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Conversations, Part 3

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Spencer Myer: A 21st-Century American Pianist

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Setting the Scene Spencer Myer emerged as a concert pianist of note upon winning three important competitions shortly after the turn of this century. In 2004, he placed first in the UNISA International Piano Competition in South Africa, then in 2006 he won the Christel DeHaan Classical Fellowship from the American Pian...
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Conversations, Part 2

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Conversations, Part 1

Conversations, Part 1
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An interview with Seymour Fink, master technician

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"But that's the way my professor showed  it to me!" Her eyes were open wide,  her voice a wail. I was talking to a young teacher whose student had just  played—poorly—in an international festival. In a subsequent masterclass I  tried to show her a more efficient, better sounding way to teach her students  to play chords. It...
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A legacy of excellence: An interview with John and Nancy Weems

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Through their teaching, John and Nancy Weems have instilled in their students a love for music and a commitment to artistic pianism. In addition to a long-standing record of top awards in local, district, and state Texas Music Teachers Association competitions, John has taught winners of the National MTNA Baldwin Junior Achievement Award, the Natio...
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Recording Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas in the 21st Century: An Interview with Steinway Pianist James Brawn

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The great pianist and conductor Hans von Bülow once called Beethoven's 32 piano sonatas the New Testament of music. This bold declaration foreshadowed the lofty status Beethoven's Testament now holds in the Western canon of classical music. It also set the stage for an impressive lineage of recordings, beginning with the first-ever complete cycle by Artur Schnabel—the celebrated Austrian pianist known to Harold C. Schonberg as "the man who invented Beethoven." Among those who followed in Schnabel's footsteps are some of the greatest pianists of the 20th and 21st centuries—Claudio Arrau, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Wilhelm Backhaus, Daniel Barenboim, Alfred Brendel, Annie Fischer, and the list goes on—and so it comes as no surprise that many pianists today treat this massive undertaking as a right of passage.

In one sense, however, it's also dangerous to enter the company of such esteemed colleagues. How does one "compete"? What new can be "said" of music that has been a staple of the repertoire for so long? These are some of the questions facing Steinway Artist James Brawn as he continues his Odyssey—now half finished—to record von Bülow's New Testament.


Your project invokes a monumental legacy of inspired Beethoven interpreters. Do you feel the weight of history on your shoulders?

While it is true there is a great historical legacy of recordings, the only pressure I feel personally is to do these piano sonatas justice and play them as faithfully as I am able. The works of the great composers, like Beethoven, are such a privilege to study and perform, and I feel very lucky to have the opportunity to record this cycle for MSR Classics.


As an artist, do you draw on the work of those who came before you? Or are you a lone wanderer?

Perhaps I'm more of a lone wanderer, in the sense I've always done my own thing and in my own time. Certainly when I was a student—until my early twenties—I was influenced by my teachers, as well as recordings and performances by great living pianists. So at that time, there was always someone looking over my shoulder, so to speak. But for the last twenty years I've managed to focus on music that I can't live without. The Beethoven sonatas have become extremely important to my being, and communicating this personal passion in recital, recording, and teaching is the inevitable outcome.

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Hélène Grimaud: Reflections in the water

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The January 2016 release of Hélène Grimaud's recording Water (Deutsche Gramophone) was landmark in many ways, perhaps most significantly as a memento of a concert that took place in Wade Thompson Drill Hall of the Park Avenue Armory in New York in December 2014. tears become…streams become… was its name. Anthony Tommasini of The New York Time s cal...
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Bumping into Brahms: A conversation about the Intermezzo, Op. 118, No. 2

JM: Oh! Sorry sir, you startled me! I almost bumped into you. But wait, I know you! Are you not Herr Doktor Brahms? Brahms : Guten Tag? Bitte, kein Doktor. I am amazed that we have somehow encountered one another here. Might it be because I have played so many of your wonderful song accompaniments and piano pieces recently? Would you possibly be wi...
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Beyond the Notes: An interview with Elvina Pearce

