Classic Album of the Week: “Piano Lessons” by Christoph Eschenbach


September 6, 2021. Just as student-athletes watch the movements of Olympians for inspiration, student pianists benefit from a pro’s interpretation of the songs they learn. In Piano lessons, acclaimed pianist and conductor Christoph Eschenbach travels through the repertoire that forms the backbone of the development of many piano students, from beginners to beginners in this new 16-CD set from Deutsche Grammophon.

Eschenbach, who was Music Director of the Philadelphia Orchestra from 2003 to 2008, began his career as a renowned pianist, specializing in the classical and romantic repertoire. Piano lessons is a compilation of recordings made by Eschenbach in the 60s and 70s, before his first appointment as conductor in 1981 as Principal Guest Conductor of the Zurich Tonhalle Orchestra.

The technique is discussed in 4 CDs devoted to exercises and studies of the fingers. We hear the Eschenbach breeze through Ferdinand Beyer’s house Vorschule im Klavierspiel, Czerny Studies and Velocity School, and that of Friedrich Burgmuller 25 easy and progressive exercises, which have descriptive titles such as “The Harmony of Angels”.

Beyond pure technique, JS Bach’s music presents a challenge for students that cannot be faked. In playing Bach, a student has to learn to play a musical line with the right hand while the left hand plays an equally important but complementary line, in other words, he learns to play what is called counterpoint. JS Bach had this in mind when he compiled the pieces that form the Small Notebooks for members of his family, his son Wilhelm Friedemann and his wife Anna Magdalena.

The level of difficulty increases with JS Bach inventions and Sinfonias which he wrote for his children and students to master.

Eschenbach plays selected pieces from JS Bach’s two Notebooks and the full 15 inventions and 15 Sinfonias with clarity, sensitivity and drive.

Only one of the Inventions seems a little out of place in Eschenbach’s interpretation. It adopts an unusually deliberate, almost pedantic tempo in Invention in F minor. This is a characteristic of Eschenbach’s musical creation which sometimes extends to his conducting. As in the mentioned Bach Invention, he indulges at an excessively slow tempo in the first movement of the Sonata op. 49 n ° 1 in G minor (the first of 2 “Leichte”Or“ easy ”sonatas.) Similarly, the dramatic overture“The fall»Of Beethoven’s Sonata« Pathétique »is prolonged almost painfully. Fortunately, it brings a lot of fire and speed to the fast ”Allegro di molto e con briothe following. And there is no doubt that the final movement of his performance of the Sonata “Moonlight” equals the brilliance and excitement of any other pianist.

Two CDs contain the Sonatines Clementi and Kuhlau which prepare a student for the demands of Haydn and Mozart’s Sonatas. Eschenbach plays nine well-known Mozart sonatas with charm, style and finesse, including the beloved Sonata in C major, “Facile”. To his selection of eight Haydn Sonatas, Eschenbach brings a sly sense of humor in the placement of accents and in his conversational phrasing, dispatched with the timing of a superb comic book.

Throughout the album, Eschenbach’s touch produces a compelling piano sound that engages the listener. This is highlighted in the last 2 CDs of the box set, dedicated to Mendelssohn’s work. Songs without words. From the popular “Songs of the Venetian Gondola” to the ensemble’s final work, “Belief,” Eschenbach makes the keys sing, showing students of all ages how a piano is capable of expressing as much emotion as the voice. human.

As a bonus to this satisfying collection, students who are serious about improving their art can sign up for the Tomplay app, which matches the scores of each piece in the ensemble in real time with Eschenbach’s performances.

And then, of course, they have to sit down – and practice, practice, practice!

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