Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Stephen Hough is Coming to Town!

Santa Claus Stephen Hough is Coming to Town!

I was just perusing the Utah Symphony Website to look at upcoming performances and saw that Stephen Hough, one of today's most talented pianists, is coming to perform the Saint-Saƫns piano concerto No. 5. I am excitedly waiting for the clock to strike "10:00AM" so that I can purchase my tickets.

Words cannot adequately describe Stephen's level of artistry. You can visit his website here. One of my favorite albums of his is this one - be sure to add it to your collection if you don't have it already.

If you are going to be in the UT/USA area in May then be sure to purchase your tickets for his concert. Maybe I'll see you there!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Roku and Lisztonian - a Beautiful Relationship

Heard of Roku? They are the ingenious creators of a small device that allows people like me to watch their Netflix "Instant Queue" on my home theater system without buying an expensive gaming system or without hooking up an external computer. What does this have to do with my Lisztonian site? A while back I was contacted from a very kind member of Roku's team. He asked if they could use the music/playlist from my website in their developer's SDK (Software Development Kit). So far I have never turned anybody away when asked to use my music, so I gladly approved. Fast forward to today... I came home from work to find a Fedex box with a Roku player and a kind note from the Roku fellow. He thanked me for allowing them to use my music (royalty-free) and hooked me up with a device to try out. I wasted no time in setting it up and I am absolutely stunned at how easy and amazing this little box is! Now I can watch everything on my Netflix "Instant" list without having to sit in front of my little PC monitor (they also connect to other services like Amazon, Pandora, etc). It supports HDMI, Component, and Composite video and includes both wired and wireless network connectivity. It was a total cinch to set up and I had it running in literally minutes.

So if any of you are developers, then you can download the Roku SDK and you just might come across my music :) and even if you are not a developer, you should definitely take a look at their website and consider getting their product ;)

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Bach's Goldberg Variations Var 1

It has been more than a month since I released my last recording. Life has been busy with non-piano activities and so I've had almost no time over the last couple of months to practice the pieces that I am currently working on. I decided that to release something is better than nothing, so I dug up a recording of Bach's first variation in the set titled Goldberg Variations. The recording is a bit embarrassing, as it contains some obvious mistakes and some less-than-desirable musical "effects". One day I hope to replace it with a much better recording, but until then, this will have to do.

For those of you who are not familiar with this work, it is a musical masterpiece that begins and ends with a simple and beautiful Aria. The inner pages are then filled with variations on the theme from the Aria using the rules of counterpoint that Bach so strictly followed. Bach explored many styles and types of music as he developed each variation and proved, yet again, that he truly was the greatest musical genius of his day and perhaps in the history of known music.

One day I hope to take the time to study all of the variations so that I can make a complete recording of this great masterpiece. To listen to my recording of the first variation you can visit this page of my website, subscribe to my free iTunes podcast, or use the embedded media player found below.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The power of just 3 notes!

There are 12 unique notes in a chromatic scale. What is the affect of changing just three of those in a piece of music? It can be the difference between night and day.

Listen to a little of the following work by J.S. Bach - Prelude No. 22 in B-flat MINOR:

Ask yourself, "how does this music make me feel and how does it affect my emotions?" Now listen to this SAME WORK arranged in the parallel major key. That may sound like fancy music lingo, but that simply means that as I played the piece I changed just three notes: A-flat became A-natural, D-flat became D-natural, and G-flat became G-natural. Now listen to this improvised arrangement and ask yourself the same question:

So what is the power of changing just three notes in a key signature? If we could change just three negative characteristics within ourselves, would we see the same affect? Could we affect the world for good by doing just three good deeds in a week, maybe in a day? I believe the answer is a resounding "YES"!

If you enjoy these recordings you may download them free from my website or through my iTunes podcast. Here is the direct link to this latest recording - an improvised arrangement of J.S. Bach's Prelude in B-flat.

Jeremiah Jones

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

PianoMarvel by Rain - Please Vote!

Some good friends of mine are finalists in the Adobe Max competition for building an educational tool that looks like a great resource for beginner through early intermediate pianists. You'll definitely want to look at this great advancement in the world of piano education. You can click here to view the contestants - they are listed as "PianoMarvel by Rain" under the "Education" section. If you like what you see, then by all means please vote for "PianoMarvel by Rain"!

Good luck guys! I voted for you :)

Monday, September 28, 2009

2 MILLION Downloads! Celebrate with a little Bach

Lisztonian reached over 2 MILLION downloads this evening! That means we're currently providing free classical piano music to about 6,000 new people every day. If only I received a nickel for every download, then I'd already have a new piano by now :) !

To celebrate this grand event I've decided to release another recording. This recording is Bach's Prelude No. 22 from The Well-Tempered Clavier Volume 1. This prelude is in the unique key of B-flat Minor and is a fabulous piece to pull out once in a while and meditate to. It is highly introspective and evocative.

You may download this recording to your computer by visiting this page of my website. I also encourage you to subscribe to my free podcast so that you never miss a new release! You may also use the embedded media player found below to listen online.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Lisztonian Featured on iTunes!

I opened up iTunes today and was greeted with a very pleasant surprise - my Lisztonian podcast was featured right there on the home page for audio podcasts! Here's a screenshot, you can see the Lisztonian (SignMyPiano) podcast on the bottom right of the featured thumbnails.

I must admit that this brought a nice smile to my face. It also makes me wonder exactly how they choose what podcasts to feature. In any case, I certainly won't turn down the little extra showcasing.

For all of you who have subscribed to my free iTunes classical music podcast - THANK YOU! If you haven't yet, then please consider subscribing; it is the easiest way to download all of my recordings and to be notified of new releases.

Happy listening!

Jeremiah Jones

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Next Release - Help Me Decide!

I will be releasing a new recording this weekend and I've narrowed it down to two choices - please help me decide which one should be next!

