Great Pianists Technique Series (All 10 Episodes)

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Great Pianists Technique Collection (playlist)

Marc-Andre Hamelin
 (Photo credit: helsingborgskonserthus)
I. Great Pianists' Technique Episode 1: Chords

A collection of some great moments in chord-playing. Given the severe time constraint, the collection clearly cannot be complete.

1) Rachmaninov Piano Sonata No.1 (first mov.), Ogdon (1968);

2) Albeniz El Corpus Christi en Sevilla, Arrau (1947) 0:23;

English: Lazar Berman
Lazar Berman (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
3) Liszt Transcendental Etude No.2 (two fragments), Berman live (1976) 1:18;

4) Liszt Transcendental Etude No.8, Berman live (1976) 1:56;

5) Rachmaninov Piano Concerto No.3 (Cadenza), Berman live (1977) 2:26;

6) Liszt Tarantella (From Venezia e Napoli), Hofmann (1916) 3:35;
(...and one should note that by this date Steinway&Sons had NOT yet built his piano with narrower keys...)

7) Lully-Godowsky Gigue (No.12 of Godowsky's Renaisance suite), Gilels (1935) 4:04; (Here the ability of Gilels to play any sort of chords/jumps without slowing down or reducing the dynamics is simply phenomenal. To properly gauge Gilels' virtuosity here one should listen to
Barere's recording: Final score Emil-Simon 3-0)
Maurizio Pollini
Cover of Maurizio Pollini

8) Schumann Symphonic Etude IX (Presto Possibile), Anda (1943) 4:31;

9) Strauss-Godowsky Die Fledermaus, Fiorentino live (1994) 4:42;

10) Alkan Symphony for Solo Piano, Hamelin (2000) 5:16;

11) Alkan Concerto for Solo Piano, Ogdon (1972) 6:19;

12) Alkan Concerto for Solo Piano, Hamelin (2006) 6:45;

13) Rubinstein Piano Sonata No.4 (Scherzo), Howard (1981) 7:11;
(Rubinstein's Sonata in A minor is a wondrous piece from the first to the last note. One wonders why every year pianist XX records Chopin's 2nd sonata for the zillionth time instead of venturing into new territory....)

14) Rubinstein Piano Sonata No.4 (Finale), Howard (1981) 7:48;

15) Busoni Piano Concerto (fourth mov.), Scarpini live (1966) 8:59;
(Busoni's concerto is not a light meal...and this merciless passage arrives after about one hour of hard work.)

16) Busoni Piano Concerto (fourth mov.), Ogdon (1967) 9:18;

17) Debussy Etude No.12 "Pour les accords", Vedernikov (1957) 9:35;

18) Prokofiev Piano Sonata No.7, Pollini (1971) 10:26;

19) Shostakovich Piano Sonata No.1, Zilberstein live (1987) 11:25;

20) Ives Concorde Sonata ("Hawthorne"), Roberto Szidon (1971) 12:04;

21) Rachmaninov Prelude op.23 No.2, Richter live (1954) 12:23;

22) Scriabin Piano Sonata No.5, Richter live (1962) 12:35;

23) Szymanovski Piano Sonata No.2 (two fragments from second mov.), Richter live (1954) 13:32;


II. Great Pianists' Technique Episode 2: Double Notes

A collection of some memorable moments in double-notes playing. Of course the collection does not strive for completeness.

1) Saint-Saens Etude en forme de Valse op.52-6, Cortot (1919)

2) Chopin Berceuse, Hofmann (1918) 00:38;

3) Chopin-Hofmann Waltz op.64 No.1, Hofmann (1938 Casimir Hall Live) 01:19;
The picture is actually Rosenthal's study in double thirds on the same waltz...just to give an idea.

4) Henselt Si oiseau j'etais, Rachmaninov (1923) 01:57;

5) Liszt Feux-Follets, Richter (Moscow 1958 Live) 02:33;

6) Carl Maria von Weber Sonata No.3 Finale, Richter (Moscow 1954 Live) 03:39;

7) Chopin Ballade No.2, Richter (Moscow 1950 Live) 04:01; (Richter's fury in pressing the pedal is as impressive as his double-note technique here!)

8) Chopin Ballade No.4, Richter (Prague 1960 Live) 04:41;

9) Liszt-Busoni Figaro fantasy, Gilels (1935) 05:17;

10) Brahms Paganini Vars 1&2 from book 1, Michelangeli (1949) 06:28;

11) Brahms Paganini Vars 1 from book 2, Michelangeli (1949) 07:22;

12) Schumann Toccata, Barere (1936) 07:52;

13) Chopin Etude op.10 No.7, Friedman (1926) 08:35;

14) Chopin Etude op.25 No.6, Lhevinne (1934) 09:20;

15) Bizet/Horowitz Carmen Variations (1947) 10:05;

16) Brahms Handel Var. XIV, Petri (1940) 10:40;

17) Brahms Sonata No.1 Finale, Katchen (1964) 11:16;

18) Brahms Sonata No.1 Finale, Zimerman (1980) 12:23;

And to conclude the most terrifying of all double notes...
the chromatic thirds from the Don Juan:

19) Liszt Reminiscences de Don Juan, Barere (1936) 13:32;

20) Liszt Reminiscences de Don Juan, Ginzburg (Moscow 1957 Live) 14:04;

III. Great Pianists' Technique Episode 3: Glissando

A collection of memorable glissandos from great pianists past and present. It is easier to take a more comprehensive view with such a specific musical element, but nonetheless many other examples (Liszt Mephisto, de Falla Danza del terror, Glissando Mazurkas by Bohm & Lecuona and Bowen Study Op.46 No.5 etc. etc....) have regrettably had to be jettisoned.

