Più is an Italian music term that means more. And that is exactly what we mean by Più Piano: not only piano but musicianship.
For 23 weeks, every Wednesday we have suggested a piece to listen. Not only piano pieces but also chamber music, songs, orchestral music and more. A new piece to enhance our aural skills and music history knowledge.
Più Piano Music Academy students and guests are welcome to comment.
Wednesday 21st March 2018
Iberia is considered one of the most important piano works of all times. This Albeniz’s masterpiece is a suite divided into 4 books of three pieces each. Although it’s called “Iberia”, most of the pieces resemble cities and places of the southern province of Andalusia. Iberia was written in the first decade of the 20th Century. It is a prodigy of originality and fantasy, intense and deep. It goes through melancholy, sadness and has moments of enormous dramatic tension. In the words of the pianist Guillermo González “Iberia is also a polyphonic work. We do not have to consider it as a melody with accompaniment but a set of voices that, in the manner of a fugue, move horizontally. As the Impressionists said, we must take into account the ‘conduite des voix’. This, as happens with impressionist music, is a challenge in sound control, forcing the performer to master a wide dynamic range, a wide variety of joints and attacks and a mastery of the pedal that can colour even the most subtle”.
There will be no “Più Piano Piece of the Week” during the Easter break. Therefore, I leave you these 12 pieces to listen to them during this holidays. Enjoy!
You’ll be able to acknowledge the technical difficulties of Iberia in this link with the score. The pianist is the great Alicia de Larrocha:
And here is my favourite version of Iberia, by the mesmerising hands of Esteban Sánchez:
Wednesday 14th March 2018
Today, Wednesday 14th March, the great scientist Stephen Hawking has died. He changed the way we see the universe. Therefore, in his honour, I suggest to listen to Gustav Holst’s gorgeous version of Venus, the bringer of peace for two pianos. Venus is the 2nd piece of the orchestral suite The Planets.
Wednesday 7th March 2018
Maurice Ravel was born on 7th March. To celebrate his birthday, let’s listen to one of the most beautiful Piano Concerto 2nd Movement ever written: the 2nd movement of the Piano Concerto in G.
One of the interesting facts about this movement is that it is written in 3/4 although the left hand of the piano part moves in 6/8. Both time signatures have 6 quavers, but grouped differently. In 3/4, the six quavers are grouped in three beats: 2+2+2, whereas in 6/8 they are grouped in two beats: 3+3.
In this picture we can see the beginning of the Ravel’s score:
And in this another picture I have edited how the left hand could have been written:
This dichotomy between the two time signatures gives the music a special unsteady flow. And then wait for the entry of that flute over the piano trill… oh, that flute.
Wednesday 28th February 2018
This Wednesday I want to propose a game. Listen to the 3rd movement of Mahler’s 1st Symphony:
Listen carefully, can you recognise the melody?…
All right, listen to it in a Major mode:
Yes, it’s the popular French melody “Frère Jacques”.
Now listen to Mahler’s movement again…
Exactly. Mahler turned the melody into a minor key and asked for a slow tempo. And that changes the mood and feeling of the music from a cheerful round to a funeral march. That’s the magic of the Major-minor modes.
Wednesday 21st February 2018
Thank you to my talented student G.O. for recommending the composer Alexander Mosolov. His music falls in the category of “futurism”, a cultural movement in the early 20th Century. One of his best known orchestral pieces is “The Iron Foundry”, from 1926. “The song of steel” said a critic on the premier.
Wednesday 14th February 2018
As today is Valentine’s Day, I want to share one of the most beautiful love stories in classical music. In 1830, Robert Schumann received piano lessons from Friedrich Wieck and fell in love with his talented daughter, Clara. Clara was a child prodigy, one of the most important pianists of all times. His father didn’t approve her relationship with Schumann (at the time an average pianist and in his early stage career as a composer) and the couple had to fight in court for the right to marry.
Clara supported her husband’s career and premiered his compositions in her concert tours around Europe. The following is a short piano composition called “Chiarina” (Clara in Italian). It is the number 11 of the “Carnaval”, a piano work divided in 22 short movements. As we are also at carnival time right now, it’s the best moment to render homage to these big names of the classical music history.
