• The Myth of Weak Fingers
    It is commonly supposed among us pianists that the ring finger—our ‘fourth’ finger, ever since the ‘English’ fingering system was by and large superseded by the ‘continental’ system—is the weakest. This has evolved into a separation of the ‘outside’ and ‘inside’ fingers, those further from or closer to the thumb respectively, and the categorisation of … Read more
  • Franz Liszt: La cloche sonne
    Although I rarely have cause these days to paddle in the balmy waters of the lower grades of the ABRSM syllabus, a little piece on the 2023-24 Grade 4 set works list caught my eye, and so I wanted to share my thoughts on it, for various reasons. First, of course, it’s a nicely-crafted little … Read more
  • Cécile Chaminade: ‘Automne’, op. 35 no. 2
    Undoubtedly one of Chaminade’s most well-known and well-loved solo piano works, ‘Automne’ comes from the collection Études de Concert, op. 35. No fewer than four of the six etudes that comprise the set feature on diploma works lists. They are all gratefully written, and although they deserve the ‘etude’ title, their musical interest and audience … Read more
  • Edvard Grieg: ‘Elf-Dance’, no. 5 from Lyric Pieces, op. 12
    Inspired by the folklore of his native Norway, Grieg’s ‘Elf-Dance’ is a scherzo-like movement which exemplifies many aspects of Grieg’s early piano writing. Most often female, elves in Norse legend are mainly to be encountered at night or in the mists of early morning, dancing in groups, leaving behind ‘elf-circles’. Frequently associated with illness or … Read more
  • Cécile Chaminade: Piano Sonata, op. 21, second movement
    We begin our survey of Chaminade’s diploma-level piano works with the middle movement of her only piano sonata. Published in 1895, it is dedicated to Moritz Moszkowski, Chaminade’s brother-in-law. Marcia J. Citron cites a performance of the first movement given two years before the work was published by the composer herself in St. James’s Hall, … Read more
  • Perfect Practice
    One of the greatest pleasures and privileges of my career has been to work with dancers. For anyone interested in how to achieve excellence—perfection in dance being a platonic ideal strived for but never quite attained—a lot can be learned from time regularly spent in a dance studio. The following idea I attribute to the … Read more
  • Problem-Solving Problems
    (for Ted Hill) Sometimes things get better with patience, practice, and time. Sometimes, though, they don’t, and more extreme action is required. While medical metaphors are probably the last thing anyone wants to contemplate as we all emerge blinking into the blinding post-Covid light without even so much as a mask and a litre of … Read more
  • Featured composer: Cécile Chaminade (1857-1944)
    The French composer Cécile Chaminade features in both LCM and TCL diploma syllabuses, appearing in the repertoire lists for DipLCM, ALCM, LLCM, and ATCL. This is not a token nod, either, as the choice of works by Chaminade is more than double that of those by Amy Beach, Miriam Hyde, Clara Schumann, or those by … Read more