1) Another Bach Prelude
2) Liszt's "Hymn of a Child on Awakening"

Just add a comment to my blog or Facebook page to let me know which one you want to hear first! I'll make the decision based on the number of votes that I have by the weekend.

All the best,

Friday, September 4, 2009

"Somewhere In Time" but not "Somewhere In Lisztonian"

Most people know Rachmaninoff's 18th Variation on a Theme of Paganini from the popular movie, "Somewhere in Time." It is a beautiful piano/orchestra piece that is distinct and very memorable. I used to have a two-piano recording of this work posted on my website (my mother played the orchestral part while I performed the piano part), but I recently received a "Cease and Desist" order from Boosey & Hawkes, who apparently renewed the copyright to this work in 2004. The work was published in 1934 and so I naturally assumed that it was no longer protected by U.S. copyright, having exceeded the 70-year limit. Apparently I was wrong. In addition to having to pay an infringement fee I also had to remove this recording from my website.

So for those of you searching for a recording of Rachmaninoff's famous tune from "Somewhere In Time", you will now have a hard time finding it "Somewhere In Lisztonian". Very sad day... very sad indeed :(

Friday, August 7, 2009

What is a Cadenza

I just had a visitor chat with me through my chatback application who asked the question, "What is a Cadenza?" I have been asked this question a few times before, so I thought it would be worth adding to my blog.

A cadenza is a section in a music solo where the soloist or performer should improvise the music. This can be confusing to students or pianists because when you typically see the word "cadenza" in a score it accompanies a flamboyant section of music already written out. This is because the composer would write out one or more "suggestions" or ideas typically for the benefit of one of their pupils. For example, there is a cadenza before the last section of Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2. Liszt actually wrote out several suggestions or ideas for the cadenza and offered those to various students. However, it is most certain that Liszt would improvise his own cadenza at each performance.

In modern times we seldom witness or hear an artist improvise a cadenza, but rather, they play the suggested music offered by the composer (or an editor, if the composer did not write one). This is a bit disheartening as the art of improvisation is lost among classical musicians. Fortunately, there is a slowly growing trend that is bringing improvisation back into the classical world - where it rightly should belong! Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Liszt and many (if not most) of the great composers of the past were also talented improvisors. So hopefully this same spirit will reignite among pianists of our day!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Mozart Sonata in F K 300k - Allegro
Dedicated to David Baxter

It is about time that I create a new post. I went through a bout of "blog discouragement" for quite a while, which is why I did not create any new posts. In fact, I even went through the entire Gina Bachauer Piano Festival without ONE SINGLE UPDATE! Unbelievable :( In any case, I decided that it is time for me to update my blog and write a bit about my latest recording - Mozart's Piano Sonata in F Major K. 300k. This piece was composed in the summer of 1778. I chose this particular sonata because it is the first one in Schirmer's book of Mozart Sonatas :) I enjoy playing Mozart, but have never enjoyed it enough to make any serious study of his music. However, I have made a diligent effort to deepen my appreciation for his genius, and this has certainly occurred! I have been trying to play a little of one or more of his sonatas at least 2-3 times per week. His music certainly has a unique and highly identifiable style to it, and it is one that I have grown to love!

I am dedicating this recording to my good friend, David Baxter. I met David many years ago when I was a freshman in college and got a summer job working at Radio Shack. It ended up being a great experience because I met a couple of great people, David being one of those. David has a brilliant mind and a deep passion for space exploration. He is the president of the Utah Space Association and is leading a national effort to campaign for July 20th to be a nationally recognized holiday in honor of man's first walk on the moon. I have had a deep respect for David for many years now and have enjoyed his friendship immensely. It is with a sincere heart that I dedicate this recording to him and wish the very best in his endeavors!

You may download this recording to your computer by visiting this page of my website. I also encourage you to subscribe to my free podcast so that you never miss a new release! You may also use the embedded media player found below to listen online.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Liszt Transcendental Etude No. 8 "Wilde Jagd"

Here is my latest video recording - this happens to be one of my favorite of Liszt's Etudes. It is very challenging technically, but loads of fun to play :) I hope you enjoy the video!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Liszt Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 Video

The city I live in is having a local talent competition called "Lehi's Got Talent"... so I thought I'd send in a demo DVD and see what happens :) The only requirement was that it be under three minutes. So I decided to shorten Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 (C-sharp) down to just under three minutes. You may recognize the last part of this work from the old Bugs Bunny cartoons :)

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Albeniz Granada Dedicated to "Papa D" and his Wonderful Family

About the Composition
This is my first recording of a work by the lesser-known composer Isaac Albeniz (pictured on the right). Albeniz was a Spanish composer of the 19th and early 20th centuries. He is known mostly for his piano compositions. This particular recording is the first piece from the Spanish Suite (Suite Espanola) - each work in the suite is named after a city/town of Spain. I love this composition as it has such depth and dynamics despite the seemingly simple structure. The "harp-like" or perhaps "guitar-like" movements of the right-hand add such a nice accompaniment to the melody and harmonies of the left hand.

I am lovingly dedicating this recording to one of the most kind-hearted, sincere, and inspirational people I have ever met - "Papa D" - as well as his wonderful wife and his daughter's family - the Krebs. There are very few people on this earth who are so sincerely caring that they unconditionally open their hearts and homes to those around them. Chuck Dominici ("Papa D") is one of those and his kindness and sincerity is quite contagious! We have the pleasure of living in the same neighborhood as his family and have had the opportunity to get to know them a little better over the last year or so and have enjoyed Chuck's fine cuisine. My wife and I are always so impressed by their ability to laugh, share hope, and brighten perspectives for everybody around them. When I think of inspirational heroes in my life, the Dominicis and Krebs are among the first I think of - the kind of people I hope to be more like.
So to the Dominici's and the Krebs I dedicate this recording of Albeniz's Granada. And even as I write this dedicatory note I am reminiscing on the flavors of Papa D's wonderful cooking and the endearing friendships that we have formed. To Good Food... Good Friends... and Good Music!