"Use only the nail, either of your thumb or of your index or third finger, without even the tiniest area of flesh"

1) Ravel Conc. in G (First mov.), Michelangeli live (1982);

2) Ravel Gaspard de la nuit (Ondine), Michelangeli (1959) 0:13;

3) Ravel Jeux d'eau, Perlemuter (1966) 0:41;

4) Debussy Feux d'artifice (Preludes, Book 2, No.12), Casadesus (1960) 0:52;

5) Debussy Etude No.6 (Pour les huit doigts), Gieseking (1954) 1:03;

6) Debussy Pour le piano (Prelude), Gilels live (1954) 1:10;

7) de Falla Noches en los jardines de Espana (En el Generalife), Curzon (1951) 1:25;

8) Liszt Totentanz, Petri (1936) 2:00;

9) Liszt Hungarian Rhapsody No.10, Hamelin live (1997) 2:41;

10) Liszt Hungarian Rhapsody No.2 (Cadenza: Rachmaninoff), Rachmaninoff (1919) 3:22;

11) Strauss/Tausig Man let nurd einmal, Rachmaninoff (1927) 3:41; (Such elegance!)

12) Tchaikovsky/Feinberg Symphony No.6 (Scherzo), Volodos (1996) 3:58;

13) Stravinsky Petrouchka (Danse Russe), Horowitz (1932) 4:23;

14) Stravinsky Petrouchka (La semaine grasse - 2 excerpts), Pollini (1971) 4:39;

15) Prokofiev Toccata Op.11, Horowitz (1930) 6:19;

16) Prokofiev Piano Concerto No.2 Op.16 (Third mov.), Cherkassky live (1991) 6:37; (Shura was 82 here and still in fine form giving an atmospheric reading of this concerto.)

17) Beethoven Piano Concerto No.1 Op.15 (First mov.), Pollini live (1992) 6:59;

18) Hummel Piano Concerto in A minor Op.85 (First mov.), Hough (1986) 7:17; (...clearly an homage to Beethoven's concerto)

19) Weber Konzertstuck Op.79, Arrau (1946) 7:36;

20-21) Beethoven Waldstein Sonata Op.53 (Finale)
(the interpretation of this passage is actually a bit controversial and pianists like d'Albert, Cziffra, Backhaus and Horowitz play it as normal staccato octaves. Brendel's opinion:
"The only safe method of preserving the pianissimo character of this section without the help of a piano stop lies in imitating the sliding progress of the glissandi by distributing the passages between the hands, while reducing the bass octaves to their lower part.")
Who plays exactly as written in the score? Schnabel (1934) 7:51 or Arrau (1963) 8:11?

22) Beethoven Waldstein Sonata Op.53 (Finale), Arrau live (1983) 8:33; (The answer is clear. Schnabel's suggested splitting of this passage between the two hands can be found in his edition of the sonatas. Rudolf Serkin apparently used to lick his thumb and forefinger before performing these glissandi, although he does not do this in his video from 1965, which sadly cuts away from his hands at the crucial point:

23) Brahms Paganini Variations Op.35 (Variation 13, Book 1), Michelangeli live (1952) 8:56;

24) Brahms Paganini Variations Op.35 (Variation 13, Book 1), Gilels live (1983) 9:26;

25) Brahms Paganini Variations Op.35 (Variation 13, Book 1), Katchen (1966) 10:01; (The clarity of the accompanying line here is particularly beautiful.)

26) Liszt Paganini Etude No.5, Zecchi (1937) 10:37;

27) Ravel Miroirs (Alborada del gracioso), Richter (1964) 11:14; (apparently Robert Casadesus refused to perform these glissandi in thirds and fourths after witnessing a pianist leaving blood all over the keyboard from playing them...)

28) Ravel Miroirs (Alborada del gracioso), Lipatti (1948) 11:30;

29) Bartok Sonata for two pianos and percussion (Second mov.), Ogdon & Lucas (1965) 11:41; (The American pianist Leonid Hambro solved the problem of the black-key thirds here by using his wallet!)

30) Balakirev Islamey, Barere (1936) 12:04;

31) Chopin Study Op.10 No.5, Rosenthal (1931) 12:20; (The final octaves here played as a double octave glissando - it hurts just thinking about it!)

32) Prokofiev Piano Concerto No.3 Op.26 (Third mov. - 2 excerpts), Janis (1962) 12:34; (The famous clustered note arpeggios of this concerto are not strictly speaking glissandos but almost sounds like them (which should not excuse some pianists from simplifying these difficult passages as if they were true glissandos).)

and finally

33) Ginastera Piano Sonata No.3, Panizza (2006) 13:19; (This sonata contains perhaps the most bewildering combinations of all sorts of glissandos.)

IV. Great Pianists' Technique Episode 4: Repeated Notes

A collection of some memorable moments in repeated note-playing. This video can also be seen as a hymn of gratitude to Sebastien Erard for inventing the double escapement. And since Liszt greatly admired Erard's pianos it will not come as a surprise that most of the examples in this collection are Liszt's (we should perhaps blame Chopin for using the stiffer Pleyel's pianos. It is a really sad fact of life that 15 min. is such a short unit of time and regrettably many other interesting excerpts (like Chopin Etude op.10/7) were left out. This is NOT meant to be a comprehensive catalogue of all repeated notes appearing in piano literature.

1) Moszkowski Caprice Espagnol Hofmann (1916);
(The eternal question of "Who is the greatest pianist ever?" will always remain elusive. But if we slightly change it into "Who is the pianist with the greatest repeated notes ever?" then the answer can only be "Josef Hofmann". In the Moszkowski's Caprice he dispatches the thorny long sequences of repeated notes at a whopping speed of 120 a dotted crotchet! Even a tremendous virtuoso like Eileen Joyce does not get close to Josef's stupendous rendition of repeated notes (Eileen's sensuous recording can be found here: I bet that Josef could play faster repeated notes on an upright piano than most pianists could on a good grand piano. I tried to include as many of Josef's excerpts as possible but regrettably I had to leave out the live performance of the Caprice from his golden jubilee concert in 1937 and Schubert-Liszt's Erlkonig.)

2) Liszt Tarantella (from Venezia e Napoli) Hofmann (1916) 0:43;

3) Liszt La Campanella Hofmann (1923) 1:23;

4) Liszt Rhapsody No.2 Hofmann (1922) 1:54;

5) Liszt Rhapsody No.13 Busoni (1922) 2:20;

6) Mendelssohn Scherzo op.16 No.2 Risler (1917) 2:40;
(The repeated notes are not very challenging here but Risler's lightness of touch is miraculous.
"Eduard Risler has an inimitable soft touch. He has discovered those last delicate nuances which lie precisely between tone and silence. His tones seem not to begin and not to cease; they are woven out of ethereal gossamer." from Oskar Bie, "A history of the pianoforte and pianoforte players" 1899.)

