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A Passion For Piano
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debussy2012The new year is rapidly approaching, so before the end of the Debussy-year 2012 we should take the chance to watch this film by Anthony Tobin, celebrating the genius of Debussy. It was shown by G. Henle Verlag during the Frankfurt Musik Messe, 2012, in connection with their release of three volumes of the complete piano works of Debussy.

“The World will Change in his Sound”
- The Light of Claude Debussy

This film is an exploration of the inspiration, imagination and visual influences behind Claude Debussy’s piano music from 1889-1915. It discusses how light, nature, and the visual stimulation Debussy experienced in Paris influenced his “vision” and the gestures and colors found in his piano works.

Consequently the footage is accompanied by Preludes for piano, Pagodes (filmed in Tokyo), Reflections on the Water, the First Arabesque, Clair de lune, Chansons de Bilitis and La Mer – works that will illustrate how Debussy changed the course of music.

Additionally, the film contains interviews with pianists Stewart Gordon and Daniel Pollack, Debussy scholars James Briscoe, Roy Howat, Marie Rolf, Richard Langham Smith, composer Manfred Bleffert and material with Austin Symphony Conductor Peter Bay, including discussion and demonstration of parts of the symphonic work La Mer.

More Debussy on film:
Ken Russell’s Debussy TV film from 1965
View part 1

Related articles:
Happy 150th Birthday, Claude Debussy!


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It is always a pleasure to congratulate a person who spent forty years in business, regardless of their trade. Therefor it was a very special moment for Piano Street when we got the chance to talk to Robert von Bahr, Founder of BIS Records, about the past, present and the future.
We highly appreciate BIS’ and eClassical’s free bonus track and special product prices to all Piano Street’s readers worldwide:

Six BIS Pianists – Introductions and Selected Recordings

Scriabin: Sonata no. 9 “Black Mass”
Yevgeny Sudbin – introduced by BIS AR Director Robert Suff
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Beethoven: Sonata Opus 57 “Appassionata”, 1st mvt.
Ronald Brautigam – introduced by BIS Founder Robert von Bahr
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Gershwin: Piano Concerto in F
Freddy Kempf – introduced by BIS AR Director Robert Suff
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Ligeti: Musica Ricercata No. 7, Cantabile, molto legato
Fredrik Ullén – introduced by BIS Founder Robert von Bahr
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Debussy: Prelude No. 10 (La cathédrale engloutie)
Noriko Ogawa – introduced by BIS AR Director Robert Suff
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Schnittke: Sonata for cello piano No. 1, 2nd mvt: Presto
Roland Pöntinen – introduced by BIS Founder Robert von Bahr
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Interview with BIS Founder Robert von Bahr

Patrick Jovell: BIS is known as a recording company renowned for its impeccably high standards of quality, aknowledged internationally with numerous awards for its achievements. And next year, 2013, marks the 40th year for you in the record industry.
Could you summarize the developments within your business during this period of time, not only concerning the advancements from vinyl-LPs to CD-discs and further to the increasing concentration on digitalized production, but also how the prerequisites or conditions for continued endeavors have changed?

BIS founder Robert von Bahr

BIS Founder Robert von Bahr

Robert von Bahr: BIS has always been open for technical advances, as long as they don’t detrimentally influence the music or the sound quality. Thus, in the era of the LP:s (anyone remember them?) we released Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, played on the piano by a pianist with two hands, three feet and a nose on a 45-rpm LP, to avoid any distortion in the violently loud and deep passages. We also embraced the DMM (Direct Metal Mastering) system, a TELDEC in Germany invention that really enhanced the LP sound. We were the first label in the world that completely abandoned the LP in favour of the CD. Nowadays we are the biggest producer in the world of SACD (Super Audio CD), a system that allows us to present the music in high-resolution and in surround as well, while still being compatible to CD sound for those that don’t have access to an SACD player. And, finally, we have totally rethought the principles of downloading, to liberate us from the straitjacket of the pop world’s stubborn track/”song” thinking of 3,5 minutes’ duration, and created a site that operates on the specific conditions for classical music, and in high-res at that, at less than the usual market price. BIS uses technology, not to create an interpretation, but to let the composers and artists have their say without the interference of technical limitations. We, as producers and recording engineers, do not invade upon the territories of the composers and artists – we just make a good sound and then let them reign supremally, in that we present the complete original dynamics as they perform it. This may well lead to the misconception that we record on a lower level than others, which is complete baloney, since our loudest passages are the maximum allowed on a disc. However, since we don’t interfere with what the artists do, the softer passages may well be softer than the usual compressed products in the market, and therefore may lead people to believe that the truth is, in fact, untrue, whereas the compressed versions are the real thing. Oy vey!! Of course, if one wants to enjoy music while frying bacon or taking a shower, there is something in what they say, but those people aren’t the ones we cater for.