The Recording
You may download this recording by visiting this page of my website or by subscribing to my iTunes podcast. As always, this music is free to the public. You may also listen online using the embedded media player found below. I hope you enjoy my recording of Isaac Albeniz's Granada Op. 47, No. 1!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Now available on Amazon.com!

There are now two Lisztonian albums available for purchase through Amazon.com for $6.99 (or $0.89 per song):

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Chit-Chat Polka by Johann Strauss Jr

Okay, so I'm not a huge fan of Polka but I have to admit that I had fun recording this piece :) It is so short and happy that I just couldn't help playing it over and over again. The kids loved it too! You may recognize the melody from the popular game "Dance Dance Revolution" which, I have read, borrows from this polka during one of the songs. My son also just came in and heard it playing, laughed, and told me that this song is also apparently in the movie "Robots". Can anybody confirm that? I'm sure he's right because he has an uncanny ability to remember things like that.

This also happens to be my first recording of anything by Johann Strauss (Jr.) - the "Waltz King". This polka has been transcribed and arranged for many different ensembles and instruments. I can't quite figure out if it was originally for keyboard or not, but the Alfred edition of the music I have has no arranger listed and also assigns it an opus number (Op. 214) so I'm assuming at this point that the work was originally composed for keyboard solo.

I hope you enjoy this delightful little piece. You can use the media player below to listen online or can visit this page of my website to download it to your computer.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Over 1 MILLION Music Downloads!

Celebration! In just over 1 year my Lisztonian website has had over 1 MILLION unique music downloads! I've been waiting for this day for a while now and am so happy it is here :) So I looked up the database record for the 1 millionth download and here are the details:
  • The 1,000,000th download was for Schumann's Dedication arranged by Franz Liszt
  • The person who downloaded the 1,000,000th song was from Lima, Peru
  • The 1,000,000th download occured at 6:38PM Mountain time
  • The person who had the 1,000,000th download was using the Firefox browser and downloaded the MP3

So if you are from Peru, using Firefox, and listened to Schumann's "Dedication" at 6:38PM on March 27th (Mountain time) then you can sleep happy knowing that you made my day :)

Monday, March 23, 2009

Sheet Music Downloads Now Available!

While making some small changes to my website over the weekend I had a visitor come in through chat who asked if I knew where he could find the sheet music to a particular piece I had recorded. It just so happened that I DO know a few places to find public domain sheet music. This gave me the idea that I should include the sheet music for each of the recordings on my Lisztonian site. So I spent some time tracking down as many of them as I could and now when you visit the download page for each recording you can also download the score!

You can see at a glance if the score is available by visiting the main "Free Music" page where all of my recordings are listed. If there is a "PDF" icon then it means I have the sheet music for that recording.

The majority of the music was found from the Petrucci Music Library - a great resource for finding public domain sheet music. I have to admit, that for the majority of music I study I like to purchase my sheet music from Alfred. Their sheet music is of the highest quality available and I recommend purchasing the Alfred edition of whatever score you may be seeking. However, if it is unavailable or you just want to take a quick glance at the music, then the aforementioned resource is a great tool to have.

I hope that my readers and listeners enjoy this new feature of Lisztonian!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Reminiscing - Chopin Polonaise in A major (Military Polonaise)

One of my earliest piano memories is of my childhood when my bedroom used to be right next to my mom's piano "studio". She had a student who would come at 5:30 in the morning and was learning Chopin's Military Polonaise. I hated that piece :( For YEARS I hated the opening chords of that famous work. Perhaps if I were more of a morning person I wouldn't have minded so much.

Many years later I had a young man in Japan ask me if I could play that one. He put the music in front of me and asked me to site read it. I've never been much of a site-reader, but I gave it my best shot. While playing through it, I realized how much fun it really could be to play so I made the decision to learn it. However, it wasn't for several more years that I would actually purchase the sheet music. I continued to play this piece on-and-off for a few years. One day I heard my daughter humming it in the kitchen and I realized that she loved when I played it. I still will play it once in a while just to see her run around the room playing pretend. I'm not sure exactly what she is pretending to be, but it is fun to see her get so excited.

Here is a video of me playing this piece in 2002, just a few months before my daughter was born:

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Reminiscing - Moszkowski Etude in D Minor

I was first introduced to the music of Moszkowski through my master classes at Brigham Young University. Several students were learning various Moszkowski etudes. I distinctly remember enjoying a performance of the D minor etude, which consisted primarily of octaves. A couple of years later, while I was living in Japan, I came across a small music store hidden in an outdoor, covered shopping center. While perusing the music I saw that they had a book of Moszkowski etudes. I played the opening phrase of a couple of the etudes on a piano they had available and decided to add it to my collection. I started with the D minor etude, as it was one that I recalled finding so fun to listen to. I discovered that it was a very simple score to memorize and only took a couple of hours to commit it to memory - which is very impressive for somebody like me, who often struggles with memorization. I played the work at every opportunity I could find, including a public recital that I gave while living in a small city called Shingu (while still in Japan).

Eventually I returned home and re-learned the work for a recital that I gave in February 2003. Here is a video that I recorded of me playing Moszkowski's Etude in D Minor a few months before that recital:

I apologize that the syncronization between the video and audio appear to be off. Oh well :)

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Scriabin Etude in C-sharp Dedicated to Dave Broschinsky

About the Work

Alexander Scriabin was a fantastic pianist with an extremely unique compositional style. This Etude, in C-sharp Minor has become one of my favorite works to play. Here is an excerpt from my website that explains more about this work:

"This is my first recording of a work by Scriabin. Scriabin's music has a very unique and recognizable style to it. He was a talented pianist and lived an interesting "mystic" life with music at the center. This particular Etude was composed in 1887. The haunting melody is quite simple in that it merely ascends up the minor scale, with a short jump from the fifth to the octave with a quick descent to the sixth. This phrase then repeats throughout the work beginning on a variety of intervals and keys. As each phrase ends with a feeling of incompleteness, it provides the piece with a longing feeling - a need to return to "home" or the tonic. As the larger phrase finally makes its way back to the tonic, the journey there is through a descent back through the minor scale adding to the somber feelings that are stirred through this work."


