20th Century and Contemporary Video Library

Alexander Scriabin was a visionary Russian composer of the turn of the 20 th century, whose music encompasses a steep stylistic progression from his adolescent romantic works to the futuristic compositions of 1910s. Scriabin’s unique language was influenced by his mystical philosophy and by synesthesia, the association of sounds with colors. What Scriabin personified for the Russian music, Debussy represented for the French and Schoenberg and his circle – for the Germanic traditions: a bridge from the 19th to the 20th centuries in the development of musical styles. Piano was Scriabin’s main medium. That is where he made musical discoveries, experimenting with harmonies and special sound effects, creating inimitable sonorities, impressions and characters. 2021-2022 marks Scriabin’s 150 th anniversary. To commemorate this benchmark, the pianist Dmitry Rachmanov will present a synopsis of the composer’s stylistic and spiritual development through nearly three decades of creativity, discussing the historical and artistic environment of the time, focusing on the composer’s style as related to specific genres, offering musical examples with commentaries of the composer’s etudes, preludes, mazurkas, nocturnes, poems and sonatas.

Alexander Scriabin: The Russian Prometheus

Dmitry Rachmanov

Ursula Oppens Performs and Discusses Alvin Singleton "Changing Faces" Alvin Singleton's “Changing Faces,” is available in a collection (also called Changing Faces) of shorter pieces by major American composers. This piece is more or less minimalist; the same figure repeats quite often and then changes. She found it difficult to learn, because when she gets to the tenth or eleventh repetition of the figure, she begins falling apart. She loves this short but difficult piece.  Alvin Singleton, a good friend, did write a concerto for Ursula called “Blues Concert” which she recorded with the Detroit Symphony. He's written longer piano pieces, “so he is someone we should pay attention to.”

Alvin Singleton "Changing Faces"

Ursula Oppens

“New York’s queen of avant-garde piano” (New Yorker) - will demonstrate, dissect and display some of the modern solo piano works she has recorded and performed - pieces composed by American mavericks Philip Glass (Mad Rush and Etude no.2),Don Byron (Piano Etude No. 5), Frederic Rzewski (Piano Piece no.4), Martin Bresnick (Ishi’s Song) and Julia Wolfe (Earring). Moore will discuss the learning and performance challenges that arise within each work - especially in the realm of touch, tone, rubato, and rhythm - as well as covering topics such as ‘how to choose new works’ and ‘getting to know the composers around you’. Don’t miss this unique opportunity to uncover these works with a master performer of the 'Music of our time’.

Back to the Future Piano

Lisa Moore

Why do teachers and performers not teach or play Debussy's piano music as often as other standard piano repertoire?

Challenges of Debussy's Music, Issues on Pedaling

Catherine Kautsky

General Lavine, Prelude Book II, No. 6. This is one of the most teachable Preludes. The humor and the character of General Lavine will surely bring out the best of personality in this piece.

Debussy Prelude General Lavine

Catherine Kautsky

One of the most charming and Spanish influenced preludes

Debussy Prelude Mouvement de Habanera

Catherine Kautsky

This is one of the easier Preludes to learn and to introduce to students. Gentle and romantic, with beautiful legato touch and coloration. Great piece to learn and use to introduce how to use the pedal.

Debussy Prelude Sounds and Perfumed In the Evening Air

Catherine Kautsky

Details for learning, playing and teaching The Engulfed Cathedral

Debussy Prelude The Engulfed Cathedral

Catherine Kautsky

This is one of the most famous and popular Debussy preludes. Learn about the story, coloration, solutions to technical challenges, and insights on interpretation.

Debussy Prelude The Girl with the Flaxen Hair

Catherine Kautsky

Discussion on the details needed for learning, playing, and teaching Voiles

Debussy Prelude Voiles

Catherine Kautsky

Great recourses for learning the Debussy Preludes, including books, recommendations of good editions, and much more.

