composer, keyboard player, teacher, music publisher, and piano manufacturer, was born four years before Mozart, and outlived Beethoven by five years. He was the first composer to write strictly for the piano. Clementi, the originator of the brilliant piano-style of composition and virtuoso piano playing, was in great demand as a teacher. He influenced many important pianists and composers, including Beethoven.

Frederic Chopin (Poland 1810-1849)
Introduction To Chopin’s Style

Chopin's music excited listeners and pianists alike when it first appeared and has been increasingly loved ever since. His music, filled with an extraordinary variety of human feelings, demands that the piano "sing" with tender melodies. This session will survey various forms of Chopin's important masterpieces, including selected Waltzes, Mazurkas, Etudes, Preludes, Polonaises, and Nocturnes.

Frederic Chopin

The Mazurka is a traditional Polish country dance in triple time, with dotted rhythms and frequent rhythmical stresses on either the second or third beats. Frederic Chopin established the Mazurka as an art form and the popularity of his Mazurkas brought Chopin great fame. Chopin's Mazurkas are a wealth of beautiful melodies, fascinating rhythms, and extraordinary harmonies. Numerous composers have written Mazurkas in the attempt to benefit from the popularity of Chopin's Mazurkas, but no other composer has been able to approach Chopin's level of artistry.

Frederic Chopin
Preludes, Opus 28.

The Preludes form one of Chopin's greatest contributions to piano literature. These free creations, improvisatory in character, are filled with an extraordinary variety of moods. There are moments of lyrical tenderness, tragedy, passion, agitation, tranquility, romantic splendor, and spiritual meditation.

Frederic Chopin

Chopin published eighteen Nocturnes during his life in sets of either two or three. His three remaining Nocturnes from between 1827 and 1848 were discovered and published over the next century. In his Nocturnes Chopin achieved the seemingly impossible - singing upon the piano. The elegant ornamentation of a florid right hand melody against the stable left hand accompaniment is one of the main features of Chopin's Nocturnes and is a texture that we now often call "Chopinesque".

Claude Debussy (France 1862-1918)
Early Works (1888-1890) - Arabesques; Reverie; Ballade, Nocturne

Debussy revolutionized music for the piano with his use of polytonality, exotic scales, multiple layers of sound, unusual pedal effects and harmonies moving in parallel motion. Debussy's early works show the influence of the late Romantic Era, yet elements of Debussy's later style already begin to appear. These works reveal Debussy beginning his search for a new musical language.

Claude Debussy

Debussy, considered by most pianists to be one of the first great masters of twentieth century piano music, composed twenty-four Preludes in two books. In this introduction to his Preludes, Debussy's use of dissonance, polytonality, original harmonies and exotic scales will be explored.

Claude Debussy
Children's Corner

Debussy mastered the art of suggestion. His evolving tonal hues create a sense of drama and express vague impressions. Debussy's most famous collection, The Children's Corner, is filled with satire, humor, and tenderness.

Edvard Grieg (1843-1907 Norway)
Lyric Pieces

The music of Grieg, the greatest of the Norwegian composers, has survived changing musical fashions. Grieg's ten sets of Lyric Pieces show the influence by his favorite composers Schumann and Chopin. These sixty-six works are portraits of Norwegian life and express a wide range from deeply felt human experiences to fantastic worlds of imaginary elves.

William Gillock (1917-1993, U.S.A.)
24 Preludes In A Romantic Style

Gillock is recognized throughout the world as one of America's most respected composers of music for the piano. His music is enjoyed by students of all ages and is a valuable resource for teachers. The fundamentals of Romantic piano playing will be discussed through these works, such as producing beautiful melodic tones and expressive phrasing, balancing singing melodies over supporting accompaniment, pedaling, phrasing, touches, rhythm, spirit, tempo determination and imagery.

Joseph Haydn (1732-1809, Austria)
The Sonatas

Haydn is one of the most influential composers. His music is full of joy, dance, song and entertainment and expresses the spirit and energy of the time between the Baroque and Classic periods. Haydn is the earliest master of Western art music whose works have been played continuously from his time to our time. Composers are often forgotten and then rediscovered, but Haydn has never been forgotten.

Dmitri Kabalevsky (1904-1987, Russia)
Music For The Young

Kabalevsky was one of the most influential great masters of twentieth century music. He was a fine pianist who wrote brilliantly for the instrument. His music is studied and performed by virtually every piano student. 30 Children's Pieces, Op. 27; 24 Pieces for the Young, Op. 39; Two Sonatinas, Op. 13; Two Variations, Op. 40

Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847, Germany)
Songs Without Words

Mendelssohn was one of the finest pianists of his time and probably one of the greatest of all improvisers. His most important contribution to the piano is his set of forty-eight Songs without Words, which are some of the world's best-loved music. These sketches are some of the finest expressions of German Romanticism.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791, Austria)
Seminar A. The Sonatas
Seminar B. The Variations

Mozart is one of the most famous composers in music history. He absorbed and transformed all that he heard and saw. His music is not frilly, mechanical, or trite but has depth, passion, humor, and humanity. A master of almost every musical form, Mozart combines intense personal emotion with beauty of sound, classical elegance, and technical finesse.

Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky (Russia 1840-1893)
Album For The Young, Opus 39

Tchaikovsky is one of the best representatives of the 19th-century Russian Nationalistic style of composition. His music is extremely popular with audiences of all ages. He is best known for his large orchestral works, operas, and music for the ballet. In 1878 Tchaikovsky's wrote twenty-four short pieces with imaginative titles for solo piano, the Album for the Young, Opus 39. This wonderful collection for children shows the influence of Robert Schumann's work by the same name, Album for the Young, Op. 68.

Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
The Seasons, Opus 37b

In 1876 Tchaikovsky was commissioned to write twelve short piano pieces to be published one each month throughout the year in a St. Petersburg music magazine, the Nuvellist. Printed along with the title of each of the charming miniatures was a poetic description depicting the character and activities of the particular month? Since Tchaikovsky did not conceive The Seasons as a suite, the individual works in this collection may be played alone or in small groups. Although written for solo piano, The Seasons reveal Tchaikovsky's great talent for orchestration.

Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953, Russia)
Twelve Easy Pieces For Piano, Op. 65

Prokofiev, often called the "Russian Liszt," was one of the greatest piano virtuosos and composers of the twentieth century. Prokofiev was anti-Romantic in his approach to music and technique, exploring the percussive capabilities of the piano with metallic-sounding tones in complicated rhythms. Gone were the rich sonorities, wide-spaced arpeggios and pretty melodies; this is music of revolution.

Maurice Ravel (1875-1937, France)
Prelude (1913), Menuet Sur Le Nom De Haydn (1909); Sonatine (1905); Jeux D’eau (1901); Le Tombeau De Couperin (1914-1917)

Ravel, a master of tonal color and design, pushed tonality to the threshold of polytonality and extended the pianistic tradition of Liszt. By exploiting sonorities of the piano's upper register, Ravel achieved effects of fluency and light clarity similar to a Scarlatti Sonata, appealing more to the senses than to the emotions.

Domenico Scarlatti (1685-1757, Italy)
The Sonatas

Scarlatti's most important contribution to the art of keyboard music consists of almost six hundred sonatas. Within these very pianistic miniature works, Scarlatti produced an almost endless variety of dramatic musical effects, creating works ranging from flashy magnificent virtuoso pieces to quiet pastorals. He has influenced virtually every composer for the piano in some manner.

Eric Satie (1866-1925)
Sarabande #3; Gymnopedies #1; Gnossiennes #3; Embryons Desseches; Sonatine Bureaucratque; 3 Morceux En Forme De Poire

Erik Satie is known as an odd person who gave his compositions strange titles that often seem ridiculous, such as “Driveling Preludes for a Dog, and Dried up Embryos.” The performers of his works are well aware of his weird instructions to the performer, meant only as a conversation between the composer and performer. Satie was a very private man. He lived as a true artist, living a poor life for many years. Being very creative, Satie had a great influence upon many 20th century composers, especially his colleagues Debussy, Ravel, and Poulenc. He was a forerunner to minimalism.

Franz Schubert (1797-1828, Austria)
Impromptus - Opus 90, D.899; Opus 142, D.935

Schubert is always recognized as being the Liederfurst, the “Prince of 19th-century Song.” However, during his short life, he wrote a remarkable number of works in almost every musical genre, from short pieces for piano to major virtuoso concert works and operas. He wrote chamber music, orchestral music, religious works, over six hundred songs, and hundreds of piano pieces of every level of difficulty. Schubert’s Impromptus, appearing only in the last years of his life, require mature musicianship and sensitivity to his beautiful melodies, marvelous harmonies, and subtle changes of spirit and texture.

Robert Schumann (1810-1856, Germany)
A. Album For The Young, Op.68
B. Kinderszenen, Op. 15

Schumann is known especially for his numerous miniature character-pieces. His works are a wonderful introduction to the Romantic period. Schumann's music is appealing because it combines musical sophistication with simplicity. Although known especially for his numerous miniature character-pieces, Schumann also wrote many longer compositions, most of which consist of a series of shorter, related works. One of the greatest musical architects, Schumann's works develop in a grand plan from small musical seeds.

Alexander Scriabin (1872-1915, Russia)
The Early Preludes: Opus 2/2, Opus 9/1, Opus 11, And Opus 16

Scriabin's music is filled with rich sonorities and sensuous harmonies with only a tenuous relationship to key. Scriabin may be called a "mystic impressionist,” an “experimentalist” (new harmonies, rhythms), and an “emotionalist.” The term "mystic" is used with Scriabin because so much of his music is associated with religious or philosophical ideas. From his earliest compositions in Romantic style to his later complex exploratory works, Scriabin’s music is satisfying to the hand, the ear, and to all the senses and emotions.

Fundamental Elements Of Piano Performance

The Basics: The Piano, Beautiful Tone Production

The basic knowledge of the piano's construction that is necessary for quality piano performance and teaching. Essential factors contributing to the production of beautiful tone, including body position, hand shape, finger motion.

The Expressive Musical Touches (Articulations)