PJ: How does establishing oneself in the market today compare with how it was when you started?

RvB: Actually, I don’t see a difference at all. In classical music, it is the quality that counts, not any gimmickery. Probably we should be more updated on social media than we are, and possibly in modern times the level of the concentration span has decreased in the times of the increasing “spotifying” of everything to 20-second snippets.

PJ: In this article we meet some of the BIS-pianists, and particularize the interplay between the artist´s unique attributes, repertoire, career and future projects leading to an exciting and creative recording process. This constitutes the firm´s ”piano-profile”. Tell us how your relationships with pianists unfold and develop, seen from the perspective of a business concern.

RvB: Also here we don’t maintain that we’re sitting on all the answers to Universe’s big secrets. We can, given our experience, which is uniquely long (with its 40 years BIS is the oldest classical label in the world, led by its Founder), quite quickly identify different artists and their strengths and decide, if and where their talent could be mutually profitable, both artistically and, not to put too fine a point at it, monetarily. We are loathe to employ artists for a one-off p. Broduction, which inevitably increases the height of the threshold that they have to pass in order to become a BIS Artist, but, having managed that first hurdle, the ambition is to create a fruitful and durable relation – a symbiosis that allows the artist to develop hand in hand with an extention and broadening of BIS’s repertoire. All the pianists presented here belong to the core BIS artists and have recorded for us during long periods of time (between 8 and
29 years). These artists complement each other – indeed that was a prerequisite to work with them at all – but, inevitably, there are duplications of standard repertoire, albeit done rather differently. The operational word is, though, a common artistic development in symbiosis, for the mutual good of everyone concerned, and foremost the happy listener.

PJ: We will soon be able to read here on Piano Street an article about the non-compressed audio format FLAC and about your involvement in the digital distribution service which is offered by How do you feel about the consensus concerning sound in mainstream production where compression is if anything more of a rule than an exception? How does audio compression affect our listening?

RvB: When it comes to sound quality and dynamics, we at BIS have but one answer: whatever the composers demanded and the artists performed. We simply don’t tamper with whatever the artists are doing. That’s the only way I know how to be honest, both to the artists and to the listener. Why should the listener be presented anything that has gone through the “filter” of a recording engineer, with or without talent, when it comes to the dynamics? And, having arrived at the conclusion that this simply is not on, we can extend this to the other part of sound quality as well, like bit-rate. Previously there were technical limitations that one simply had to accept, but, with the ever-increasing speed of Internet, this no longer is so. Therefore, after looking at what the “normal” sites are offering people in the form of down-loading, especially with the sharply constricted dynamics and the tampering through compression, I decided that this is not for us, at least not without giving the public-at-large an alternative to choose from. Therefore BIS bought and completely rethought the principles, after which a downloading site should be run – for classical music, nota bene – and implemented the changes, all of which are devised for two purposes:
- to present the music completely unadulteredly and
- in a way that makes sense for the customer from the points of view of expeditiousness, quality, guarantee and price.

PJ: We who listen to productions from BIS other than piano are fascinated by the exciting artistic collaborations which take place. We have been able to hear, for example, symphony orchestras from Sao Paolo or Malaysia, opera voices from Cape Town or Beethoven´s symphonies with the Minnesota Symphony Orchestra, or Mahler´s Das Lied von der Erde sung in Chinese and with the Singapore Symphony Orchestra. Tell us about your thoughts and considerations behind these unique international and cultural synergistic results.