7) Scarlatti Sonata K.141 (L.422) Argerich Live 3:02;
(I think that the interpretation of this toccata would benefit from a slightly slower tempo; this said Argerich's repeated notes (116 a dotted crotchet) are truly phenomenal.)

8) Ravel Scarbo Argerich Live (1978) 3:37;

9) Schumann Carnaval Reconnassaince Michelangeli Live (1957) 4:01;

10) Ravel Ondine Michelangeli Live (1959) 4:18;
(Arturo's supreme control makes the impossible possible, realizing Debussy's utopia of making the piano sound "like an instrument without hammers".)

11) Debussy Etude No.9 ("Pour les notes repetees") Bavouzet (2008) 5:08;

12) Liszt Transcendental Etude No.2 Berman Live (1976) 5:42;
complete performance:

13) Wagner-Liszt Tannhauser Overture Bolet Live (1974) 5:56;

14) Scarlatti K.96 (L.465) Zecchi (1937) 7:05;

15) Scarlatti K.455 (L.209) Horowitz (1962) 7:26;

16) Liszt Rhapsody No.6 Horowitz (1947) 7:54;
(there are many other great performances of this famous passage so the choice was hard; Argerich and Cziffra in particular are both wonderful and play this excerpt slightly faster and perhaps more excitingly; but in the end I opted for Volodja's who marvelously captures the capriciousness of this passage.)

17) Thalberg Grande Fantasie on Rossini's Semiramide Earl Wild Live (1981) 8:44;

18) Liszt Rhapsody No.9 Gilels (1951) 9:16;

19) Liszt Reminiscences des Huguenots Cohen (1996) 9:37;

20) Liszt Totentanz (version for solo piano) Cohen (1996) 10:29;

21) Alkan Concerto for piano solo, first mov. Hamelin (2006) 10:57;
(this is just a small excerpt from what are perhaps the most gargantuan repeated notes ever penned.)

22) Rzewski "The people united will never be defeated", Variation XXIV; Hamelin (1998) 11:32;
(Your new alarm clock...)

23) Liszt Rigoletto Paraphrase Bellucci (2001) 11:48;

24) Schubert-Liszt Erlkonig Richter Live (1949) 12:16;
(the terrifying repeated notes of Erlkonig are not Liszt's invention but already appear in Schubert's Lied; Schubert's predilection for this technique can also be seen in the finale of his Trio in E-flat D929. )

25) Liszt Mephisto Waltz No.1 Richter Live (1958) 13:06;

26) Scriabin Piano Sonata No.9 RIchter Live (1966) 13:40;

27) Ravel Alborada del Gracioso Richter Live (1965) 14:13;

28) Prokofiev Piano Sonata No.8 Richter (1961) 14:38

V. Great Pianists' Technique Episode 5: Leaps

A collection of some memorable leaps/jumps; There is probably nothing as risky and unpredictable for the pianist than this type of technique. As usual this is not meant to be a comprehensive catalogue.

"In large leaps, now and then you must claw a wrong note otherwise no-one will notice that it is difficult."

1) Liszt Rhap. No.2 Tom Cat Live (1946);

2) Rosenthal Carnaval de Vienne, Rosenthal (1930) 00:09;
(parnassian is a great regret that Moritz did not record Liszt's Don Juan for which he was famous!)
Complete performance:

3) Rosenthal Carnaval de Vienne, Fialkowska (1998) 00:27;

4) Schumann Carnaval, Michelangeli live (1957) 00:47;

5) Schumann Carnaval, Rachmaninov live (1929) 01:25;
(for Sergei's gigantic hands (according to Cyril Smith his right hand could play a wide chord like C4-E4-G4-C5-E5 with the monstrous fingering 2-3-4-5-1 !!! And his left hand could manage a chord like C-E-flat-G-C-G...) leaps like these must have been easy...)

6) Chopin Sonata No.2, Rachmaninov (1930) 2:02;

7) Schumann Fantasy op.17 (2nd mov) Arrau live (1959) 2:16; (these are perhaps the most treacherous leaps in standard repertoire; and very rarely have I heard a live performance which had the required fire and precision. Nightmare live performances of famous pianists abound. Arrau, though not quite note perfect, is splendid.)

8) Chopin Etude op.25 No.4 Sokolov live (1995) 2:52;

9) Chopin Var. op.2 Gilels live (1963) 3:24;

10) Liszt Reminiscences de Don Juan, Ginzburg (1957) 4:02;
("Despite all the exercises this Cadenza will always remain a daring passage" (Busoni). Neuhaus claimed that only the pianola and Ginzburg could play this famous passage accurately; He plays very well indeed though definitely not with the precision of a pianola :-) )

11) Liszt Reminiscences de Don Juan, Barere (1936) 4:17;

12) Liszt Reminiscences de Don Juan, Wild (1968) 4:32;

13) Liszt Reminiscences de Huguenots, Cohen (1996) 4:46;

14) Liszt Paganini Etude No.6 (1838), vars VIII and IX Nikolai (1983) 5:28;
(the 1838 version of this etude contains some of Liszt's most hazardous passages; the leaps in var IX are possibly the most phantasmagoric and risky ever penned.)