Debussy Preludes, Learning Resources, Editions, Books

Catherine Kautsky

The influence of Javanese Gamelon on Debussy's music

Debussy Preludes: The Influence of Gamelon

Catherine Kautsky

America has always had an uneasy relationship with classical European culture, especially musically.  The Americans who composed concert music for solo piano needed to discover their own true voices, influenced by European tradition but with independent, unique and idiosyncratic visions. The resulting works are amongst the greatest and most striking compositions of the past 125 years. We will explore music for piano by Charles Ives, Carl Ruggles, Henry Cowell, John Cage, Morton Feldman and Steve Reich, with special attention to pieces playable by intermediate level pianists, with sounds that won't drive the neighbors crazy!

Discovering America

Stephen Drury

Ursula Oppens performs and discusses Ellen Taaffe Zwilich "Lament" and Elliot Carter " Second Diversion."

Ellen Taaffe Zwilich is one of the most prominent American composers and the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for Music. In 1999, with the millennium approaching, Ellen was hired by Judith Aaron, the Artistic Director of Carnegie Hall, as the first composer-in- residence. So many of the most important American composers had written fabulous pieces, but Ellen was worried that neither amateurs nor even music majors in college were daring to play them. So she decided on a commissioning program to ask composers to write pieces suitable for students at Brooklyn College. This resulted in The Carnegie Hall Millennium Piano Book from which Ursula played two pieces. The first piece was Ellen Taaffe Zwilich's “Lament” in honor of Judith Aaron.  

The second piece, Elliot Carter's “Two Diversions,” is more complicated. He liked to play games. In the first “Diversion,”  In the second “Diversion,” one hand has music that goes faster and faster, the other hand has music that goes slower and slower. Years ago Carter said, “Normally people pay attention to the faster-moving melody.” He requested that we pay more attention to the music which goes slower, which is usually in the left hand, and hear it as a melody. This is one of Carter's most successful pieces because it is a bit simpler. Carter said: “It takes a long time to learn to write simply.”

Ellen Taaffe Zwilich "Lament" and Elliot Carter " Second Diversion."

Ursula Oppens

The Story of Florence Price and Margret Bonds - Representation in Programming matters. The ethnocultural diversity of our nation is among our greatest strengths, but representation among performers, composers, and audience members of classical music has not reflected that diversity. The programming of works by underrepresented composers can educate all of us, and empower our next generation. Come and enjoy some of the most beautiful piano repertoire composed by African American composers.

Florence Price and Margaret Bonds

Michelle Cann

Ursula Oppens Performs and Discusses: Frederic Rzewski  "Friendship"  In 1974, Frederic Rzewski wrote a fantastic piece that has entered the repertoire: “The People United Will Never Be Defeated.” It is a set of 36 variations on a Chilean song. Fast forward to 2020. Ursula explained, “In March everything stopped, and we were all put into isolation.” “I think we all found what was comforting to us and what was nourishing. It was a very strange period, and for me it was Chopin Nocturnes and new music.” Ursula asked Rzewski to compose a piece six to ten minutes long: “Friendship.” This piece is unpublished.
Ursula hopes “Friendship” will be published. Rzewski self-publishes and his music is available on IMSLP.  “Friendship,” is what I think the pandemic has taught us is the most important thing in our lives.”

Frederic Rzewski "Friendship"

Ursula Oppens

Ursula Oppens Performs and Discusses: Frederic Rzewski "Rondo"

Frederic Rzewski "Rondo"

Ursula Oppens

A prolific and critically acclaimed recording artist with five Grammy nominations will demonstrate  and discuss works by Elliott Carter, Julius Hemphill, Frederic Rzewski, Alvin Singleton, and Ellen Taffe Zwillich

Friendship; Why I Play American Music

Ursula Oppens

A look at some of the important art works that influenced Debussy and his music

Influence of the Art on Debussy

Catherine Kautsky

Performing and teaching the Debussy Preludes. Catherine will focus on 6 selections of Preludes from both Book I and II. A Gateway to Imaginative Listening and Artistry. The Debussy Preludes provide a rich variety of teaching material for the early advanced student and advanced student, The 24 pieces are short, comfortable for smaller hands and pose few enormous technical demands, so students can concentrate on subtleties of pedaling, coloration, and rubato, all the while enhancing their listening skills and control of
the keyboard. You’ll learn about the stories that accompany the pieces and how those can fire the imagination of students (and teachers!) who love art, dance, literature, and history. These pieces are truly multi-faceted and teaching them is endlessly fascinating! In this introduction, Cathrine gives you an overall picture of Debussy's Preludes. including details on his cultural background, musical development and creative thinking process.