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Elvina Pearce studied piano with Isabelle Vengerova and pedagogy with Frances Clark. For more than six decades, she has presented recitals, workshops, and master classes in more than forty states as well as in Canada, the Republic of China, and Australia. Highlights of her pianistic career include recitals in Taipei, Taiwan, and Perth, Australia, a...
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Seeking Authenticity: An interview with Valentina Lisitsa

Valentina Lisitsa is a formidable pianist with dazzling technique and an ever-growing fan base. A self-made luminary, she was arguably the first classical musician to catapult herself from relative obscurity to superstardom using social media alone. At forty-three, the Ukrainian-American virtuoso now boasts 300,000 subscribers to her YouTube channe...
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Respect and love for the music: A conversation with Martha Argerich

Respect and love for the music: A conversation with Martha Argerich
I had the privilege of meeting Martha Argerich, for many the greatest living pianist, when she performed Schumann's concerto with the Los Angeles Philharmonic at Walt Disney Concert Hall earlier this year. It was a stunning performance, and the audience enthusiastically cheered her return to the City of Angels. It was hard to imagine a more vi...
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The miracle of music: An interview with Stephen Hough

Stephen Hough has been called a Renaissance Man. In 2009 he was named one of the top twenty living polymaths by The Economist and Intelligent Life magazines. In addition to a full international concert schedule, the award-winning pianist and recording artist—who in 2014 was made a Commander of the British Empire—has been prolifically blogging on Th...
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An Interview with Randall and Nancy Faber

Whether they reach an elementary student using  ​Piano Adventures ​, five- or six-year-old playing a composition from  ​My First Piano Adventure for the Young Beginner ​, or a teacher gleaning information from one of their workshops, Randall and Nancy Faber influence piano students and teachers around the world.  ​ Randall ...
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Piano As Art: An Interview with Shauna Holiman

Piano As Art: An Interview with Shauna Holiman
Fascinating for anyone interested in the piano, music or art..." wrote John Rockwell, former Arts Critic of the New York Times. Brian Levine, Executive Director of the Glenn Gould Foundation, called Piano as Art "a wonderful re-imagining of the piano as sculpture, architecture, and the stuff of mythic creatures." What are they talking about? It's a...
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An Interview with Dennis Alexander

An Interview with Dennis Alexander
Last summer, my son Andrew learned a Dennis Alexander composition entitled "Full Moon Rising" (from Simply Sensational , Book 1 ).Like many students playing many Dennis Alexander pieces before him, he was completely enthralled by the sound of the piece. As a teacher (and in this case a parent), I reaped the invaluable benefits of having an intrinsi...
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An Interview With Paul Sheftel

An Interview With Paul Sheftel
I first met Paul Sheftel when he worked with the educational wing of the Baldwin Piano Company, back in the early 1970s. Through the ensuing years I attended many of his instructive (and always humorous) sessions at MTNA. When I moved to Manhattan in 1999, we began a warm relationship. He often invited me to his nearby studio, where ...
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The piano on film: An interview with director Peter Rosen

The piano on film: An interview with director Peter Rosen
​Chances are you've seen a film by Peter Rosen. From his award-winning documentaries of the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition to biographical portraits of legends from Claudio Arrau to Van Cliburn and Leonard Bernstein to Yo-Yo Ma, he has produced a legacy of more than one-hundred feature length films. These films have brought a world of ...
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The career challenge: Problems facing today's pianists

The career challenge: Problems facing today's pianists
The career challenge: Problems facing today's pianists An interview with Jacques Leiser ​The twenty-first century is blessed to be an era with no shortage of talented young pianists, many of whom are armed with impressive technique and a commanding repertoire. For the pianists themselves, this poses a particular challenge. With a seemingly endless ...
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An interview with Jean-Yves Thibaudet

An interview with Jean-Yves Thibaudet
French pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet has had a home in the U.S. for many years, first in New York, and, since 1998, in Los Angeles. French in his accent and his Gallic enthusiasm, he is really a citizen—and a musician—of the world. His programs and recordings incorporate the big Romantic monuments of the piano literature, but also excursions into jaz...
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