15) Liszt Transcendental Etude No.4 ("Mazeppa") Berman (1959) 6:16;

16) Liszt Transcendental Etude No.8 ("Wilde Jagd") Berman (1959) 6:44;

17) Liszt Transcendental Etude No.11 ("Harmonies de Soir") Arrau (1937) 6:57;
complete performance:

18) Liszt Transcendental Etude No.12 ("Chasse neige") Berman live (1976) 7:42;
complete performance:

19) Liszt Grand Galop Chromatique, Cziffra (1963) 8:12;

20) Liszt "Apres une lecture de Dante" Berman (1977) 8:44;

21) Liszt Mephisto Waltz Arrau live (1963) 9:02;

22) Liszt Mephisto Waltz Ogdon live (1986) 9:20;

23) Liszt Mephisto Waltz Richter live (1958) 9:35;

24) Liszt Mephisto Waltz Ashkenazy (1970) 9:50;

25) Liszt-Busoni Mephisto Waltz Petri (1956) 10:07;
(Busoni's transcription is based on the orchestral version of the waltz. In his Liszt editions Busoni always took a very pragmatic approach, mitigating "unnecessary" difficulties. Here the very risky leaps in the right hand are eliminated. But the suggested 2-5 fingering forces a rotation of the hand/forearm creating the illusion of a leap. )

26) Liszt-Busoni Fantasy and Fugue "Ad nos, ad salutarem undam" Bellucci (2000) 10:26;

27) Liszt-Busoni Figaro Fantasy Gilels (1935) 10:45;

28) Liszt-Busoni Figaro Fantasy Ginzburg (1948) 11:03;

29) Brahms Handel var. 25 Fleisher (1956) 11:24;

30) Brahms Piano concerto No.2 Arrau live (1962) 11:53;

31) Rachmaninov Rhap. on a theme of Paganini Kapell (1951) 12:13

32) Mussorgsky Pictures at an exhibition Kapell live (1953) 12:27;

33) Albeniz Asturias de Larrocha (1986) 12:46;

34) Albeniz Triana de Larrocha (1986) 13:09;

35) Albeniz Triana Rosenthal (1929) 13:34;
(it is interesting to compare Albeniz' modern interpreter par excellence (de Larrocha) with Rosenthal who was highly esteemed by the composer himself.)
complete performance:

36) Scarlatti Sonata K.113 (L.345) Zecchi (1935)13:54;
(the hand crossing in Triana seems a child's game compared to the jumps in some of the wildest Scarlatti's sonatas (other examples include K523-L490 (Zecchi), K24-L495 (Pugno) and K27-L449 (Michelangeli)); "In the early sonatas you get some incredible passages of crossing hands, but you don't find it in his later work. You know why? He got too fat." (Andras Schiff))

37) Liszt La Campanella Friedman (1926) 14:25;

38) Hamelin Etude from Liszt/Paganini (2009) 14:45;

VI. Great Pianists' Technique Episode 6: The Art of Sound

"In the beginning was the Sound". A collection on magical timbre and singing tone.
"All technique originates in the art of touch and returns to it" (Liszt)
"Technique in the higher sense of the word is concentrated in the mind, it is composed of geometry and wise coordination. That however is only a beginning, for touch also belongs to true technique as does very particularly the use of the pedals" (Busoni)

1) Ravel Jeux d'eau, Cortot 1920
(Undoubtedly one of the seven wonders of the modern world.)

2) Debussy Jimbo's Lullaby, Cortot 1947 0:33
("Cortot's tone had such an extraordinary quality that one could recognise it from among a hundred pianists" M. Tagliaferro)

3) Debussy Des pas sur la neige, Gieseking 1938 1:17
(Gieseking's transcendental touch allowed him impalpable pianissimos and dizzy diminuendos.)

4) Debussy Pagodes, Gieseking 1956 1:56
("He painted with fingers dipped in the hues of Degas, Renoir, Manet and Bonnard" A. Chasins)

5) Grieg Puck, Gieseking 1956 2:49
(those feeble B-flats!
"Through continuous self hearing, the sense for tone beauty and for finest shadings will allow you to play with an irreproachable technique" Gieseking)

6) Debussy Ondine, Erdmann 1928 3:07

7) Ravel Scarbo, Michelangeli live 1959 3:58
(one can only wonder at how he could play such miraculously soft repeated notes!)

Debussy Reflets
8) Michelangeli 1942 4:47

9) Rosenthal 1929 5:37

10) Debussy Images, Michelangeli live 1957 6:31

11) Debussy Images, Michelangeli live 1957 7:36
(two independent lines superimposed and made distinct thanks to subtle timbre nuances...)

12) Debussy Images, Vines 1930 8:58
(Debussy's reminiscences of Liszt's Chasse-Neige)

13) Debussy Estampes, Vines 1930 9:37
(how beautifully distant and yet so resonant those C sharps in the treble!)

14) Chopin Op 15 No 2, Busoni 1922 10:17

15) Liszt Legend No 2, Horowitz live 1947 11:23
(stereoscopic left hand-scales!
"All your waves and breakers have swept over me")

16) Mussorgsky By the water, Horowitz 1947 12:22
("to be able to produce many varieties of sound, that is what I call technique" Horowitz)

17) Saint-Saens-Liszt-Horowitz Danse Macabre, Horowitz 1942 13:19
(I wonder if Volodja hired John Cage to tune his piano)

18) Bach-Busoni Choral Prelude, Horowitz 1934 14:16
(unbelievable three dimensional differentiation of the 3 voices!)

19) Rachmaninov Polka de W.R., Horowitz live 15:02

20) Rachmaninov op 32 No 5, Horowitz live 1975 15:32

21) Clementi op 25 No 5, Horowitz 1954 16:32

22) Schumann op 13, Gilels live 1984 17:22

23) Schumann-Liszt Fruhlingsnacht, Lhevinne 1935 18:17

24) Schumann Toccata, Lhevinne 1935 19:03
(almost an organ with 2 registers!)

24) Wagner-Brassin, Hofmann 1923 19:29
(pure magic! "A touch that ranged from icy cold to burning hot; unlimited shades of color that came from changes of tone quality or alterations of balance rather than from an increase or decrease of volume. He was the dramatic orchestrator of the piano" A. Chasins)

25) Rubinstein Melody, Hofmann 1923 20:20
("Rubinstein's tone was like an organ" Leschetizky)

26) Tchaikovsky June, Godowsky 1926 21:23
("Never forget what you heard tonight; never lose the memory of that sound. There's nothing like it in this world. It is tragic that the public has never heard Popsy as only he can play" J. Hofmann)

Chopin op 57
27) Paderewski 1922 22:26
(that gorgeous F in bar 3, a golden sunbeam)

28) Rosenthal 1930 23:06
(those languid and "liquid" sixths at 23:47...)