Wednesday 7th February 2018
The PIÙ PIANO piece of the week! comes back to share a piece specially dedicated for children (although enjoyable for adults alike). Camille Saint-Saëns wrote the suite “The Carnival of the Animals” in 1886 to enjoy playing with his friends at private performances. Each movement features an animal (and sarcastically, including a pianist) and some of them are well know favourites for many people even not musically trained. I have worked on the analysis, performances, variations and improvisations of this piece in schools with great success as the children thrilled with the musical representations of the animals.
Although it seems just an easy music because of the amusement in it, it’s very well written by an amazing talented composer. You can follow the score in this video:
Wednesday 31st January 2018
Schumann wrote the Album für die Jugend in 1828 for his children. They are a collection of short, delightful pieces that are still being played nowadays for students of all ages. Each piece has an evocative title like “Soldier’s March”, “The Happy Farmer”, “Spring Song” and so like.
In this youtube version by Jörg Demus you can follow the score while listening. Perfect to grasp the intentions of the composer. Enjoy!
Wednesday 24th January 2018
When I was doing my undergraduate studies in piano, this piano concerto was one of the pieces that I had to learn the first year. Since then, I just love this music. Prokofiev’s first piano concerto is lively, uplifting, romantic and incredibly difficult to play.
Wednesday 17th January 2018
After the Christmas break, the Più Piano Piece of the Week comes back again with one masterwork by the “Father of Music” Johann Sebastian Bach.
Bach signed the Well Tempered Clavier book I in 1722 and finished the second book 20 years later. Both are a collection of 24 pairs of Preludes and Fugues in all the possible major and minor keys, exploring the potential of the tonal system. The preludes and fugues follow a chromatic major and minor order, being the first pair in C Major, the second in c minor, the third in C#Major, the fourth in c# minor, then in D Major, d minor and so forth.
Today I bring to you the second prelude and fugue of the book one in the rendition of one of the greatest pianists ever: Sviatoslav Richter. I was lucky enough to see him playing three concerts in the 90’s and it was an overwhelming experience. His technique was pure, his sound warm and his music understanding exceptional.
Enjoy the work of these two geniuses!
Wednesday 29th November 2017
This Saturday 9th December 2017, there will be the premiere of some arrangements that I have done on Piazzolla’s “Historia del Tango” (Tango’s history). The concert will take place in Madrid. “Garaiz Ensamble” commissioned me to arrange the guitar part to string quartet.
The Piazzolla’s original piece was written for guitar and flute. They are four pieces that highlight four different moments along the 20th Century and the style evolution. A pleasure for our ears and… feet!
There have been many arrangements of this piece: flute and piano, violin and guitar, clarinet and guitar… I’m pleased I have added a new version for string quartet (and clarinet). While we wait for the premiere, enjoy this beautiful version for clarinet and guitar by David Salinas (clarinetist of Garaiz Ensamble) and Herminia Navarro.
Wednesday 29th November 2017
Many of my lovely beginner students are playing arrangements of this melody, probably one of the most famous and recognizable tunes of all times.
Beethoven writes the 4th movement of his 9th and last symphony adding a chorus and soloists to the orchestral forces. He composed this music when he was already completely deaf. The lyrics are the Schiller’s poem “Ode to Joy”.
The movement opens with the double basses as protagonists. In fact, along with the celli, they are the instruments that play the main theme for the first time in a very quiet dynamic. Then the melody raises the range and is played by the violas, then the violins, increasing the texture and dynamic at the same time. By the time the brass instruments reach the melody, the accompaniment becomes more rhythmical. A new stage is set when the singers join the orchestra, leading the music to a whole new dimension… But that’s not yet the climax of the music.
Additionally, the beauty of the version that I share today is that it is performed by the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, a project youth orchestra made by Israelites and Palestinians, conducted by Daniel Barenboim.
“All men shall become brothers,
wherever your gentle wings hover”
Lyrics in English are added to this version.
Wednesday 22nd November 2017
HAPPY ST. CECILIA!
Today is St. Cecilia’s day, the patroness of musicians. Let the joy of music to warm you heart with Haendel’s Ode for St Cecilia’s Day and other anthems.
Wednesday 8th November 2017
Today I want to share with you the excellent “Pianist Magazine” video series about piano technique by Graham Fitch. Each video shows different piano techniques and how to practise them avoiding tension. I heartily recommend these videos as I’m sure you would benefit greatly from them.
Keep up your piano practice!
Wednesday 1st November 2017
Today I propose two versions of the same piece, the number 3 of the Musica Ricercata for piano solo by Ligeti and the first Bagatelle for wind quintet by the same composer. Ligeti was one the most important composers of the 20th Century. He wrote the 11 pieces of the Musica Ricercata in the early 1950s and arranged six of them for wind quintet in 1953.
