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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GregKelly
Thank you so much for the new skills. I can not imagine life without music and gambling. Music for me it is like magic and gamblin... Read More
Tuesday, 04 August 2020 09:27
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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 Times...
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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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The complete musician: A conversation with Robert Levin

The complete musician: A conversation with Robert Levin
Robert Levin is a master keyboard artist who performs on the harpsichord, fortepiano, and modern concert grand. He is also a conductor, theorist, musicologist, author, and professor, and his career has taken him all over the world. He is especially known for improvising embellishments and cadenzas in Classical repertoire, and he has recorded for pr...
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Always give your maximum: A conversation with Menahem Pressler

Menahem Pressler -  photo by Marco Borggreve. Courtesy of Columbia Artists Management.
Menahem Pressler, best known as the pianist of the unparalleled Beaux Arts Trio for more than fifty years and a revered Distinguished Professor at Indiana University's Jacob School of Music for even longer, continues a daunting schedule of performing and teaching. At age ninety-two, he shows no signs of slowing down, as plans for the future and the...
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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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Wael Farouk and the Rachmaninoff piano oeuvre

Wael Farouk was born with extremely short hand ligaments. He can't make a fist, open a jar, or button his shirt, but he can play the complete solo piano works of Sergei Rachmaninoff, who is known for complex and demanding music. At thirty-two years of age, the youngest piano faculty member in Roosevelt University's Chicago College of Performing Art...
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Alan Fraser discusses piano technique

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It must have been something in the air, in the early years of the last century. From Australia to Israel, independent thinkers were looking for solutions to make living physically in the modern world easier. What does it take to live comfortably and pain-free? How can we function more efficiently— and effectively?  The theories of one of ...
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More Than Just the Notes: An Interview with Sean Chen

Attendees of the 2015 National Conference on Keyboard Pedagogy will have the exciting opportunity to hear guest artist Sean Chen—a brilliant pianist who was the first American in sixteen years to win an award (the third-place Crystal) at the 2013 Van Cliburn competition. Among his many other accomplishments and honors, Sean was also awarded the 201...
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Dedication to excellence: An interview with Ingrid Clarfield

Ingrid Jacobson Clarfield has given lecture recitals, workshops, and master classes in more than a hundred cities across America, including many at state and national conferences of the Music Teachers National Association. She has presented master classes and pedagogy sessions at the National Conference on Keyboard Pedagogy, the TCU/Van Clibur...
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Daniel Tsukamoto
Is there a recording of Ingrid Clarfield's webinar?
Thursday, 12 December 2019 22:05
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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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Catching up with Vadym Kholodenko

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What did winning the Van Cliburn competition mean to you?  I'd like to experience it a second time. There's such enormous pressure on all of the competitors. Before the final announcement of the winners, we were so exhausted that everyone was just happy it was finished. When they called my name, at first I did not feel anything. Maybe som...
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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 holds thre...
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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 intrinsica...
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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 m...
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A musical voice: An interview with Yuja Wang

A musical voice: An interview with Yuja Wang
At age twenty-five, Yuja Wang has already compiled a list of accomplishments that could define a full career. A Gilmore Artist and recipient of the Avery Fisher Career Prize, she has released four recordings on Deutsche Grammophon and performed recitals to critical acclaim across the globe. She has appeared as a soloist with many of the world's pre...
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Piano Magazine is the leading resource for pianists, piano teachers, and piano enthusiasts. We bring you informative, interesting, and inspiring ideas on all aspects of piano teaching, learning, and performing. The official name of Clavier Companion magazine was changed to Piano Magazine in 2019.

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