RvB: I simply believe that music is one of the very few cross-cultural languages – art and architecture being other examples – around. I also – and vehemently at that – do NOT subscribe to the notion that one has to be Norwegian to play Grieg or Finnish to play Sibelius (if that were the case, where should one have been born to do justice to Stravinsky? Russia, France, Switzerland, America?). On the contrary, I believe that the cultural baggage that every musician has somewhere, can cross-fertilize with the ones that the composers had and lead to something new and perhaps more interesting than if the music is performed “like it always was”. Therefore I consciously make odd couplings, like the ones enumerated above, or “worse” (like a Japanese pianist playing Russian repertoire with a Singaporean orchestra and a Chinese conductor, recorded by German producers for a Swedish label). Sometimes this really turns out well, like with the leading Bach Cantata cycle in the world, performed almost exclusively by Japanese (sic!), and very rarely not (but what evolution is there, if one doesn’t risk anything??). I also believe strongly in international understanding through performing together – if someone had put Hitler, Roosevelt, Stalin and Churchill in a room and told them that they couldn’t exit it until they had learned how to play a string quartet movement, there would have been no WWII, of that I am sure. How the Nobel Prize Committee in Norway could give the Peace Prize to EU rather than to Barenboim will go down as one of the big mysteries of all time.

BIS News
eClassical’s Christmas Calendar


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“A dim light picks out the outlines of the hall. Suddenly a massive shadow appears and moves swiftly over to the keyboard, the only brightly lit surface to stand out from the large coffin-like box in the center of the stage. There follows the vaguest of unsmiling acknowledgments in the general direction of the audience, and then the music begins. Throughout the next two hours this music will keep its listeners enthralled with its extraordinary intensity as the audience senses the formidable physical, pianistic, musical and emotional presence of this most secretive of present-day pianists, Grigory Sokolov.” – Bruno Monsaingeon

In 2002, Bruno Monsaingeon, internationally renowned for his films of Glenn Gould and the intriguing documentary Richter, the Enigma, made a film of a piano recital that Grigory Sokolov gave at the Theatre des Champs-Élysées in Paris. Monsaingeon suggests that with Michelangeli, Gould, and Richter no longer alive, Sokolov may be the “greatest living pianist.” In 1966 at the age of 16 Sokolov won the International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow.

Careerwise Sokolov didn’t follow a conventional pattern and Monsaingeon suggests that Sokolov is less than world famous because he has not allowed more than a handful of his recordings — all live performances — to be released. With high integrity Sokolov objects to the studio and thus represents the secretive and eccentric. Monsaingeon says that Sokolov himself believe that the concert represents the focal point of magical life and that everything else is artificial. As a result, he was not only reluctant to be recorded but also to be filmed.

Sokolov´s record company continues to record a large number of his about seventy yearly recitals even though their request to release them most of the time comes up against the same negative answer but, according to Monsaingeon, albeit tempered by the phrase ”You can release whatever you want after my death”; he even suggested that his original recording company, Opus 111 (a reference to Beethoven’s last sonata), change its name to ”Opus posthume”, a label which seemed to him to reflect perfectly his own ideas on the subject of record releases.

In spite of this, Monsaingeon was able to overcome Sokolov´s privacy and reservations and the filming in Paris on the 4th of November 2002 was accepted. Conditions were that it was made live, with no retakes and with nothing to detract from his total concentration, which was directed exclusively at the music. This meant avoiding the perceptible presence of microphones, lights and cameras.

Recital repertoire:

Beethoven: Sonata no. 9 in E major, op. 14 no. 1
Beethoven: Sonata no. 10 in G major, op. 14 no. 2
Beethoven: Sonata no. 15 in D major, op. 28 : “Pastoral”
Komitas : Six dances for piano
Prokofiev: Sonata no. 7 in B flat major, op. 83
Chopin: Mazurka in C sharp minor, op. 63 no. 3
Couperin: Le tic-toc-choc or Les maillotins
Couperin: Sœur Monique
Chopin: Mazurka in F minor, op. 68 no. 4
Bach (arr. Alexander Siloti): Prelude in B minor (after BWV 855a)

A famous venue

The Théâtre des Champs-Elysées is one of the most famous concert houses in Paris and receives each year over 300,000 spectators and thousands of collaborating artists. A milestone of French 20th century architecture the theatre was in 1953 one of the first modern buildings to receive the rank of the official “Monuments Historiques”.