The interesting fact of Musica Ricercata is that each piece is written with a limited set of pitches. The first piece features only 2 pitches, the second one has only 3 pitches, the third uses four pitches (the one that I’m sharing today) and so on. The pitches used in Musica Ricercata n. 3 are C, Eb, E and G, i.e., the C major and minor triads together. It is remarkable that with such a limitation Ligeti is able to write that outstanding music.
The quality of the performers in both the piano version and the wind quintet, is superb. You can follow the piano score to see how the music is written and then watch the Carion ensemble in a performance that involves body movements to highlight the texture.
Wednesday 25th October 2017
Ravel, Bolero. You have probably heard this piece more than once or twice… But it is such a pleasure when you watch and orchestra or this quality, just in a rehearsal, when you can see the orchestra players are normal humans… Pay attention to the snare drum, displaced from its normal position at the back with the rest of percussion instruments. It is not easy to keep a perfect beat during almost 15 minutes and increase the dynamic during such a span of time! Ravel wrote the Bolero as an orchestration exercise, creating different combinations of instruments for the same melody, split in two musical phrases. Enjoy all the colours of the woodwinds, brass and strings. And ask any questions you have.
Wednesday 18th October 2017
Follow this little robot in its journey inside “The Hall of the Mountain King”!
This piece is part of the first suite of Peer Gynt, by the Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg. Grieg worked along with Henrik Ibsen with the idea to write the music for a play based in a Norwegian fairy tale. The task was so difficult that Grieg finally reduced the music into two suites of four movements each. “In the Hall of the Mountain King” is an iconic music that shows Peer Gynt while chased by the trolls of the cave. The music increases its dynamic and speed up in his frenetic escape.
The author of this video has not followed the Peer Gynt’s plot, but it is closed to what we call “musicogram”, a visual material that represents the score without notes but drawings.
Wednesday 11th October 2017
As one of my students is playing an arrangement of the wonderful main theme of the famous Largo of this great symphony, I have decided to share it with all of you. The “New World Symphony” by the Czech composer Antonín Dvořák was written when Dvořák moved to the EEUU and it is influenced by the Native American Music. The English Horn is the instrument that Dvořák choses for the mention main theme, one of the greatest solos for that instrument in the orchestra literature. The other three movements of the symphony are equally beautiful and famous so I recommend to listen to the whole composition as well.
Wednesday 4th October 2017
Ready for a bit of musical humour?
Then listen to this amazing duo of young boys singing the “Duetto buffo di due gatti” (“Humorous cat duet”). This music is wrongly attributed to Rossini, but the truth is that it there is not certainty of who was the composer. I can’t believe they manage to keep singing without bursting into laughter!
Wednesday 27th September 2017
This week I propose one of the most beautiful symphonic movements of all times, the 3rd movement of the 3rd Symphony by Johannes Brahms. The romantic melody of just five notes: C, D, Eb, G, F, D, in the pathetic tonality of “c minor”, is presented in different instruments of the orchestra, celli, 1st violins, woodwinds, horn… Try to spot it out!
Wednesday 20th September 2017
Again, still in shock after another deadly earthquake in Mexico and the hurricanes Irma and Maria that have struck the Caribe region recently, I believe it is time to listen to one of the most famous piano and orchestra pieces by Franz Liszt, Hungarian composer that lived in the 19th Century. Liszt was a genius pianist, known for his virtuoso performances and composer of piano pieces that led the instrument to another sphere. Obsessed with the medieval melody “Dies Irae” (that many other composers have used too) he wrote this Totentanz or “Dance of Death” based on the mentioned Dorian plainchant:
And here is the Totentanz with score, played by Enrico Pace:
Wednesday 13th September 2017
After the horrible earthquake that has struck Mexico this week I bring today one of the most famous orchestral works by Arturo Márquez, 66 years old Mexican composer. Under the super talented baton of Gustavo Dudamel at the Proms 2007, this music is full of energetic rhythms that follow up an introductory suggestive melody. Enjoy!
Wednesday 6th September 2017
This week we propose this lovely Sonata for Clarinet in Bb and Piano by the french composer Camille Saint-Saëns. Although written well into the 20th century (1921), it has a Romantic flavour. Through its four movements there are evocative melodies and virtuoso passages.