This work is dedicated to a friend of mine, Dave Broschinsky, who I met through my association with IEEE. Dave is an excellent UI designer who has been kind enough to sacrifice some of his time in helping me give a slight refresh to my web design. Although the site has not changed dramatically, you will notice that there is a more modern and more appealing feel to the site :) This is thanks to Dave's handy work and expertise. I sincerely appreciate the kindness he has shown to me in performing this act of generosity.

I chose this particular piece as a dedication for two reasons. First, because it is a favorite of mine; and second, because it so aptly portrays a sense of incompleteness and of longing - and this is certainly the feeling I had about my website until Dave jumped in to help. I always felt as though the design was almost there, but that it was lacking the touch of a good UI designer. Now I feel much more complete.

If any of my readers/listeners are looking for a good UI professional, you can visit Dave's websites here:

His rates are competitive; his experience is diverse; and his quality is undeniable. Thanks, Dave, for bringing some freshness to my website :)

The Recording

You may listen to my recording of Scriabin's Etude in C-sharp Minor by visiting this page of my website or by using the media player below. I encourage you to subscribe to my free iTunes podcast so that you can easily download all of my current and future recordings.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Franz Liszt's "Dream of Love" Nocturne in A-flat No. 3

The Great Franz Liszt happens to be my favorite composer. I suppose it is odd that I have so few recordings of his music on my website! I am in the middle of working on his six Consolations, another Transcendental Etude, as well as some others - so hopefully I'll have a few more of his works posted within the next several months.
Although this is not a new recording, I've been thinking about Liszt's Nocturne in A-flat, "Liebestraume" (Dream of Love). This song is popularly considered a romantic piece in that it is a lover's dream. This, however, is certainly not the case. Liszt was a very religious and complex man. He was constantly struggling with his own character and analyzing and refining himself. The vast majority of his music is extremely deep and characteristic of his passion for religion and literature - particularly poetry. Many of his works were inspired by the written word. Liebestraume is one of those works. It was composed based on the text from a poem that has nothing to do with sensual love, but rather, revolves around the general human love that we should hold for one another. Here is a translation of the text for the poem after which this Nocturne was designed:
O Love
O love as long as e're you can, as long as e're you may.
The hour will come when by a tomb you stand and mourn.
Then see to it that your heart still glows and nurtures love,
As long as any other heart still beats in answering affection.
Whoever offers you his all, return your utmost for his sake,
And make his every hour a joy, and give no cause for grief!
And guard your tongue: and angry word can soon escape.
Ah me! it was not meant -
But the other, wounded, leaves and weeps.
--Ferdinand Freiligrath
You can listen to my recording of Liszt's Nocturne by using the media player below. This is an old, and frankly, poor recording. One of these days I will re-record it as my appreciation and understanding of the piece has deepened since this initial recording over 10 years ago.

The message of this poem, and subsequently the music, is not the immature twitterpation of a lovestruck youth; it is the unconditional love that neighbor must have for neighbor, that a parent should have for a child, a friend for a companion, and each of us should have even towards a stranger. Love and be loved! Speak good and not evil! Find joy in good companionship! These are the "dreams" being expressed in this work and I find it a glorious hope that our nation and world most certainly needs right now. As you listen again to Liszt's "Dream of Love" take a moment to reflect on the coming hours of your day and see if there isn't a way to strengthen your own love for your neighbors and help to realize the dream of love that so many of us share.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Alternate Inperpretation of Bach's Prelude in E Major

Isn't music wonderful?! It is a form of art that is so dynamic - so living! As an artist works to interpret a piece of music he/she makes it their own. The music breathes and comes to life in a different way for each performer. This is one of the greatest joys in music - the endless depth and wonder that each composition holds.

I recently posted a recording of Bach's Prelude No. 9 in E Major. As I was learning this piece, I played it a hundred different ways and found that (like most music) it had some wonderful offerings despite drastically varied interpretations. Bach seldom indicated tempo and dynamics in his keyboard works and so it is left largely to the artist to decide. Obviously the experts of our day (and times past) have contributed their knowledge and opinions of how Bach's music should be played - but still, the artist is free to wander multiple paths.

To demonstrate how varied the interpretation of a piece can be I recorded an alternate version of the aforementioned prelude. One is very slow and legato, while the other is more upbeat and incorporates much more staccato into the music. Which one do you prefer and why :) ?

First version (download here):

Alternate version (download here):

Dedication to Chris and Georgia Frankel - Inspiration Amidst a Troubled Economy

It is hardly necessary to point out the troubled state of the world's economy. Within my own neighborhood I see friends and neighbors downsizing, foreclosing, and seeking unemployment benefits on a regular basis. I am grateful to have a job, a home, and to have been taught to be fiscally wise with my funds. Moreover, I am grateful that my wife and I have been blessed such that we can also help those in need. Unselfishness during a time of self-indulgence is exactly what we need to lifts hearts and console the down-trodden.

I was recently inspired by a story I read on CNN's iReport about a couple who give freely to those around them - not only through finances, but through their own home and time. You can read the story here. I hope that this story inspires all who read it to reach beyond themselves to help buoy up another. There are opportunities for selflessness and generosity at every turn and Chris and Georgia Frankel are a wonderful demonstration of this attitude.

I released a new recording of a Bach Prelude (No. 9 in E Major) yesterday without any dedicatory note. I would like to dedicate that recording to Chris and Georgia Frankel, the couple featured in the story I refer to above. They have extended their family to reach beyond their blood relatives and this beautiful little prelude is my way of saying "thank you" for being inspirations during troubled times.