29) Liszt Liebestraum, Rosenthal 1929 24:03
("the grand manner of playing is very a simply a grand manner" Rosenthal
How could one disagree?)

30) Chopin op 55 No 2, Friedman 1936 24:50

31) Levitzki 1923 25:38
(the most moving Orpheus, what a tone!)

32) Rachmaninov 1925 26:25

Schubert-Liszt Standchen
33) Rachmaninov 1942 27:07

34) Horowitz 1986 28:11
(What marvel of colors would have been the Rachmaninov's Dances played by Sergei and Volodja... How could RCA decide to turn it down??)

35) Schubert-Liszt Ave Maria, Berman 1989 29:08
(Lazar had in his fingers the secret of the most gorgeous tone)

36) Lipatti 1947 30:14

37) Hess 1957 31:05
(being a pupil of Matthay surely helps your touch!)

38) Liszt Annees de pelerinage, Arrau 1928 32:03

Beethoven op 110
39) Schnabel 1932 33:05
(Beethoven fantasizing on the bebung.
"The second note is repeated in an audible manner, very tenuto and the other smartly detached and less marked" Czerny)

40) Pollini 1976 33:52

41) Schoenberg op 25, Pollini 1974 34:26

42) Scriabin Vers la flamme, Sofronitsky 1959 35:01

43) Ravel Miroirs, Richter live 1965 36:37

44) Ravel Miroirs, Richter live 1965 37:22

45) Debussy Preludes, Richter live 1993 38:27

46) Schumann Waldszenen, Richter 1956 39:32

47) Saint-Saens Conc. No 5, Richter 1950 40:07
(piano or xylophone?)

48) Prokofiev Conc. No 5, Richter 1950 40:27

49) Beethoven-Liszt Symp. No 5, Gould 1967 41:05

50) Wagner-Gould, Gould 1974 42:10

51) Ravel-Gould, Gould 1974 42:50

VII. Great Pianists' Technique Episode 7: Trills

"I knew that my method of playing the trill could be greatly improved. After much study, to my great delight the rebellious trills came into beautiful submission." Busoni

There is probably nothing which is at the same time as simple and excruciatingly difficult as a trill. Some pianists struggle to get decent ones (according to Lenz a once famous piano professor by the name of Werstedt devoted his life to playing the trills in the theme in Beethoven's op.26 but sadly was never satisfied...) while more fortunate ones are born with perfect trills (Alfredo Casella claimed he could perform 3-5 trills with the utmost ease without ever studying them).

Many trills are difficult because of their length and this cuts down on the number of examples that could be included. Therefore this collection is NOT intended to be a complete survey of trills nor it is meant to cover the infinite baroque variations on the theme. It does, however, provide an interesting contrast to the "Lisztian virtuosity" that has been a key feature of most of the previous videos.

Bach Prelude 16 from WTC Bk.1, Pollini Live, 2011;

Bach Sarabande from French Suite No.6, Gould, 1971 1:08;

Scarlatti Sonata K.159 (L.104), Zecchi, 1937 3:05;

Chopin Waltz Op.42, Zecchi, 1937 3:24;

Chopin Waltz Op.42, Solomon, 1945 3:36;

Chopin Waltz Op.42, Rachmaninoff, 1919 3:47;

de Falla Ritual Fire Dance, Rubinstein, 1947 4:02;

Debussy L'Isle Joyeuse, Cherkassky Live, 1963 4:22;

Liszt Paganini Etude No.6 (1851), Arrau, 1928 4:46;

Chopin Nocturne Op.62 No.1, Ciccolini 2003 5:17; ( "I'll always remember, I was a student still in Montreal, I went to hear Ciccolini playing Rachmaninoff's 2nd with the Montreal Symphony. And I remember his trills. And it sounded like 144 notes a second!". Marc-Andre Hamelin)

Weber/Tausig Invitation to the Dance, Moiseiwitsch, 1939 6:11;

Liszt Sonata, Sofronitsky Live, 1960 7:45;

Scriabin Sonata No.10, Horowitz Live, 1966 8:11; (Horowitz surely had one of the most memorable Scriabin 10th's. Almost any passage in the sonata could be chosen to illustrate the trills....)

Liszt Concerto No.1, 2nd mvt., Anda, 1955 8:59;

Ravel Concerto in G, 1st mvt., Michelangeli, 1957 10:13;

Chopin Concerto No.1 1st mvt., Hofmann Live, 1956 11:09; (Josef's left hand trills here are particularly unusual and distinctive.)

Saint-Saens Concerto No.2, 3rd mvt., Gilels, 1954 11:29;

Rachmaninoff Concerto No.2, 2nd mvt., Richter, 1959 12:25;

Rachmaninoff Sonata No.1, 2nd mvt., Fiorentino, 1995 13:20;

Brahms Sonata No.2, 3rd mvt., Zimerman, 1979 14:14;

Brahms Paganini Variation 4 Book 1, Michelangeli, 1948 14:39;

Brahms Handel Variation 14, Solomon, 1941/42 15:28;

Beethoven Concerto No.5 3rd mvt., Backhaus Live, 1961 16:06;
(Tricky trills for the weak many can dispatch them this way at 75?!?)

Beethoven Sonata Op.2 No.3, 4th mvt., Michelangeli Live, 1952 16:57;

Beethoven Sonata Op.109, finale, Backhaus, 1963 17:45;

Brahms Concerto No.2, 1st mvt., Richter, 1969 19:16;

Brahms Concerto No.2, 1st mvt., Hamelin Live, 2006 19:41; ("They [trills] are not easy for me...actually. I don't have the greatest trills." Marc-Andre Hamelin)

Brahms Concerto No.1, 1st mvt., Solomon, 1954 20:20;

Chopin Barcarolle Op.60, Zecchi, 1937 21:20;

Chopin Barcarolle Op.60, Moiseiwitsch, 1941 22:07;

Chopin Barcarolle Op.60, Richter Live, 1961 22:47;

Chopin Polonaise-Fantasy Op.61, Richter Live, 1963 23:29;

Chopin Polonaise-Fantasy Op.61, Kapell Live, 1953 23:50;

Liszt Mephisto Waltz No.1, Richter Live, 1958 24:12; (While not strictly a trill, Liszt's writing in this passage gives the effect of one - witness the Master's exciting performance.)