The theatre opened in 1913 and hosted Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes 5th season opening on May 15 with Igor Stravinsky’s The Firebird, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade and the world premiere of Debussy’s Jeux. Some in the audiences were severely offended by the depiction on stage of a tennis game in Jeux. Still, this was nothing compared to the chaotic and tumultus reaction to the ritual sacrifice in Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring on May 29. Read more at


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The recent anniversaries of Chopin and Schumann in 2010 and Franz Liszt in 2011 inspire us to once again travel back in time and set focus on another tremendously important, yet almost forgotten virtuoso pianist from this golden era of pianism: Sigismond Thalberg.

Sigismond Thalberg was born in midwinter in 1812. Wednesday, 8 January 1812 saw not only the birth of Thalberg but also Wellington’s siege of Ciudad Rodrigo. Barely six months later, Napoleon would begin his ill-fated attempt to conquer Russia and James Madison would sign into law the American declaration of war against Britain. Thalberg was born into a world rife with conflict. The world knows remarkably little about Sigismond Thalberg before his mother brought him to Vienna in 1822 at the age of 10. That same year, Liszt, who was three months older than Thalberg, would also arrive in Vienna. Little did the piano world know that a rivalry would develop that would nearly equal the military conflicts of the day.

The first record of Thalberg’s education is from the spring of 1826, when Sigismond was 14 years old. Ignaz Moscheles took him under his wing, and Thalberg profoundly impressed him. In fact, Moscheles wrote to his good friend Mendelssohn, saying there was little else he could teach him. Very shortly thereafter, Thalberg gave his first public performance, playing Hummel’s Concerto in B-Minor. He then became a regular on the Vienna stage. Thalberg further developed his playing by befriending Clara Wieck. She was another very talented, young pianist in 1830s Vienna. Clara was slightly younger than Sigismond and may at the time have looked up to the dashing teenager. They would get together and share concertos they had learned or composed. Interestingly, Clara married Robert Schumann, who was an early Thalberg critic. At roughly this same time, Thalberg began studying counterpoint with Simon Sechter, a strict disciplinarian who demanded considerable attention to detail. Sechter was famous for a lack of elan, and it is his instruction that very likely inspired Thalberg’s nearly immobile, unemotional posture at the keyboard.

At 24, Sigismond Thalberg arrived in Paris. Taking it by storm, he began with a concert at the home of Count Rudolph Apponyi, the Austrian ambassador. He continued with concerts on nearly every stage in the French capital. Rossini, Meyerbeer, and Berlioz adored this newcomer, but Chopin did not. Berlioz even elevated him above Liszt and Chopin, saying he was the premier pianist in the world. Chopin countered, saying that, although Thalberg played splendidly, he was little more than a diamond-studded salon acrobat who had to use the pedals to play with dynamics. The public did not seem to care about the debate, however. They loved Thalberg, and the Swiss sensation raked in 10000 Francs for a single concert in April of 1836. It was at this time that Liszt became aware of his main rival. On Thalberg’s 25th birthday, Liszt published a scathing, highly controversial review of Thalberg’s compositions.

Italian refugees poured into Paris in the early spring of 1837. Italian princes drove many Italians to flee by hiring Austrian mercenaries to put down the many rebellions of that year. Both Liszt and Thalberg were sympathetic to their plight and agreed to stage a benefit concert for them. It became a “Duel of the Century” between the two titans of the keyboard. Critic Jules Janin, along with many other musicologists and historians, called it a draw. He noted:

“Never was Liszt more controlled, more energetic, more passionate; never has Thalberg played with more verve and tenderness…thus, two victors and no vanquished.”

Most modern Thalberg historians agree with this assessment. Most Liszt biographers, however, have Liszt trouncing his counterpart by exposing Thalberg as “Old Apreggio,” who had a “neat trick” of making two hands sound like three by playing the melody with the thumbs while embellishing it with scads of arpeggios up and down the keyboard. The debate is likely never to be settled since, obviously, no recording exists.
Read more about the duel:
The Battle Between “Il penseroso” and “The Old Arpeggio”

Despite their intense rivalry and Liszt’s sometimes acidic comments to the press and public, they both remained friends their whole lives. Liszt was a frequent guest of Thalberg and his family, and Thalberg graciously promoted his friend to the King of Saxony in 1838 while on his own tour. Liszt, in turn, loudly cheered and applauded at Thalberg’s concert in Vienna ten years later. Additionally, in 1841 Fetis indicated that Thalberg influenced Liszt’s style in his Transcendental Etudes. Liszt himself agreed with this assessment.

