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Updated by Ariel Lanyi on Jul 05, 2020
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Music for 2 Keyboards

Writing about the music I perform. Each entry consists of a recorded performance and an associated blog.

Beethoven's Andante Favori - Music for 2 Keyboards

As is often the case with Beethoven, the Andante Favori offers both the performer and the listener a wide range of characters, conflicts, and contradictions.

How I got to love Szymanowski's Variations in B-flat minor, Op. 3 - Music for 2 Keyboards

I spend a significant amount of time thinking about the Haydn-ness of Haydn, the Schumann-ness of Schumann, the Bruckner-ness of Bruckner, and so on. But what if this uniqueness occasionally takes a slightly different form? What if a work doesn’t have a clear stylistic imprint, but rather combines elements from various styles in order to form its own narrative?

Why is Brahms’s Op. 76 cycle so seldom played? - Music for 2 Keyboards

Brahms's Eight Piano Pieces, Op. 76, published in 1879, marked a beginning and an end for Brahms: the end of a hiatus in writing for piano solo and the beginning of Brahms’s new style of writing for piano, where cycles of small miniatures supplanted the earlier monumental works, such as the three sonatas and the Handel Variations.

Brahms’s Op. 76 cycle: A study in idleness? - Music for 2 Keyboards

Some years ago, in a masterclass with the renowned American pianist and teacher Jerome Lowenthal, I played Rachmaninoff’s beautiful E-flat minor Étude-Tableaux Op. 39/5. After I finished playing, he pointed his finger at the first page and asked me: “Harmonically, what’s going on here?” Although I thought I was quite adept in harmony, I found myself scratching my head with intermittent “uh”s and “oh”s, until Mr. Lowenthal spread his hands and exclaimed “Nothing! Absolutely nothing! The poor guy just couldn’t modulate!”

Brahms’s Op. 76 cycle: An entangled ending to an entangled story - Music for 2 Keyboards

In a century musically defined by works such as Pictures at an Exhibition, Zarathustra, and the New World Symphony, Brahms found an almost materialistic oasis of self-describing music. Unhindered by extramusical ideas, the Op. 76  cycle finds its own path, writes its own plot, and declares its own endings.

Listening “through the eyes” to Liszt’s first volume of Années de pèlerinage - Music for 2 Keyboards

In the last three entries I dealt with Brahms’s Op. 76 cycle, a quintessentially anti-programmatic work, propelled solely by its own development and needing no extramusical content to accompany it. The subject of this post, Suisse, Liszt’s first volume of Années de pèlerinage, is the polar opposite of that. 

Love, power, and retribution: Ingmar Bergman’s response to Chopin - Music for 2 Keyboards

Autumn Sonata is a mother-daughter drama played out between Ingrid Bergman (a concert pianist) and Liv Ullmann (her daughter). But Bergman (Ingmar) injects a third character into this relationship: Chopin. It is Chopin who delivers the bad news of the unresolvable nature of the mother-daughter conflict. The look of awe and dismay on Liv Ullmann's face as her mother plays the A minor Prelude says it all. Listen to my take of this short Prelude and read my blog about it.

Bemusement and unlikeliness in Beethoven’s Diabelli variations - Music for 2 Keyboards

Beethoven's game. What kind of music would you write if you were a deaf composer. The answer is: physical.The shortest of the 33 D variations, a mere 30 seconds, holds the key to the monumental structure of this hour-long cycle. Music for 2 Keyboards Bemusement and unlikeliness in Beethoven’s Diabelli variations -

The art of the rest
What is the pianist to do when the rests are as meaningful (and as long) as the sounds?
This blog looks at the physicality of Beethoven's music, those qualities that reach us not through the ears but through the eyes, as we observe the performer's contortions and awkward embarrassment.

Beethoven’s Diabelli Variations and the “three periods” fallacy - Music for 2 Keyboards

The cliché of the 3 Beethoven periods. Did Beethoven, just as he was putting the finishing touches on the last chords of the 5th symphony, say something like, "Now that I'm coming to the end of my heroic middle period, and starting my late period, I should be thinking seriously about some greater intellectual depth, more polyphony à la Handel and Bach, and somewhat longer and more involved compositions?" Unlikely. It is entirely in the nature and spirit of Beethoven to give pundits the lie and defy any attempt to categorize, rank, or classify his work.