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Peter Serkin

Discussion in 'Pianists' started by pianolady, May 4, 2009.

  1. pianolady

    pianolady Monica Hart, Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

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    I saw Peter Serkin perform a concert this afternoon. I have certainly heard of him before, but have never seen him or heard any of his recordings. His program was a little short – started at 3:00 and even with an intermission we were on our way home by 5:45.

    This was the program:

    1. Bull – Ut, re, mi, fa, sol, la

    2. Debussy – Six épigraphes antiques

    3. J. S. Bach – Suite in C minor for Lute Cembalo, BWV 997

    He played with music on the stand for the entire first half.

    Intermission

    4. Brahms – Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Handel, Op. 24

    Played all by memory.


    I have nothing bad to say about his playing, but the first half of the concert was a little boring. There just wasn’t enough contrast in the pieces. I know what you’re thinking – “no contrast between Debussy and Bach?!” Well, what I mean is the first piece; the John Bull piece was interesting for about the first minute and then I spaced out. Then came the six Debussy pieces and although they were each lovely pieces, they altogether were sleep-inducing. I heard snoring all around me! So much so that I got the giggles and silently struggled to keep my composure. And the same thing happened throughout the Bach pieces.

    After intermission came the Brahms. This was definitely more interesting and I think everybody stayed awake. During the first half of the concert I wondered if Serkin could play anything louder than mf, and he proved that he could with these variations. They were long – lasting about 40 minutes, but they were very nice. I liked them.

    For the encore, he played three pieces. 1. Chopin – Etude Op. 25, no. 9. He ripped this off like it was nothing. Really nice!

    2. A piece I did not know, but liked a lot. If anyone reading this knows, please chime in.

    3. Schubert – Moment Musical Op. 94, no.3. Sounded perfect to me. The encore was the best part of the concert, I think.

    As far a technique goes, he did one thing that baffles me. He sometimes shook his finger when he pressed down on certain keys. Almost like he was trying to coax some vibrato out of the piano. Now, we all know that isn’t possible. Once the hammer strikes the strings - that’s it. Nothing more can be done to affect the sound. Also, it seems to me that this wastes some energy and could also lead to tension problems. Unless - and this just hit me – this is how he prevents tension. Hmmm….I dunno, maybe I’m wrong about all this. Or maybe it’s just something he does instinctively. Again, if anyone has any other ideas about this, please chime in.

    One more thing – he wore a black suit, including a black vest, white shirt, and red tie.
     
  2. bclever

    bclever New Member

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    Excellent review Monica. We heard a rumor that Serkin had a plane to catch after the show,
    hence the shorter program and compressed intermission. By the way, the second encore piece
    was Brahms' Intermezzo in C Major, Op. 119, No. 3. It's kind of funny that he played three
    encores because I sort of got the feeling (and so did my partner) that the audience was really
    ready to let him go without any encores. :)
     
  3. s_winitsky

    s_winitsky Member

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    Yes I have heard of this technique before. Kind of funny I guess since I don't think the vibrato does anything but maybe in the mind of the performer. I read once that Liszt advocated this technique. My piano teacher also told me to give it a try when I was younger.

    If it does anything, it forces the performer to hold down the note for its full duration and to imagine what it might sound like if you could craft such vibrato. Thus causing the performer to shape his/her phrases accordingly.

    It is also a common technique on the clavichord; the clavichord can produce a nice vibrato this way. I personally think this technique is more common with baroque or renaissance music but I could be wrong.

    In terms of tension problems, to be honest I think it forces you to lift your wrists in a way so they produce less tension -- even if it really is a wasted effort -- but I don’t really know much about this type of thing…



     
  4. pianolady

    pianolady Monica Hart, Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

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    Thank you, Brian, for telling me what no. 2 encore was. I think I've mentioned the op. 119 somewhere around here recently in that I would like to learn the set, so now for sure I have to look into it. And I know what you mean- it wasn't exactly the most 'exciting' concert in the series. Oh well...at least it was beautiful day in Chicago, and I got home in time to watch my favorite TV shows! :lol:


    Hi Stan - interesting things you say here. I am sort of surprised about the Liszt thing. Him being the technical master, solving fingering problems, etc...I can't believe he would think that one could produce vibrato on a piano.

    I think that it is probably true about getting the pianist to hold down the key for the full duration, though. That part makes sense. But not moving the finger like that. My teacher advised me to move my wrists after landing on a long note or chord to avoid tension. Moving the finger on the keys does not makes sense at all to me. Try doing it. I just did right here on my desk and if anything it causes more tension in my hands and wrists. I dunno…this is strange.


    It didn’t know that about the clavichord, so it definitely makes sense to do that finger thing on one of those.
     
  5. s_winitsky

    s_winitsky Member

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    Well I don’t actually advocate the technique myself, unless you are playing the clavichord :)

    One thing to consider, I sort of assumed it is the arm/wrist the performer is wiggling and less the finger. I couldn't imagine wiggling the finger alone like this on the clavichord (although I know nothing of clavichord technique.) The other thing to consider, by finding a motion that sometimes exaggerates tension, the performer is forced to find a wrist/arm movement that produces less tension and more of a natural sound. Mind you, this is all just my crazy theory and I wouldn't necessarily advocate it :)

     
  6. pianolady

    pianolady Monica Hart, Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

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    Ok, yes - it is the arm and wrist that moves. But you have to press down on the key fairly hard to be able to then move without it slipping off. Still seems strange to me...
     

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