Thalberg took a break from playing in 1840 to vacation in Germany’s Rhineland. He only wanted to relax as a tourist. The Tsarina of Russia persuaded him to play one concert for her, but that was it for nearly a year until he picked up where he left off with an 1841 concert in Frankfurt.

In 1843, Thalberg got married and settled into a routine of teaching lots and playing sporadically for the next decade or so. Thalberg developed a touch of Wanderlust in 1855 and decided to go to America to play. For three years straight, he played five or six concerts a week and made a fortune. Suddenly, in 1858, he and his family packed up lock, stock, and barrel and mysteriously moved back to Italy. No one knows why, even today. From then on, except for an 1863 Brazilian tour, Thalberg was silent at the keyboard until his death in 1871.

Because of his incredible style, Thalberg bred many imitators. Not all of them were worthy, and they have buried this virtuoso’s lasting influence under their mediocrity.

“From a composition point of view, the winning shot of Thalberg were the Fantasias on favourite opera arias, where he introduced a series of innovative and revolutionary technical formulas that made his pianism, during the first half of the nineteenth century, the only one capable to set itself against the supremacy of Franz Liszt…”
(Sigismund Thalberg biography, Il Centro Studi Internazionale Sigismund Thalberg)

Fantasia on Rossini’s ‘Moses’, Op.33 – Stefan Irmer, piano | Part 2

Fantasy on Don Pasquale – Earl Wild, piano | Part 2

12 Etudes op.26: no. 5 -Stefan Irmer, piano

Souvenir del Rigoletto di Verdi op. 82 – Francesco Nicolosi, piano

Thalberg’s respected work L’art du chant appliqué au piano, Op. 70 (The Art of Song Applied to the Piano), published in 1853-54, was offered by music publishing houses throughout Europe and is seen as Thalberg´s contribution to the world of piano pedagogy. A fine baritone himself, Thalberg seeks to translate qualities of vocal music into piano playing honoring legato, cantabile, listening and inner hearing. The treatise, or method comprises twenty-five transcriptions of vocal works by other composers, primarily operatic material. Each piece usually included Thalberg’s own introductory comment, consisting of some remarks and instructions based on a set of rules which is beautifully summed up in Danny L. Hithcock´s words:

1. Eliminate all tension, especially in the forearms.
2. Avoid striking the keys; rather, depress them as an extension of arm and body movement.
3. Dynamic markings are relative, not absolute; make the vocal line predominate.
4. Subordinate the left hand to the right except when it carries the melodic responsibility. Convey the overall harmony of the chords rather than their specific elements.
5. Shun the affectation of delayed entries for melodies.
6. Hold notes for their full values; slow, careful practice of fugues will develop this.
7. Modify and vary the sound rather than merely executing the notes. Learn thoroughly the resources and correct usage of the two pedals. Honor scrupulously all tempo indications.
9. Refrain from gratuitous fast playing; steady tempi, accuracy and expression demand and display greater ability, again facilitated by the study of fugues.
10. Play close to the keys. Listen to the music as you play; work with the mind more than the fingers. Study vocal technique and repertoire; listen to fine singers at every opportunity.

More about Thalberg:

Centro Studi Internationale Sigismund Thalberg
Sigismond Thalberg – 200 Years | Classical Music Diary
The International Sigismund Thalberg Prize 2012
The Romantic Piano Concerto, Vol. 58 – Pixis Thalberg


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You might have encountered audio visual art in various forms, not at least on YouTube or in the world of computer gaming. Music visualization refers to systems which convert music or sound into film, video or computer graphics.

Music visualization, as a tool for multisensory learning, often occurs in pedagogical discussions. We are happy to have a chance to talk to audio visual artist Andy Fillebrown about his Musical Sculptures, which are now available on YouTube.

