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Elyakim Taussig: Playing without hands

July 22, 2012 at 4:17 pm

written by Victoria Warfield, July 22, 2012

Peter Elyakim Taussig was born in 1944, in Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia.  He grew up in Israel where he studied with Czech pianist, Edith Kraus – a student of Artur Schnabel. Taussig moved to Canada in 1968 and earned his Masters degree at the University of Toronto studying with Anton Kuerti.  Over the next decade, Taussig recorded over 200 chamber music broadcasts for the CBC.

Influenced by the late Glenn Gould’s fascination with technology, Taussig became involved in the emerging computer music technology in the 1980s.  He developed a new computer based piano method –  PianoKids. It is a comprehensive teaching method for young children to acquire the rudiments of music literacy and composition with computers. In 2007, PianoKids introduced an expansion to its musical training that incorporated mathematics as part of each piano class.

In 1996 he was diagnosed with severe carpal tunnel syndrome, coupled with Osteoarthritis in his right hand which prevented him from performing music. He was introduced and championed the development of Yamaha’s ‘Musical Sculpting’ software using the Disklavier PRO, a MIDI-capable nine-foot concert grand, which allowed Taussig to record with his left hand and a computer mouse.  This application now allows handicapped pianists to record with minimal use of their fingers.

Since 2009 Taussig has devoted himself exclusively to composition and writing. In the course of short three years he has written an opera (Fibonacci), and oratorio (Eve of Life), a symphony, and four concertos.

One of the things I love best about Taussig is that he has such a talent for combining wonderful musicianship and comedy.  He boasts of his world record for playing “The Minute Waltz” in 40 seconds.  His best known performance work is the satirical piano recital “Taussig and Enemies”, with which he toured small town Canada for several years in the 1980s.

Anton Kuerti – “Anton & the Piano”

July 13, 2012 at 3:34 pm

written by Victoria Warfield, July 13, 2012


Pianist, teacher, composer, concert organizer, artistic director, social activist

Pianist Anton Kuerti was born in Austria, grew up in the U.S., and has lived in Canada for the last 35 years. His teachers included Arthur Loesser, Mieczyslaw Horszowski, and Rudolf Serkin. At the age of 11 he performed the Grieg Concerto with Arthur Fiedler, and he was still a student when he won the famous Leventritt Award.

Kuerti is one of today’s most recorded artists: compact discs of his performances include all the Beethoven concertos and sonatas, the Schubert sonatas, the Brahms concertos, and works by many other composers. These recordings air almost daily on the CBC.

My favourite memory of Anton is when we first started working together and he stopped a masterclass to de-construct the grand piano in front of us.  “How can you play it if you don’t know how it works?”

Mark Westcott speaks on fingering

July 13, 2012 at 12:40 am

written by Victoria Warfield, July 13, 2012



International renowned concert artist, acclaimed piano teacher, lecturer and most recently, author, Mark Westcott soared to world-wide recognition by winning five important international piano competitions by his twenty-third birthday, including the Bronze medal in the Van Cliburn and first prize in the William Kapell Competitions. Mr. Westcott’s teachers represent a varitable ‘who’s who’ in American music. They include John Perry, Frank Mannheimer, Cecile Genhart, Eugene List, and composer Samuel Barber.  Endowed with pyro-technical command and a huge dynamic range, Mr. Westcott’s unique artistry reveals an incomparable and poetic singing line, bountiful color, and an acclaimed mastery of the pedal. He has confounded the world’s most demanding critics and audiences with an almost perfect balance between keen musical intelligence and a profoundly emotional—even spiritual—communicative force.


Fingering is a tool for memory, security, speed in learning, and for final mastery. Select fingering carefully. Be consistent!