Thank you for your examples; thank you for your generosity; thank you for your unconditional love; and thank you for demonstrating to everybody that love and good nature should be the root of our relationships!

Chris and Georgia, I must also add a "thank you" for the fact that you bring Mormon missionaries into your home for dinner on a regular basis. I am not sure if you are members of the Mormon faith, but I am - and I served as a Mormon missionary for two years in 1998-2000. Having been in the position of a young missionary, I know how much your generosity must mean to them. As missionaries, we provide the funds for our own missionary work and we are not paid or reimbursed for the service we provide. So a nice home-cooked meal from a loving family is always a heart-warming experience. So again, THANK YOU for what you are doing. I hope that you enjoy this recording of Bach's Prelude No. 9 in E Major - dedicated to you, your children, and all those to whom you have extended your home and hearts!

You may use the media player below to listen to the recording, or you can download a copy from here.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Bach Prelude No 9 in E Major

image courtesy of wikipedia.org

J. S. Bach, arguably the greatest composer to have lived, produced an enormous volume of music. Among his most popular works for keyboard are the first and second volumes of The Well-Tempered Clavier. This is a set of preludes and fugues that cycles through all major and minor keys. Despite the fact that they are each titled "Preludes" and "Fugues" there is still room for so much diversity in style and music among the works. Take, for example, the Prelude No. 9 in E Major... this is a pastorale. A pastorale is often a work depicting something of a natural scene - perhaps a scenic view or other landscape. In earlier days, closer to the time of Bach it was often used to depict scenes such as shephards watching over their flocks. The pastorale style is indicated by the 12/8 time signature and the melody line moving in triplets.

You can listen to my recording of Bach's Prelude No. 9 in E Major by visiting my Lisztonian website. If you enjoy my recordings, be sure to subscribe to my iTunes podcast (free). Please also take the time to visit this page to see how you can help in the endeavor to share classical music.

Bach's Prelude in E Major:

Monday, February 16, 2009

Luiza Borac - February 14th, 2009

On Saturday evening I had the wonderful pleasure of attending a concert by Luiza Borac. The event was sponsored and organized by the Gina Bachauer International Piano Foundation. The performance included some of my favorite Schubert/Liszt Lieder transcriptions, the two famous Kreisler/Rachmaninoff transcriptions (Liebesleid/Liebesfreud), popular Chopin Waltzes, Strauss, and Copland.

The performance was spectacular. The program was designed artfully and I was impressed with the energy and technical skill that she exhibited throughout the entire performance. She even performed the Enescu Rhapsody No. 1 as an encore - which she executed as if she had an endless store of vitality.

She also provided the English translations to the Schubert/Liszt Lieder, which proved to be a highlight of the event for me! For several months I have been in love with "Auf dem Wasser zu singen" and yet I've never known what the song was actually about. Now I know! Here is the text for "Auf dem Wasser zu singen" translated:

In the middle of the shimmer of the reflecting waves
Glides, as swans do, the wavering boat;
Ah, on joy's soft shimmering waves
Glides the soul along like the boat;
Then from Heaven down onto the waves
Dances the sunset all around the boat.

Over the treetops of the western grove
Waves, in a friendly way, the reddish gleam;
Under the branches of the eastern grove
Murmur the reeds in the reddish light;
Joy of Heaven and the peace of the grove
Is breathed by the soul in the reddening light.

Ah, time vanishes on dewy wing
for me, on the rocking waves;
Tomorrow, time will vanish with shimmering wings
Again, as yesterday and today,
Until I, on higher more radiant wing,
Myself vanish to the changing time.

I also reaped the same benefit for two others that I enjoy: "Gretchen am Spinnrade" and "Erlkonig". I won't include the text for those here, but here are some links:
The evening was amazing and I purchased both of Luiza Borac's CDs that were available at the concert. I strongly encourage my readers to visit her website at: http://www.luizaborac.com/ and consider purchasing one or more of her albums. I noticed that she also has an album titled "Wanderer" which I can only assume has the famous "Wanderer" Fantasy by Schubert - this is another one of my favorites!

Also, if you are near the Salt Lake area on March 17-18 then be sure to attend Roberto Plano's performance!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

How to Find a Good Piano Teacher

I've been trying to find a piano teacher for my daughter for the last 2 years and so far I've been unsuccessful. I don't feel as though this is because I am being extremely picky (although there is definitely a little of that), but rather, the timing is not right, the teacher's schedule is full, or it just doesn't feel like a good fit. A week or so ago I took her to meet a piano teacher in the area. After the meeting we had several great follow-up conversations via email. The piano teacher asked me a variety of excellent questions. Just in case my answers may be of help to anybody else I've decided to post the questions/answers on my blog. Although we decided not to sign on with this particular teacher, I appreciated the opportunity to vocalize answers to these questions. For now, we've decided that I will try harder to continue teaching our children myself until the right teacher comes along :) So here are the things that I am personally looking for and perhaps this might help a few other parents as well...
  1. What sort of teacher are you hoping to find for her? What things specifically are you looking for? What qualities and characteristics are you hoping she'll posses as a teacher? What expectations do you have of what will be accomplished during a typical 30-minute lesson?
    One of the most important things is that we find a teacher who will foster our daughter's love for music. She has a natural love for music of all kinds. She was born just days after my last public solo recital and so even in the womb she was constantly surrounded by the sounds of the piano. That continued throughout her childhood not only because I continued to study and record music but because my wife also loved to have music in our home. Piano, singing and dancing has always been a normal part of our daughter's life. So a teacher that can foster that natural love and harness it for her growth is paramount. So we have no expectations for a 30-minute lesson. Each day and lesson would be different and as long as the teacher shares a natural passion for music (and especially piano music) we would only expect that our daughter's love for music grow and be guided by additional skill and knowledge.