Piano Street: When did you get in touch with the piano?

Andy Fillebrown: My earliest introduction to the piano was pretty painful. I was running through the house when I was a child and as I rounded the corner into the hall, I ran smack into the side of an old upright. Ouch! Probably not the best way to start playing, but it’s a funny story considering how much I love the instrument.

I was one of those kids that likes to take things apart to see how they work but I didn’t like getting my hands dirty so I read a lot of car repair manuals, instead. I grew up listening to my mother’s ballet class music. She would take us to the dance studio so she could keep an eye on my brothers and me while she was teaching. Initially, I took her beginner classes, but the old pianos in the building were a lot more interesting. I loved opening up the cases and looking at the inner workings while I pressed the various keys, and the fact that they were designed to make noise was awesome!

My father was a self taught guitarist and was starting to take piano lessons. He had beginner’s piano books around and he started teaching me from them. I took to it pretty quickly and formal classical lessons started soon after. I think was around 7 or 8 years old.

PS: How did you discover the connection between music and moving images?

AF: I had childhood dreams of being the next Beethoven but by the time high school came around I wanted to be the next Billy Joel. So I applied to Berklee College of Music instead of Juilliard. When I got there, I was blown away by how good the musicians were. Most of them were much better performers than I was, so I decided to switch to a film-scoring major. That was a lot of fun but the best part was learning about the physics of sound and the process of how the notes on the score make their journey to the final mix. It was like peeking under a piano’s hood all over again!

After graduating, I worked at a local music studio, taught myself how to write software so I could pursue microtonal composing more easily, and started working on converting AutoCAD into a 3D music sequencer. With AutoCAD, I was working with notes in 3 dimensions and experimenting with different scoring ideas in an immersive environment for the first time. Looking at scores that way, I started seeing things I had not noticed before and I started thinking of sound not as just symbols on a page, but as physical objects that could be shaped and molded.

PS: Which effects did these discoveries have on your work?

AF: It was exciting! I felt like I was an explorer discovering a new world, but I was having difficulty communicating the advanced compositional possibilities that would become available with the software and I was going broke from not pursuing a traditional career path. Necessity being the mother of invention, I taught myself how to use the 3D graphics software Blender and put together a home-made DVD to give people for Christmas. Everybody loved it so I started selling it, too. To advertise, I put three of the videos up online. They didn’t lead to many DVD sales and I was not getting the “wow” response I was looking for, so I went back to the drawing board, refined the concept, and put the camera in the score, instead.

PS: When you choose pieces for your musical sculptures, which musical qualities are you looking for when planning for a new animation?

AF: I believe beauty is divine, so it’s the only constant I use when choosing pieces. Everything else is in flux because I’m refining the selection process to reach the widest possible audience without making myself crazy working on music I don’t want to hear.

Right now I’m choosing pieces based on how much eye candy they will generate in the animation, so compositional complexity and virtuosity are big factors. Long scale runs, contrary motion, and notes jumping all over the place are mainly what I’m looking for right now. Licensing is also a consideration. I’m working with a zero budget, so anything in the public domain is great.

Early on I wanted to make the videos extremely technical with lots of annotations regarding melody, chord structure, and performance, but I decided it is too difficult to automate right now and too time consuming to do by hand. I may make fully annotated videos in the future, but it’s not a priority at the moment.

PS: We are thrilled by the space-ship-traveling-in-time experience, opening up for a 3D experience of music! How can your musical sculptures help us to experience music?

AF: The 3D aspect of the visualizations is cool and people are enjoying the immersive quality, but I don’t think it’s really helping the musical experience beyond what can be done in 2D, yet. Fortunately, the animations are only the tip of the iceberg. As things progress, the 3rd dimension will become indispensable and I’ll be able to apply the designs I’ve been working on to interactive forms easily since a lot of the details have already been worked out.

With the rise of noise pollution and visual overstimulation, people are struggling to stay focused on the purely audible long enough to discover the genius in the details. This makes tying the sense of sight in with the sense of sound incredibly important for music in my opinion, because deeper understanding of sound is getting lost in the din, especially for the general public. With the 3D aspect making music more engaging, I’m hoping people will be more likely to explore compositions they’ve never heard before and listen to pieces again and again. Moving forward, this is the only way I can see general musical knowledge returning to the state it was in when popular music could only be distributed in sheet music form and a larger percentage of the population owned, and knew how to play, a piano.

