How to play the piano

September 21, 2011 § 3 Comments

Here is a video of  the one, the only, the superlative pianist, Artur Rubenstein,  captured on Soviet TV.

The best thing about Soviet videos of pianists is the Soviets  only had one camera and couldn’t indulge in the nose shots and audience shots that usually wreck piano videos. The one camera just sits there, focused on the real action at the keyboard.

The worst thing about Soviet video is the sound. You can’t hear Rubenstein’s rich, direct tone. You can’t hear the miracle of this etude,  a melody created  by  the right hand’s little finger jabbing at separate notes but borne aloft by an undercurrent in the other 9 fingers, like a long ribbon unspooling on a breeze.

But you can watch this video and see exactly how to play the piano. It is a perfect visual record of how Rubenstein played. I don’t know how I lived so long without seeing this wonderful video. You can see EXACTLY how he did things. Notice the extreme economy of movement. Notice the elegant posture. Notice the restraint, the lack of wiggling, waving, grimacing, jerking, straining and other excesses all too common on today’s stages. Notice, too, that his fingers and hands are only peripherally involved, the real work being done with his arms, shoulders, back and brain.

I’m often told, “You make it look so easy”. The truth is, as you can see by watching this video, it IS easy. The hard part is getting from where you are to where it is this easy. The hard part is unlearning the junk that most of us are taught about trying extra hard, stretching, exercising the hands, keeping our fingers curved, etc., etc., etc.

If you want to know how to play the piano, just watch this video.

§ 3 Responses to How to play the piano

  • You don’t just tickle the ivories, you serenade the sentence! How wonderful to picture music as ribbons of sound, spooling out. Marvelous, Megan. It is attention to the body out of which music arises as the muscular voice of the heart. Teachers like you are treasures for children!

  • It’s true, Lang Lang is the antithesis of Rubinstein. I was tempted to run both videos in this post, but thought it would be too long. Accentuate the positive, you know.

  • Cherry says:

    Oh, this is wonderful, on so many levels, one of which is how YouTube gives you the option of watching Lang Lang play the same piece immediately afterwards.

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