Liszt Mephisto Waltz No.1, Wild, 1968 24:58; (This passage is often "cheated"...In his edition of the Waltz, Earl suggests this "tremolo-like" redistribution of the notes.)

Beethoven Concerto No.4, 1st mvt., Backhaus, 1965 25:24; (Surely some of the most amazing trills in thirds ever, and Backhaus was 81 at the time!!!)

Beethoven Concerto No.4, 2nd mvt., Schnabel, 1933 25:52;

Beethoven Sonata Op.111, 2nd mvt., Michelangeli Live, 1962 26:27; (Nobody gets close to Ciro in this long passage with his transcendental trills.)

Beethoven Sonata Op.111, 2nd mvt., Brendel, 1995 27:23
("The chains of trills!" he yelled. "These embellishments and cadenzas! Do you hear how convention is left untouched? Here -- the language -- is no longer -- purified of cliché -- but the cliché of the appearance -- of its domination by subjectivity -- the appearance -- of art is thrown off -- at last -- art always throws off the appearance of art" T. Mann, Doctor Faustus.
"Arietta's trill suspends motion, seeming to stop the movement of time" C. Rosen);

VIII. Great Pianists' Technique Episode 8: Octaves

"Do you think I care how fast you play octaves?"
Liszt to a pianist who tried to impress him with Chopin Op 53's octaves

Rachmaninov Op 1
("In octave playing a large hand can be helpful, but an over-sized hand is definitely a hindrance. This is the reason we find so few octave passages in Rachmaninov's compositions." Earl Wild)

Orage 00:22
Mazeppa 01:30
Eroica 01:59

Op 10-5
Horowitz 02:34
Janis 02:44
Op 25-10
Berman 02:54
Francois 03:40
Lhevinne 04:33

Czerny Octave Etude 05:08
Schulz-Evler Blue Danube 06:27

Bliss PC
Solomon 07:35

Liszt PC 1
Richter 08:06
Arrau 08:30
Michelangeli 8:54

Weber Op79
Arrau 09:32

Rubinstein Op 70
Hofmann 10:04

Schubert-Liszt Erlkonig
Hofmann 10:19
( "Pieces like Erlkonig cannot be played from the wrist alone because it gives us neither the power nor the speed required. The wrist alone is to be used only in light graceful places. Heavier octaves put the elbow and shoulder into action. A striving for economy of force and the least possible fatigue will produce this division of labour unconsciously." Hofmann)
Ginzburg 10:46
Richter 11:13

Schubert D.784
(Schubert's music certainly has some of the most perverse octaves...)
Richter 11:36
Gilels 11:58

Schubert Wanderer
Watts 12:18
(a utopian passage on the verge of unplayability. In the score, the top staves are Listz's humbler adaptation)

Schubert-Liszt Wanderer
Brendel 12:32
(...another possibility: let the orchestra play it!)

Schumann Op 7
Barere 13:15
Horowitz 13:35
Richter 13:56
Op 20
Horowitz 14:16

Bach Busoni Toccata
Michelangeli 14:41

Op 44
Horowitz 15:09
Rubinstein 15:41
(beautiful legato octaves but the astonishing feat
is the jump at 15:48!)
Op 49
Solomon 16:15
Katchen 16:45

Scherzo und Marsch
Richter 17:02
Richter 18:15
Berman 19:04
Horowitz 19:54

Chopin Op 53
Sofronitsky 20:31
("I remember Chopin telling me how unhappy he felt because he heard his Polonaise in A flat played fast thereby destroying all the grandeur, the majesty of this noble composition " C.Halle)

Balakirev Islamey
Katchen 21:40
Arrau 21:55
Barere 22:08
Horowitz 22:23

Liszt Sonata
Horowitz 22:37
Richter 24:00
Horowitz 24:42
Arrau 25:31
Argerich 26:07

Liszt Dante Sonata
Arrau 26:37
Ogdon 28:09

Liszt Bach Fantasy & Fugue
Brendel 29:30
(lightning fast and relatively easy to play, "blind" octaves are certainly among Listz's most striking inventions)

Chopin-Tausig PC 1
Bellucci 31:12
(interestingly Rosenthal liked to end the concerto with this fragment of Tausig's transcription)

Debussy Et. No 5
Pollini 31:43

Bartok Out of Doors
Pollini 32:33
(octaves and ninths)

Op 65-1
Richter 34:02
(...just ninths please!)
Op 8-9
Merzhanov 34:25

Chopin Op 28-22
Rubinstein 35:19

Scriabin Op 11-18
Pletnev 35:55

Liszt Sursum Corda
Bartok 36:46

Bartok Allegro Barbaro
Bartok 37:34

Bartok PC 2
Anda 38:06
Kocsis 39:04

Op 5
Kocsis 39:29
Sokolov 39:50
Op 24
Arrau 40:13
Op 35
Michelangeli 41:01
Katchen 41:33

Szymanovsky Op 10
Zimerman 41:59

Legend No 2
Ciccolini 42:47

Ciccolini 43:12

Ciccolini 43:32
Barere 43:48

Robert le diable
Wild 44:33

Bellucci 45:56

Don Juan
Barere 46:33
Hamelin 47:22

Bolet 48:49

La Muette
Cziffra 51:07

No 4
Cziffra 52:14
No 6
Janis 53:43
(Surprisingly Horowitz claimed to play this passage with the wrist alone: "The movement stops at the wrist. If I used the whole arm, I should be fatigued, and the tone would be harsh and clumsy")
No 15
Cziffra 55:55
Gilels 56:42
Berman 57:49
Arrau 58:51

