What pianists/piano players do I listen to?

Welcome to my first blog.  In this blog I will be posting music-related thoughts of my career, both in teaching and performing.  Info about this journey will hopefully open a dialogue with fans and fellow musicians alike about common interests and pursuits, and any suggestions about future topics are gladly welcome.

For this first blog, I would like to answer the question “What pianists do you listen to?”  As you can tell from my recordings, I do listen to a wide variety of music.  Even just the contemporary music on my recordings covers a broad range of classic rock, music of New Orleans, music from bluegrass, Texas swing, singer-songwriters.  My musical training also included classical instruction in piano, voice and flute.

In terms of pianists (or piano players, depending on the genre) I also listen to a broad span.  First and foremost for me is Vladimir Horowitz.  What I listen to is not just the virtuosity, but the soul and passion of the playing, and the way he captures an audience.  What could be regarded as a simple piece technically shows an amazing artistry and communication of the music.  An example of this can be found in his return to his native Russia for a wonderful filmed concert “Horowitz in Moscow” where he played an encore of Traumerei from “Scenes of Childhood”, Op. 15 by Robert Schumann.  Every note is important, not overplayed but just exquisite.

A bass player once played a recording for me of someone he wanted me to check out – it was Oscar Peterson playing “Django”.  Different genre, but again the command and dedication to the music is empowering.

An amazing Cuban pianist is Chucho Valdez.  He has a wonderful recording “Live at the Village Vanguard” with some of the most virtuosic amazing playing I have ever heard.

Another wonderful pianist was Rubén González (you may have heard him in the film documentary “Buena Vista Social Club”).  When this documentary was filmed, he hadn’t played for about ten years.  Ry Cooder brought him and other Cuban musicians out of retirement, for a wonderful explosion of music that had been considered “out-dated”.  How wonderful to hear and see these musicians finally receive acknowledgement and validation.

I am happy to say that I was able to hear all of these amazing musicians live.  Vladimir Horowitz presented a recital at the Academy of Music, Philadelphia in 1978.  I can still hear the resounding bass notes in Chopin’s “funeral march” from Sonata in B-flat Minor, Opus 35.  The last time I heard Rubén González was at the Tower Theater, Philadelphia.  He passed away the following year.  He could barely walk out to the piano, and was hard of hearing.  The band leader allowed him to start the music, and then the band would join in.  At the end of the concert, he was still playing with the command he began with, and the band leader gently began to lower the cover of the keys, to signal to him that yes, it was a great concert, and we can stop now.  Otherwise, I believe he would have continued for as many hours as he was able to – his music was his life force.

Memorable pianists, amazing occasions, the magic of the piano.  While in graduate school, a professor told me the piano is not a musical instrument, it’s percussive and can’t sing.  Having heard Horowitz the previous year, I couldn’t have disagreed more!