  1. Make fingering simple (uncomplicated).
  2. Use standard fingerings.
  3. Consider groups (clusters) of tones that can be placed in the hand.
  4. Finger not only for the moment but also for the convenience to come. Look ahead!
  5. Look for a pattern. Finger sequences with the same finger groupings.
  6. Finger with a tempo in mind. Check the speed away from the keys and see how the fingering feels in the fingers.
  7. Choose a fingering that fits and feels good. Then keep it.
  8. When you know the fingering don’t think of it. Never think of one finger. Think of a group.
  9. Arrange to play the strongest fingers on the accents.
  10. Finger to avoid breaks from one beat to the other.
  11. In wide leaps it is often wise to use a 3rd rather than a 5th finger.
  12. Finger chord successions to avoid breaks.
  13. In waltz-time avoid carrying the 5th finger back and forth from the single bass to the chord.
  14. For staccato passages, play legato first to select good fingering.
  15. For trills use opposite fingers as: 1&3, 2&4, 3&5, rather than next-door fingerings.
  16. For repeated notes use the same finger unless the tempo is very rapid. Changing fingering unnecessarily invites trouble. If finger is used as though picking up an object, one can repeat rapidly by remaining on key.
  17. For a “bite” in a mordant, finger 132, or 243.
  18. Always finger so as to lead to an accent.
  19. In double notes have the weight of the hand toward the thumb for proper balance of hand and position.
  20. In fingering any passage keep minute (small) rotary movements in mind, and also the direction of each note.
  21. In double note passages it is necessary to keep lagato in one part only. For instance, when 2 4 crosses over 1 3, release the 3 pivot over the thumb and rotate back toward the 5th finger. If one finger keeps the lagato, the double note passage will sound legato.
  22. See charts for scale and arpeggio fingerings.
  23. Keep fingers close to the keys at all times. Excess movements waste time, make speed and facility impossible, and tend to create tenseness.
  24. In rapid scales, do not try to play legato.   Speed binds tones together (as in a glissando). It is an artificial legato but sounds legato.
  25. Don’t play anything faster, in practice, than you can think of it.  In this way you gain finger control.
  26. Correct phrasing (breathing) depends on fingering. Look ahead, see the notes and where they go, and finger to get there.
  27. Alexander Libermann says, “Think of the fingertips. The fingertip is the first to go towards the key, into the key, and away from the key.  Our musical soul must begin in the tips of the fingers. Every touch in the piano playing is a finger touch. We must establish a ‘magnetic’ attraction between the key and our finger tips.  Our best control lies in not losing contact with the key.


Remembering John Ogdon

July 13, 2012 at 12:33 am

written by Victoria Warfield, July 13, 2012

John Ogdon studied with Gordon Green, Denis Matthews, Dame Myra Hess, and Egon Petri. He won first prize at the London Liszt Competition in 1961 and consolidated his growing international reputation by winning another first prize at the International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow in 1962, jointly with Vladimir Ashkenazy.  He embraced and cultured modern works – recording many for the first time.  And in the more traditional repertoire, he revealed a deep musical sensibility – always buttressed by a colossal technique. As a composer, his own compositions number more than 200, including  4 operas, 2 large works for orchestra, 3 cantatas, songs, chamber music, a substantial amount of music for solo piano, and 2 piano concertos.


Harold Zabrack speaks on music

July 13, 2012 at 12:30 am

written by Victoria Warfield, July 13, 2012

Composer, Pianist, Teacher, Writer

Principal teachers: Nadia Boulanger, Max Wald (composition) Rudolph Ganz, Carl Seemann (piano), and Willi Apel (musicology).  

“So many people separate music and music-making from what life is all about and treat it as an ‘untouchable’ thing. But it’s nothing more than the projection of the feelings of a human being. The responsibility of expressing these ideas to my students is a marvelous experience for me. If I can help them to see the total picture, they’ll know that music isn’t intangible. It’s very real — as real as anything can be.” — Harold Zabrack



Dale Reubart, a gift from home

July 13, 2012 at 12:29 am

written by Victoria Warfield, July 13, 2012

Dale Reubart’s reputation in North America rests almost entirely upon his career as a performing pianist and professor of piano at the University of British Columbia. Since his youth, however, he has also been active as a composer.  His teachers include Harold Bauer, Carl Friedberg, Conrad Bos, Halsey Stevens, Ingolf Dahl and Elliott Weisgarber.

Specializing in 19th- and 20th-century piano music, Reubart has performed as soloist, chamber player, accompanist, and lecture-recitalist in several North American centres and has written articles on performance practices. He received research grants from the University of British Columbia in 1969 and the Canada Council in 1970 to study performance practices in the music of Chopin and Liszt. In 1987 he joined with Roslyn Frantz to form the Rosdal Duo, a touring ensemble devoted to music for piano duet. In 1979 Reubart began research into performance anxiety and in 1983 began to lecture on the subject widely in Canada, the USA, and Great Britain, leading many practical workshops for musicians suffering from stage fright.