Tchaikovsky Op 23
Horowitz 59:47
(A few comments on Horowitz's octaves:
"You have won the octave Olympics" Rubinstein
"He is an Octavian, but not Caesar" Rosenthal )
Argerich 1:01:01
Horowitz 1:01:43
Argerich 1:02:03
Gilels 1:02:20
Lhevinne 1:02:39
Sapellnikoff 1:02:57
(Sapellnikoff was an intimate friend and collaborator of Tchaikovsky. His leisurely paced octaves could therefore be closer to the composer's intentions than more demonic versions a-la Horowitz...And if we believe Bernard Shaw's judgement his (left) octave technique was not bad: "a marvel even among right hands for delicacy of touch and independence and swiftness of action")

Chopin Godowsky
Op 10-1
Berezovsky 1:03:20
Op 25-2
Grante 1:04:10

Godowsky Künstlerleben
Hamelin 1:04:49

Liszt Paganini Et.
No.2 Horowitz 1:05:29
No.6 Arrau 1:06:11
No.3 Fiorentino 1:06:31

Saint Saens
Op 22
Rubinstein 1:07:16
Op 29
Ciccolini 1:07:40
Collard 1:08:38
Op 44
Casadesus 1:09:25

Tchaikovsky Op.44
Gilels 1:10:05
(Interviewer: "I have always wondered why one never hears Tchaikovsky's 2nd Concerto"
Schnabel: "I have never played even the first...")

Op 83
Gilels 1:10:54
Rubinstein 1:11:09
Richter 1:11:23
Op 15
Fleisher 1:11:37
Pollini 1:12:15

Rachmaninov Op 43
Katchen 1:13:15

Gershwin Rhap.
Katchen 1:13:38

Weber Op 70
Fleisher 1:13:58

Gibbons 1:14:34
Hamelin 1:15:15

Lewenthal 1:15:36

Feinberg 1:17:23

IX. Great Pianists' Technique Episode 9: Mishaps

"What technique you must have to mess up the finale that way" Leschetizky to Rosenthal on an Anton Rubinstein recital.

"The pianist should never be afraid to take risks" Horowitz

"In the old days wrong notes were the right of the genius" Arrau

This collection is meant as a humorous counterpoint to the previous videos. Mistakes range from the ubiquitous "neighbouring note" (to quote Blanche Selva) to half disasters a-la Anton Rubinstein.

There is actually a mistake in this video, which is left to the astute viewer to discover...!

Strauss Blue Danube Borge

Bach-Busoni BWV564 VH 00:57

Schumann Op17 VH 01:25 (In the original release, these slips were cleaned up. "The perspiration ran into my eyes and I could not see the keyboard. So I played blind. It was an act of God. ") & SR 02:20
"I have heard many great pianists, but all of them, even Rubinstein, displayed physical exertion at this passage; not Liszt" (Lachmund)

Schumann Op1 02:58 & Chopin Op37/2 03:14 SR

Chopin Op52 Baumgartner 04:11

Op106 AS 04:49 (At Beethoven's tempos, Artur's Op106 sometimes resembles an atomic mushroom cloud...yet it is one of the greatest!)

Op101 AS 05:20 & VH 05:35 (Full of little the point that Richter considered it more challenging than Op106)

Brahms Op15 AS 05:49 ("When a piece gets difficult, make faces." Schnabel )

Tchaikovsky Op23 VH 06:08 (Exciting nonetheless!)

Weber Op39 Gilels 06:27 & AC 07:20 (One of Cortot's greatest interpretations. In his edition he observes that this page "offre d'evidentes difficulties d'execution", its rich orchestral textures being almost impossible to reproduce satisfactorily.)

Chopin Op25/11 08:16 & Stravinsky Petrouchka 10:30 AR

Sonata Curzon 11:18

Feux Follets Friedheim 12:09 (Very tricky hand crossing... if one is faithful to the score!)

Rondo Op129 d'Albert 12:47 ("He used to have a big technique. Then he started losing interest in piano playing in order to compose. And yet his performance of the Liszt sonata was still marvelous. Full of wrong notes, and missed passages. But the feeling was wonderful —coordinating the whole thing, with each idea coming out of the one before." Arrau)

Op73 d'Albert 13:00 & ABM 14:06

Op58 14:36 & Rubinstein Contredanse from Le Bal Op14 15:03 Hofmann (Perhaps the first ever wrong notes to be recorded?)

Op33/5 Kempff 15:14 (His first recording. According to a famous story, shortly after smudging the bottom F in the return of the theme Kempff exclaimed "Donnerwetter!" ("Dammit!"). A voice can just be heard on the recording, but it is difficult to make out the specific word.)

Brahms Op5 Kempff 15:32

Op10/5 de Pachmann 15:53
Op10/7 Plante 16:13 ("Merde!")

Ives Study, Ives 16:48 (Ives predominantly recorded not for posterity, but so that he could listen to his own works with detachment. "Oh! That's the note! My finger slipped on it")

BWV806 GG 17:19 ("For 'The Alchemist', in which we had decided to stage a recording session, we went so far as to define which wrong note Glenn would force himself to play in the Bourree of Bach's 1st English Suite, so as to make that sequence plausible. Poor Glenn; he was so allergic to wrong notes!" Monsaingeon)

BWV971 SR 17:58 & 18:19 ("Just now S. Richter realized, much to his regret, that he always made a mistake in the third measure before the end of the Andante. As a matter of fact, through forty years - and no musician or technician ever pointed it out to him - he played F-sharp rather than F ")

Mozart K488 AS 18:43 (What the pianist fears most: a terrible memory lapse)

Scriabin Op30 Gilels 19:50 (...which could just as easily arise from the simplicity of a Mozart concerto, or the complexity of a Scriabin sonata)

Liszt Sonata Curzon 20:40 (Struggling for accuracy already - see 11:18 - perhaps precipitated this memory loss)

Chopin Op35 AR 21:21 (At bar 65, he returns to 22, then makes the same mistake again before improvising into the trio. The applause of the audience may have catastrophically disturbed his concentration. ABM's legendary Moscow concert of earlier that year may also have increased his 'nervousness'.)

Beethoven Op15 AC 23:57 (How do you manage the RH octave gliss in tempo? Play the bass first and use both hands for the glissando!)

Liszt Sonata Berman 24:30 (One could call it the "Hammerklavier syndrome": Lazar replaces the risky double octave jump at bars 8-9 with a single note version) & Cortot 25:25 (Alfred eschews the double octaves in the triplet of the theme);

Schubert Wanderer Brendel 25:49 (Difficult left octaves? Drastic solution!)