PS: Do you have plans for a software release enabling the public to try your concept?

AF: Eventually, yes, but not anytime soon unless other people join the project. The source code is freely available, though, so if someone were feeling adventurous they could probably compile it on their own without too much difficulty. It might be tough to learn how to use since there is no documentation, but it’s do-able.

A few people have expressed a desire to make similar kinds of visualizations, but they lose interest when they discover how long it takes me to generate a full length animation after the modeling and effects are finished. If I’m having a good week I can render about 30 minutes of video, but that’s only because I’ve got 12 old computers networked together running 24 hours a day. The same process would take over a month on one computer. When I start rendering with graphics cards instead of CPUs, it will speed things up dramatically, but I’m not at that point, yet…

PS: What can you tell us about your future plans?

AF: Eventually, I’d like to start working with full orchestral scores and live performances like Stephen Malinowksi does with the Music Animation Machine, but I’m also excited about the possibility of making videos based on the Open Goldberg Project’s Bösendorfer CEUS recordings performed by Kimiko Ishizaka.

Down the road I’ve got some ideas for making interactive apps, and I like to eventually get around to polishing up the sequencer I’ve been coding so others can use it, too. There’s a lot more to come, God willing. Stay tuned!

Related reading:
What Your Ears can’t See – The Music Animation Machine

Music Visualization – Wikipedia article


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Now in its 14th season, Carnegie Hall’s Perspectives series is an artistic initiative in which select musicians are invited to explore their own musical individuality and create their own personal concert series through collaborations with other musicians and ensembles.

When asked to be a 2011–2012 Perspectives artist, pianist András Schiff was adamant about one thing: He wanted to focus on Béla Bartók and the vibrant legacy the composer left on their native Hungary. And, as Schiff was quick to point out, Bartók was also a New Yorker, moving there in the midst of World War II and living for a time on 57th Street – only a few blocks away from Carnegie Hall.

András Schiff: A Personal Insight Into Bartók

Schiff reveals his longtime friendship with Iván Fischer, and discusses the importance of having Hungarian musicians perform the music of Bartók in this video.

Among the many highlights of Schiff’s series were performances of Bartók’s three piano concertos, a celebration of his musical heritage with Hungarian group Muzsikás, the premiere of a Carnegie Hall commission by Jörg Widmann, and performances with the Salzburg Marionette Theater. In February he also held a Professional Training Workshop, focusing on the music of both Bartók and Bach.


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G. Henle Publishers produced some unique and educational videos that will give you a insight into the traditional craft of music engraving, a process employed by Henle up until the 1990s. This movie was filmed in the year 2007 and produced in 2011 for NAMM and G. Henle Publishers, directed by Martin Marris. Henle still employ a variety of techniques in producing their beautiful scores, including software programs like Sibelius. But very few people know just how involved the art of music engraving was in the days before modern music printing technology.


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London based Karrot Animation Studios have been busy working on a music video for pianist Benjamin Grosvenor’s performance of Rhapsody in Blue.

The brief was to assemble a 4 minute version from the longer audio track whilst creating an animated narrative about Benjamin getting to a concert at New York’s Radio City Hall. The filmmakers were also encouraged to pay homage to classic Hollywood cartoons, opting for a 1950s retro aesthetics which suited the fast turnaround time of 5 weeks.

Rhapsody in Blue is Benjamin Grosvenor’s new album, recently launched on Decca Classics.
Hear Grosvenor´s comments about Rhapsody in Blue here:

Hear album previews on iTunes


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French composer Olivier Messiaen was a synaesthete who experienced colours when he heard or imagined music. He devised his own system of modes (scales) based on his synaesthesia and in some scores he actually notated the colours, to help the performer in interpretation. Here is a unique video clip from one of his famous classes at the Paris Conservatoire.