  2. What are your future "piano" goals for her? Are you hoping she'll become a concert pianist? Are you expecting/wanting/encouraging her to go on to study music in college?
    I believe very firmly that a life without good music is a life that has been robbed of one of God's most beautiful creations. At the same time, a life that has been pushed into this divine art so far that the beauty is replaced with bitterness is an even sadder tale. So long-term goals will be a delicate balance that we will need to find with each child. However, we do have a minimum standard; just as we will require all of our children to be able to read any average novel, we will require our children to be able to read any intermediate score. Beyond that, we will only help to guide our children as they decide on their own what role music (on any instrument) will play in their lives.

  3. Has she expressed to you what she'd like to do with her music? Has she shown interest in playing the piano, on her own, without your encouragement?
    One of the first objects that she reached out to while she was just an infant was the piano. She has always sat at my lap to play or danced to the sounds of the piano. Now that she is older we will find her standing at the piano or sitting at the bench just playing around and experimenting with the sounds of the piano - everyday. She loves to play! Several years ago I learned the A-major Chopin Polonaise and she just adored that piece. She would dance and play pretend and ask me to play it over and over again. That was about the same time that she started to ask me to teach her to play the piano. She has been asking at least a couple of times a month ever since.

  4. What types of experiences are you hoping that your piano teacher will provide for her? What things were you hoping to see in the teacher's program? Are you wanting your child to be in competitive performances? Non-competitive? Festivals? Would you be satisfied with a teacher who didn't offer these things in her program, even if you saw that your child was receiving a thorough education and was learning and progressing and developing a love of music?
    We don't really have any specifics that we are looking for except that the teacher be able to connect with her easily and that the teacher have an unquenchable passion for piano literature. If I were to take cooking classes, I would seek out a chef who loves food, who is always trying new things, and who has a talent for making others love and appreciate fine cuisine. If I were to study poetry I would seek out a poet who is familiar with fine literature of all forms (classic and modern), who actively composes, and who can instill a love of literature in others; and in both of these cases, I would need to connect with the teacher personally. I would expect something similar in a musical educator as well. Without a natural love and passion for the art and without a personal connection with the student it would be more difficult to share that common love for music.

    At this point, competition is not a concern. I believe that good competitions are extremely valuable for students because it encourages them to play at their very best. They teach discipline and broaden perspectives. Competition is a natural way to get a person to comprehend their own peak performance. That is a powerful tool that can allow a student to expand their capabilities even more. So a teacher who understands the true value in competition (not the superficial value) would be essential, but I would not expect our daughter to actually compete until further down the road (if she ever even wants to).

  5. What are your expectations of her in terms of the amount of time it should take for her to be achieving certain things, ie: advancing from one level of her method books to another, or playing a certain level of music, or performing in certain events?
    She is an extremely fast learner. She is constantly surprising us. So I don't really know what to expect from her. I am afraid to set any expectations for fear that I may either end up pushing or limiting her natural abilities. I would take the advice of one of my own past teachers and would simply try to "stay 5 minutes ahead" of her. That would be enough to keep her moving at the pace she is capable of. So if her teacher could "stay 5 minutes ahead" and dangle the proverbial carrot in front of her, then she would be able to progress at a pace that is naturally comfortable to her; and based on her past performance in other areas of her life, I imagine that would be substantially faster than the average piano student.

  6. During her younger years (about ages 6-7), she will need parental help for the first couple of days after her lesson (during her practice hours) if she's to achieve the most success possible. Are you willing to commit to spending whatever time is necessary to achieve the best success working with her at the piano?
    We already spend time each day nurturing our children's talents. My wife is especially wonderful in this respect. Especially where music is so important in our home, it would only be natural for us to commit time to her musical education on a daily basis.

Friday, January 30, 2009

How to Keep up Piano Practicing While On the Road

An interesting question was recently posted to a piano forum to which I am subscribed. The question was "How do I keep up with my piano practicing while on the road?" I have a little bit of experience with this only because I lived in Japan for two years and didn't bring a piano with me :) So here is some general advice that I would give to piano enthusiasts who can't find a piano!
  • Find the local music stores
    Music and instrument stores are great places to locate pianos. I would not advise that you just walk in and start practicing though! Talk to the manager(s) of the store and explain to them your situation. Most music stores have a recital room and/or a practice room. I have been to several music stores that have been happy to let me borrow their piano for a couple of hours once a week or so. Some might ask for a small fee, but many of them will be happy to let you use it - assuming it isn't being used for a recital or for a paid lesson.
  • Find the local churches
    Many churches have a piano and some even have several. Churches are unique in that they have a lot of "down" time where their pianos are not being used. Speak to one of the representatives for the church and ask them if you could use their piano to practice on once in a while. If they agree, be sure to let them know in advance when you would like to use it so that it doesn't disrupt any meetings that they may have planned. I happen to be a Mormon (no - we are not polygamists - that group is a "break off" from the mainstream church :) ) and I know for a fact that many Mormon church buildings in the US house more than one piano. So if you aren't having luck with your nearest church building, try looking up the nearest Mormon (LDS) building and see if you can get in touch with somebody there.
  • Ask locals
    If you are travelling for work or are living in the area and just don't have access to a piano try asking your colleagues or neighbors. They may know of a location with a piano. While I was in Japan I volunteered to teach an English class once a week. I asked some of the class members if they knew of anywhere that I could practice the piano and one of the ladies in the class said that her daughter was a pianist and that she'd moved out and left her piano behind. She offered to let me practice for a few hours once a week. I became great friends with her and her family through the process.
  • Try the Schools
    I would suggest this more as a last resort, but you can also try the local universities and colleges. If they have a music program then they will also likely have practice rooms equipped with pianos. If you go during off-peak times you can frequently find a piano to practice on for a while.
  • Keep Your Eyes Open
    Lastly, just keep your eyes (and ears!) open for pianos around town. I once saw a piano in the lobby of a hair salon and I asked if I could play for a while. They ended up loving the live music and asked me to come back again. You never know where you might find a piano!