Alkan Concerto Ogdon 26:03 ("Un tantino poco piu' mosso", one of Alkan's most diabolic and uncompromising passages)

Prokofiev Op84 SR 26:55

X. Great Pianists' Technique Episode 10: Agility

A collection of great passagework, in its various forms (decorative, "jeu perle", dramatic agility,...), dedicated to the lumbrical muscles.

Czerny Op33
("In Czerny I have always admired the full blooded musician much more than the eminent pedagogue" Stravinsky)
Op72-11 2:08
Op36-6 2:37
Op54 03:24
Op44 04:22

Liszt Gnomenreigen 4:44
Op104b-2 5:20
Op67-4 6:59

Strauss Op5
Gould 08:38

Mussorgsky Gnomus 9:12
Liszt Feux Follets 9:24
Liszt Sonata 9:39
Prokofiev Sonata No.6 10:20
Schumann In der Nacht 11:24
Op10-4 11:52
Op52 12:30
Scriabin op19 12:52

Hofmann Kaleidoskope 13:35
Sternberg Etude 14:06
Scarlatti-Tausig 15:05

La Leggierezza
Zecchi 15:25
Paderewski 17:03
(the most exquisite jeu perle; his final cadenza is a variation on Leschetizky's version (the score in the video))

Raff La Fileuse
("Imagine a string of pearls. ... Now I cut the string and the pearls scatter ...")
Pachmann 18:54

Chopin Op36
Cortot 20:14

Carnaval de Vienne 21:05
Maiden's Wish 21:59
Soiree de Vienne 22:21

Glazunov Op31-1
Barere 22:57

Le carnaval des animaux
Ciccolini & Weissenberg 24:07

Saint Saens 24:40
(The Finger School at its apex. Rythmic precision and finger dexterity with (very) few equals.
"He played the piano with incredible ease. The most even scales you can imagine and great power in the fingers. Ice cold but amazing" Arrau)

Philipp 25:34

Massenet Valse folle
Pugno 26:27

Pugno 27:17
Hofmann 27:54
(miraculous broken sixths)

Hofmann 28:28
Zecchi 29:04
Horowitz 29:39

Hofmann 30:16

Hofmann 31:52

Gilels 34:30
Rubinstein 35:21

Tchaikovsky PC1
Rubinstein 36:15

Sgambati PC 36:51
Prokofiev PC2 37:23

Schlözer Etude 38:26
Ravel Jeux d'eau 39:33

Chopin Op28-16
Arrau 40:22
(Arrau's reservation on Breithaupt's teaching:
"He only taught arm weight. His pupils didn't develop their finger technique at all.")

Chopin Op35
Michelangeli 41:20

Hamelin 42:25

Busoni 43:26

Godowsky Toccata
Scherbakov 44:09

Liszt Scherzo und Marsch
Richter 45:06
Horowitz 45:18

Weak fingers agility:
1) Chopin Op10-2
Backhaus 45:30
2) Liszt La Campanella
Hofmann 46:20
Friedman 46:52
3) Schumann Traumes wirren
Horowitz 47:28
Rubinstein 48:23
Richter 49:19

Richter 50:08

Haskill 51:54

Michelangeli 52:40

Hofmann 53:35

Argerich 55:02

Pollini 55:38

Pollini 56:15

Backhaus 56:55

Busoni 57:41

Lhevinne 58:38

Op58 59:59
Op2 1:00:33

Ashkenazy 1:01:20

Ginzburg & Goldenweiser 1:02:36

Berman 1:03:43

(sublimation and transfiguration of the simplest finger exercise)
Michelangeli 1:05:22

Etude No.6
Horowitz 1:06:31

Pour le piano
Gieseking 1:07:13

Gieseking 1:08:04
Casadesus 1:08:57

Gilels 1:10:08

Demidenko 1:11:36

Menotti Toccata
Lewenthal 1:12:41

Weber Sonatas
Backhaus 1:14:17
(How unfortunate that Wilhelm did not record the Brahms-Weber transcription for left hand which he had in repertoire in his yearly years!)
Arrau 1:15:36
Cortot 1:16:36
Richter 1:17:53
Fleisher 1:18:36

Moiseiwitsch 1:19:34

Schubert Op142-3
Schnabel 1:20:49
("I don't believe in finger playing. The fingers are like the legs of a horse; if its body won't move, there wouldn't be any progress, it would always remain on the same spot")

Op10-2 1:22:10
Op31-1 1:22:44

Sokolov 1:23:33

Op53 1:23:53
(See Busoni's Klavierübung No3 for a few variants for the very tiring passage starting at 1:24:47)
Op81a 1:25:09

Schnabel 1:25:53
Gieseking 1:26:11
Backhaus 1:26:29
Pollini 1:27:15
Gulda 1:28:01

Backhaus 1:28:45

Richter 1:29:13
Serkin 1:30:05

Russian Variations
Yudina 1:30:55

Gilels 1:32:51
Schnabel 1:33:44

Gould 1:34:27

K279 1:35:43
Goldberg Variations 1:36:21

Bach WTC
Feinberg 1:38:43

Mendelssohn Op22
Serkin 1:39:45

Hough 1:41:05

Friedman 1:41:50

Ciani 1:43:07

Ciani 1:44:40

Czerny Op740
No16 1:45:39
No24 1:46:35

Herz Variations 1:47:08
Thalberg Don Pasquale 1:48:00

Kentner 1:49:03

Don Juan
Bolet 1:50:11

Petri 1:50:55

Rhap No6
Argerich 1:51:29

Rhap No13
Busoni 1:51:53

Pachmann 1:52:21

Cziffra 1:53:25

Joyce 1:53:39

Bellucci 1:53:58

Op22 1:55:30
Op28 1:56:40
Concerto 1:57:00

Alkan Op39
Smith 1:58:16
Hamelin 1:59:47

Kabalevsky Op38
Horowitz 2:00:18
Flier 2:01:30

Zilberstein 2:03:16
Kapell 2:04:07