Listening Quest #13: 101 Pianists

Tuesday, March 22, 2016 by Vicki Martin | Listening Quest

This last weekend, I had the opportunity to be part of a duet recital called "Two Much Fun" put on by some local Edmonton teachers. "Duets" isn't quite the right word. There were five pianos on stage, each played by two people (most of the time), which meant for 10 people playing at once. For the students, there was a conductor to help keep them together. I was part of the teacher group, playing the first movement of Eine Kleine Nachtmusik with 7 other teachers. It was a whole lot of fun! Sorry, but we didn't take a video. Besides, we've been totally bested already.

The concert pianist Lang Lang (pronounced like long long) started a program called 101 Pianists, which gets 100 students together on 50 pianos to play Schubert's Marche Militaire No. 1. He is the 101st pianist, in case you hadn't guessed. It's been done in at least 14 cities around the world including Hong Kong, London, Paris, Berlin, Amsterdam, and a little closer to home in both Toronto and Vancouver. Try to imagine it, then watch this video which shows some of their rehearsal time:
Sound like something you'd like to do? I can't get you 99 other pianists to play with, but I can get you 9!

Extra Exploring: Well, of course you'd like to hear the entire Marche Militaire, played here as a plain old duet with Lang Lang and Annie, a 13-year old who played with him in Toronto.

Listening Quest #12: Ludwig van Beethoven

Monday, March 7, 2016 by Vicki Martin | Listening Quest

Well, it's about time we got around to Ludwig van Beethoven. I hope you've heard of him. He was a German pianist and composer who lived from 1770-1827. He is most famous because although he went deaf, he continued to compose. About one third of all of his compositions were written while he was unable to hear them with his ears - only inside his head!

We're going to listen to part of one of his most famous piano sonatas, the Sonata No. 14 in C sharp minor, more commonly known as the Moonlight Sonata. He wrote 32 piano sonatas, which have been nicknamed the "pianist's New Testament" - the Old Testament being J.S. Bach's Preludes & Fugues (remember this one?). It is unusual in that the first movement doesn't start fast as a typical classical sonata does, but the third and last movement more than makes up for it. Here it is, played by Valentina Lisitsa:

IFrameExtra Exploring: Have you ever imagined what it would sound like if every key on the piano sounded the same? Android wondered, and bothered to make a piano that did just that. And Ji Yong Kim just happened to play the Moonlight Sonata on it. It's interesting but awful, and makes the point that we usually don't like it when everything is all the same. I say that all the time about dynamics within a piece, don't I?

IFrameExtra Extra Exploring: Why don't you listen to the whole sonata?