'Touch' in piano playing

 

I've been thinking recently about the phenomenon of 'touch' in piano playing, in particular when noticing that different pianists have a 'touch' as distinctive as the voices of different singers, and as personal. My feeling is that touch is a kind of 'instinct' that interposes itself on a micro level in the last instant of contact with the keys. It needs plenty of practise and the development of a considerable technique to completely free this instinct and allow it to operate in an unfettered way, but the instinct itself is the one thing in piano playing that is, I think, genuinely unteachable. And it's this that means that pianists who may have been trained in exactly the same 'school' of technique can sound so utterly different from one another (a similar kind of instinct also governs timing at a micro level, pedalling and other aspects of playing). This aspect of 'touch' is intimately linked to a pianist's identity, to who they are and to the unique thing they have to say about different pieces of music that no other pianist can say: Sviatoslav Richter's very Russian but also very individual combination of heavy, melancholic poeticism and eruptions of volcanic fury, or Pollini's brilliant fire and ice. To me it's this unique and particular dimension a musician can bring to the music that is the only really interesting thing in pianism, in singing or in any musicianship. And ultimately teaching is about liberating this instinct!

More Beethoven

Here are some more Bagatelles - Soundcloud won't add no. 2 because it's got an automated scanning thing which claims that this one is suspiciously similar to someone else's recording! This has happened before, and the other recording turned out to be nothing like mine, so hopefully it will be sorted soon...

https://soundcloud.com/joe-ward-116954270/beethoven-bagatelle-op-126-no-5

https://soundcloud.com/joe-ward-116954270/beethoven-bagatelle-op-126-no-6

https://soundcloud.com/joe-ward-116954270/beethoven-bagatelle-op-126-no-1

Recordings of Bagatelles

Here's a taster for the recording of the Beethoven Bagatelles I made last summer - many thanks to Maggie Grimsdell for the use of her excellent Steinway, and to Luke Ellis for extensive help with the editing (happily this particular track needed much less editing than others, almost a complete single take!) 

https://soundcloud.com/joe-ward-116954270/03a

Reflections on solo recital 11 October

A couple of thoughts about my solo recital a couple of weeks ago at St. Nicholas's Church (11 October). What I was most pleased about was that the Schoenberg op. 19 Klavierstücke seem to have come across well despite some slight memory lapses - I had some very appreciative feedback. And also that the Chopin A flat Ballade felt very secure, meaning that I was able to relax into it, take a few risks and build a good intensity at the end I think. The technically challenging passages that I'd spent a lot of time on seemed to come off really well! It's thanks to a lot of help from my teacher Yuri and a lot of time spent thinking about and working at technique that these kinds of challenges now seem essentially soluble to me - it's just a question of working out different ways to practise them and then putting some time in. Looking forward to the next solo challenges! I've got a few ideas about different things to work on, including some Schubert, Brahms and Debussy.

In the more immediate future I've got some interesting concerts coming up with two excellent locally based singers and teachers: Yvonne Patrick and Lucy Mair. There are details now on the events page: http://www.joewardpianist.com/concerts-and-events/