Introduction on Debussy Preludes

Catherine Kautsky

An introduction to Debussy Preludes - General Lavine, Cakewalk, Circus and Clown

Introduction to Debussy's Prelude General Lavine, Cakewalk, Circus and Clown

Catherine Kautsky

Ursula Oppens performs and discusses Julius Hemphill "Parchment" Julius Hemphill was known primarily as a great jazz musician and a founder of the World Saxophone Quartet. He was also a founder of the Black Artists Group in St. Louis, which included poets and visual artists and was one of the great creative forces of the late 20th century. At Ursula's request in the early 1990's, Hemphill wrote “Parchment,” a blues piece that has just been published by Subito Music. It is sort of atonal, sort of not atonal. “My impression of the harmonies of avant-garde jazz and the harmonies of Ravel are very similar.” There are chords with more and more blues tones added.

Julius Hemphill "Parchment"

Ursula Oppens

In this mini course,  Catherine Rollin will explore a few of her most highly regarded and well received series.  In all of her music, Catherine has aimed to create what she calls “real music.” Although her composing always has  pedagogical purposes at its core,  Catherine also feels it is of the utmost importance that pieces are intrinsically musical as well.  It is only with “real music” that students are inspired to practice and grow and most importantly: to love music.
Series discussed more in depth in this mini course will be: The Bean Bag Zoo, Lyric Moments, Museum Masterpieces and Spotlight on Style.  Catherine will also play one short piece from each of the other series to demonstrate the sounds and skills emphasized.  Teachers will learn much about teaching generally as Catherine analyzes how to introduce the music from the standpoint of technique, artistry and musicality.

Music to Learn from and Love

Catherine Rollin

My composing reflects contemporary mind that looks back for inspiration. In my heart I am a piano composer first. It is my pleasure to share thoughts, approaches, considerations, and techniques that are consciously employed to make each piece unique, performable, and offer musical challenge. Hidden composition tools within the music will be explored, allowing greater insight into each piece.

Pianistically Contemporary: Composing for Technique, Style and Musicality

Tom Gerou

This Musicale session will explore some of the works by American educational composer, Dennis Alexander.  He will discuss his creative process while offering tips on how to compose award-winning compositions for students at all levels.  His 50-year career as a performer/teacher has also been very influential in his success as a composer of materials for pianists of all ages and abilities.

Practical, Purposeful and Plentiful - the Music of Dennis Alexander

Dennis Alexander

Prof. Berman will discuss multiple facets of Prokofiev's style and piano writing, using as examples works from his different creative periods. The internationally acclaimed pianist and Professor of Yale School of Music, Boris Berman is the world authority on the music of Prokofiev. He was the first pianist to record his complete works for solo piano, including all sonatas/ He wrote the book Prokofiev’s Piano Sonatas. He was the editor of the authoritative edition of the scores of Prokofiev’s sonatas.

Prokofiev: many faces of the great composer

Boris Berman

Faliks asked 9 composers to create works inspired by Beethoven's Bagatelles opus 126 and Ravel's Gaspard de la Nuit. In this mini-course, she discusses the experience of recording the work during the pandemic, and how technology impacted this task. She delves into the piano world each of the nine diverse composers created and introduces their piano music. Finally, she demonstrates how programming today must look not only backwards but ahead. Composers include Peter Golub, Tamir Hendelman, Ian Krouse, Richard Danielpour, Mark Carlson, David Lefkowitz, Paola Prestini, Timo Andres and Billy Childs.

Reimagine Beethoven and Ravel - Bridging Yesterday and Tomorrow

Inna Faliks