Improv on Bach Aria Dedicated to Haley and Her Family

Life is full of unexpected surprises and twists. Some of them are splendid, while others are dreadful. Some of us have experienced the unexpected injury or loss of a loved one. This morning I happened to be checking some of the statistics for my lisztonian music site when I came across a referring link that caught my attention. I typically do not take the time to visit referring sites, but I could not help be be drawn to the title, which was "ILoveMyDearSister.blogspot.com". I visited the site and was deeply touched by the horrible circumstances that this unfortunate family has found themselves in. Their beloved sister, daughter, and mother was hit by a drunk driver and is currently in critical condition. It is not easy to watch a loved one suffer and to wonder each day if you will have another to spend together.

Haley, my heart reaches out to you and your daughter. Your life is in the hands of skilled doctors and ultimately in the arms of a loving God. We all will be hoping and praying for your quick recovery.

To her family, I know that no words can comfort and no gesture can heal your hearts, that are so deeply aching right now. Remain hopeful, watchful, and full of love - and miracles can happen. Life is fret with challenges and obstacles - all of which are for our learning and our good. Unite as a family and surround each other with hope and love and no matter what happens, your lives will be blessed.

I am dedicating a recording to Haley and her family that I was not planning on releasing for a couple of weeks. This recording is my own improvisation on a theme by J.S. Bach. It is the Aria to his Goldberg Variations. Bach experienced a great many sorrows throughout his life, and yet he always demonstrated a beautiful hope in the glory of God and a dedication to his faith. His Aria is a beautiful show of that hope and faith.

To Haley and her family, I hope that this music will offer some measure of hope and relief, if only but for a moment.

right-click here and select "save as" to download the MP3.
right-click here and select "save as" to download the WMA.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Glinka's "The Separation" Dedicated to Snowmen Everywhere and the Little Girls Who Love Them

Mikhail Glinka
Mikhail Glinka was one of the earliest Russian composers and is often considered the "father" of Russian music. He studied under John Field who developed the "Nocturne" form of music. This Nocturne in F Minor was composed in 1839 for Glinka's sister while she was away in St. Petersburg - thus the title "The Separation." He has produced several beautiful and memorable melodies of which this Nocturne is one.

This recording came about due to a special and unique circumstance. The dedicatory title may seem a bit strange, but this recording is in fact dedicated to snowmen. More appropriately it is dedicated to my daughter's first snowman, Frosty, who she built all by herself about a week or two ago. She was so proud of her snowman; she took great care to make it just right. The weather became unusually warm over the last week and even yielded occasional rain. Unfortunately the snowman did not fair well in the weather and my daughter bore the sad realization that her snowman was melting. She looked out the window yesterday and saw that the snowman was just a small pile of snow. I watched as she dressed in her winter clothes and went outside to bid farewell to her dear friend. My wife and I watched from the window as she sobbed in front of a small pile of snow. As tears streamed down her cheeks she lovingly caressed the snowman one last time; and with a gentle hug she suffered the reality that her friend was lost.

My wife had to gently coax her to come back inside. After she came in I played her this Nocturne as a memorial to her departed friend. So with all of the tender emotions and delicate expressions of a father I recorded this Nocturne for my little girl.

You may listen to this recording by using the embedded media player below. You may also subscribe to my free iTunes podcast or visit my Lisztonian site to download any of my recordings. I hope you enjoy my interpretation of Glinka's "Separation" Nocturne.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Add Classical Music to your Blog or Webpage!

Have you always dreamed of having the soothing sounds of classical music play on your blog or webpage? Probably not, but now you can do it anyway! I spent some time over the weekend creating a "widget" (or "gadget") so that people could add music to their iGoogle homepage... as it turns out, they (Google) also have made it easy to turn this into something that you can add to virtually any webpage including a blog. Here is a preview of the free classical music player from my iGoogle Homepage:

You can also see an example on the right-hand side of this blog :) So if you'd like to help promote good classical music then click here to see how to add the free classical music player to your site!

Chopin's Waltz in C-Sharp Minor, Op. 64, No. 2

Another famous Waltz by Frederic Chopin... This one is in C-Sharp Minor and is Opus 64, Number 2. Typical of Chopin, he has some tricky fingering with the left hand in several places that I didn't spend enough time mastering - hopefully it won't be too noticeable! I almost abandoned this one, but I've told a few of my listeners that I would be putting out another Chopin recording this week and so here it is!

This Waltz is labeled as "tempo giusto" which translates in English to "strict time". When I picked up this piece I interpreted that to mean that I should limit any rubato to within the scope of a single bar.... but I have since learned that I was probably wrong :(. It was more than likely intended as a warning to avoid the Viennese-style of Waltzes, which is to rush into the second beat slightly. So this piece markedly lacks the freedom with tempo that I probably should have employed.

I hope that you enjoy my recording of Chopin's famous Waltz in C-Sharp Minor. You can use the media player below to listen to this recording online or you may download the MP3 or WMA versions to your computer or other media device by clicking here. I also encourage you to subscribe to my free iTunes Podcast so that you can easily download all of my recordings and stay up to date when new ones are released.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

New Blog Format

This is probably of little interest to most people, but I've finally upgraded my blog so that it uses blogger's new layouts. This was quite a project because I was previously hosting my blog on my Dreamhost servers. However, I felt it was about time that I moved over. So I hope you enjoy the slightly different format to the blog! If you have any trouble or notice that there are broken links, please be sure to contact me so that I can get it fixed!

Oh, the URL to the blog has changed as a result of this upgrade. The new URL is http://blog.signmypiano.com. Please update any links/bookmarks that you may have.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

A Few Tips on Piano Practicing

I received an email today from one of my site visitors, Candace, who asked for some general advice on practicing and also asked what a typical practice session is like for me. I thought this was a question worth posting on the blog, so this is in answer to that email.