A Naturalist’s Voice

From 1941 he became a teacher and lecturer at the Paris Conservatoire and held classes in analysis, theory, aesthetics and rhythm but it wasn’t until 1966 that he was officially appointed Professor of Composition (although he had in effect been teaching composition for years). Many famous names passed through these classes including Pierre Boulez, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Iannis Xenakis, Alexander Goehr and later George Benjamin who Messiaen had a particular fondness and admiration of. Perhaps the one thing that rubbed off on all these composers is Messiaens’ avoidance of regular metre citing it as artificial (relating to marches and more popular music). Messiaen supports his argument by pointing out that in nature things are not even or regular. For example the branches of a tree and the waves of the sea are not even patterns. However, what is true is ‘natural resonance’, and this true phenomenon is what his music is based on.

Messiaen with students at the Paris Conservatoire

Messiaen with students at the Paris Conservatoire

Messaien’s wife (and former student) Yvonne Loriod said about their first encounter that “all the students waited eagerly for this new teacher to arrive and finally he appeared with music case and badly swollen fingers, a result of his stay in the prisoner of war camp. He proceeded to the piano and produced the full score of Debussys‘ Prélude á l’après-Midi d’un Faune and began to play all the parts. The whole class was captivated and stunned and everyone immediately fell in love with him.” Messiaen never imparted his own compositional techniques in his classes but rather steered students along their own paths.

Messiaen on Synaesthesia

“When I was 20 years old I met a Swiss painter who became a good friend by the name of Charles Blanc-Gatti, he was synaethesiac which is a disturbance of the optic and auditory nerves so when one hears sounds one also sees corresponding colours in the eye. I unfortunately didn’t have this. But intellectually like synaethesiacs I too see colours- if only in my mind – colours corresponding to sound. I try to incorporate this in my work, to pass on to the listener. It’s all very mobile. You’ve got to feel sound moving. Sounds are high, low, fast, slow etc. My colours do the same thing, they move in the same way. Like rainbows shifting from one hue to the next. It’s very fleeting and impossible to fix in any absolute way.
It’s true I see colours, it’s true they’re there. They’re musician’s colours, not to be confused with painter’s colours. They’re colours that go with music. If you tried to reproduce these colours on canvas it may produce something horrible. They’re not made for that, they’re musicians colours. What I’m saying is strange but it’s true. I believe in natural resonance, as I believe in all natural phenomena. Natural resonance is in exact agreement with the phenomena of complimentary colours. I have a red carpet that I often look at. Where this carpet meets the lighter coloured parquet next to it, I intermittently see marvelous greens that a painter couldn’t mix – natural colours created in the eye.”


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5 years ago |
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Want to own a white grand piano just like the one John Lennon had and played in the famous video for his song Imagine? Or maybe you rather want to own Lennon’s estate in Weybridge which is now up for sale?

To commemorate the 70th birthday of legendary musician and songwriter John Lennon, Steinway Sons introduced the Imagine Series Limited Edition piano in 2010. The Imagine Series Limited Edition is modeled after the white Steinway grand piano that John Lennon presented to Yoko Ono on her birthday in 1971, which is still at their famous Manhattan residence where Ono lives.

Lennon  Ono at Tittehurst

Lennon Ono at Tittenhurst

The music desk of each piano incorporates one of four different John Lennon original drawings. “Come Together”, the title of the opening track on the Beatles’ historic album, “Abbey Road,” reflects John Lennon’s desire to bring people together. “Grand Piano” is a drawing that captures the songwriting process – as musician and piano become one. “Freda People” exemplifies John Lennon’s passion for using music for the benefit of mankind.
“Self Portrait” is perhaps John Lennon’s most famous drawing – as just a few marks on the page and it’s unmistakably John.

The Imagine Series is available in the following Steinway Sons grand piano sizes: Model M (170 cm), Model O (180 cm), Model A (188 cm), Model B (211 cm), Model D (274 cm)

To enable the music in it’s original setting, there is now a rare opportunity to purchase John Lennon´s luxuriously finished former family home 1964-68, set in about 1.5 acres of exquisite gardens within the renowned St George’s Hill Estate in Weybridge, Surrey, UK. However, note that this is not the famous estate of Tittenhurst where the Imagine video was recorded and where Lennon and Ono lived 1969-71, before moving to the United States.

Sheet music from
Imagine by John Lennon, solo piano arrangement


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