The first thing I would mention is that everybody is different and so effective practicing will be different for each person as well. Play around with some different methods for practice and over time you will find what seems the most effective and enjoyable for you. Definitely make it enjoyable :) So many people have the conception that practice is boring and mundane - it should be quite the opposite! So find ways to make it fun for you.

The following is a list of some thoughts/tips/suggestions for improving your piano practice sessions. These are in no particular order and are in no way intended to be comprehensive.

Practice Tips

  • Always practice something to improve your technique. Hanon is GREAT for that! Czerny is also another great resource for technical exercise. Find ways to make this fun - maybe try new things, like all staccato or legato, or right hand staccato and left legato, etc. Mix up the dynamics (loud/soft) and maybe even play around with different rhythms. Again, Czerny is a great way to work on technique and combine some more interesting sounds/music than Hanon (although I would never abandon Hanon altogether). Also, if you are able, try playing Hanon in different keys - get your fingers familiar with the geography of all 12 keys. Oh - and always slow and with a metronome!

  • I was taught to always play something old and something new. This keeps your mind active on learning while also improving your abilities on refining. Both of these are important. Also, I've noticed that at times when I am discouraged, playing something I'm familiar with helps re-boost my confidence.

  • Don't overwhelm yourself. Unless you are preparing for life as a competitor or performer you will likely need to adjust your practicing schedule to what you have time for. Some days you may just spend a few minutes on technique and "something old" so that you have more time to work on your "something new". Balance according to your allowed time, goals, and personal enjoyment.

  • Sometimes it helps to take a break from a certain piece. Especially if you are frustrated or discouraged at your progress. Take several weeks off from that piece and start a new one - you might be surprised at how much easier it is the second time around!

  • Practice hands separately and SLOW... Oh, and use a metronome!

  • As your work becomes more refined try recording it so that you can listen to it. I've learned quite a bit about my own weaknesses through recording myself.

  • Be patient and give yourself credit for your successes. For example, if you've successfully learned some of the Chopin Preludes, you should be pleased - these are difficult works!

  • Don't be afraid to tackle the works that you want to, even if they are difficult. Just go about it slowly, methodically, and enjoyably. Again, practice hands separately and slowly. I would rather say I tried and failed, than say I never tried at all. Also, you can always take a break from that piece and come back several weeks or months later with a new perspective. Did I mention practicing slowly and with a metronome?

  • Break each piece into sections and practice by those sections. Don't practice the entire work at once. Focus on one section and then move onto another. Make the sections as small as they need to be. I usually divide my works by musical phrases or change in style/tempo/etc. If a section is particularly difficult, then break it up even smaller. If you aren't sure how to do this, contact me and let me know which piece you need help with and I'll give you some suggestions on how I would divide it up.

  • Be sure to pay careful attention to fingering. In fact, I recommend writing in the fingering before you ever begin to practice so that you don't train your hands incorrectly. Learning something incorrectly the first time can be hard to correct. So be extra careful with this.

  • Learn about the work you are studying. Great art is deeper than even the original artist typically comprehends. Study the work inside and out - gain an appreciation for what makes it unique. Personalize it; this will give it deeper meaning to you and will make it that much more enjoyable to practice and perform.

A Practice Session

Having given a few tips, now I'll answer the other question - what a typical practice session is like for me. Those of you who have followed my blog or read a bit of my background will know that I am an engineer by education and career. Next to that, I have a family. I also am very active in my religion. So my music typically takes a back seat to all of these things. I very seldom have time to have a great practice session and usually just sit down at the piano for a few minutes and study something. Sometimes I'll pick a key and play through Hanon (ex 1-31); other times I'll sit and improvise to work on my chords; fortunately there are also those times when I can actually pull out a work I'm studying and give it some good practice. However, those extremely rare times when I can still get in a good practice session it goes something like this:

  1. Start with some technique - either my Liszt technique book or Hanon. Always alternating keys throughout the exercises.
  2. Get my brain going with some improvisation or transposition. To do this I will often pull out a church hymnal because these are excellent for basic chords with melodies and will attempt to transpose the hymn into various keys. Or for improvising I will just sit and start to play or will improvise on an established melody or chord progression. For example, I love the chord progressions in Bach's Aria to the Goldberg Variations. So I will put that in front of me and improvise on just the chords he uses.
  3. I will cycle through each of the works that I am studying - both old and new. I usually start with the "old" because it keeps my anticipation up for the "new." For "old" works (one's I have performed previously) I will start at the end and practice each section until I reach the beginning of the piece. Sometimes I'll treat myself by playing through the whole thing once I'm finished. Then I move onto the next work. For "new" works I will start at the end and go slowly through the sections I have already studied and then start just one or two new sections. I'll work on those until I feel good about them.
  4. Once I've gone through all of my pieces, my brain is usually too tired to keep going - a good practice session for me is anywhere from 3-7 hours (now you can see why I hardly ever get these anymore!). So at that point I just enjoy the wonderful feeling of my hands and forearms burning with fatigue and excitement and peel myself off of the bench. You know you've had a good practice session when it takes you a couple of seconds to get your feet to remember how to walk again ;)

I hope that this information helps and isn't too overwhelming. Feel free to contact me with any follow-up questions or feedback.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

An Inside Look at Lisztonian Site Statistics

I thought that some of my listeners/readers might enjoy having a little insight into some of the key statistics for my Lisztonian website. So here you go:
  • I am currently averaging over 2,000 new music downloads per day
  • The Lisztonian podcast is currently ranked #51 among the top music/audio podcasts in iTunes (down from #32 a few days ago - this ranking changes frequently but it is always in the top 75 and usually in the top 40)
  • Total cummulative downloads since January 2008 as of 6:57 am Mountain Time is 539,567 with 532,016 of those being MP3 and the remainder being WMA
  • Selections from the Lisztonian site have appeared in at least three amatuer films that I am aware of and in several online advertisements/marketing reels/etc
  • There are 57 recordings on the site representing 17 different composers
  • The iTunes podcast has recieved 12 reviews, each being 5 of a possible 5 stars