A Piano Day in London

On Saturday 15th Jan we celebrated the Online Academy’s fifth birthday with a day of piano-themed events in central London at the delightful Fidelio Cafe. It was wonderful to meet many of our supporters in person for the first time in a while and we were also thrilled to be joined online by an audience from all over the globe! In this week’s blog post, we bring you a write-up and some video excerpts from the day’s events.

Performance workshop

Our programme kicked-off with a performance workshop facilitated by Graham Fitch. Five fabulous pianists performed a piece (or part thereof) of their choice and then worked with Graham on specific areas. The following works were featured:

  • Scarlatti – Sonata in D (Kp 443)  
  • Beethoven – Tempest Sonata (Op. 31 No. 2, 1st mvt)
  • Brahms – Capriccio in F-Sharp Minor (Op. 76 No. 1)
  • Rachmaninoff – Etude Tableau No. 2 in A minor (Op. 39)
  • Bortkiewicz – Etude from Trois Morceaux (Op. 6 No. 3)

A wide range of topics were covered across these pieces, from interpretation and creative a narrative through to tackling various technical challenges, with frequent discussions throughout on the use of the pedal and sound quality.

“Pedaling is an art you never come to the end of”

Bringing Baroque Music to Life

In the first of the afternoon’s “lecture-performances”, Graham looked at how Baroque music can be played expressively despite the scores having few (if any) dynamic, articulation or pedal markings. Using a Gavotte by Handel, Graham demonstrated creative approaches to articulation and then explored the question how and when to use the pedal. He also demonstrated the under-used technique of “finger pedalling” using Couperin’s Les Barricades Mystérieuses.

“The printed page only tells us part of the story…”

Further examples of works by Bach and Scarlatti were used to show how various factors such as dynamics, ornamentation, articulation and touch could be applied to deliver creative, stylistically appropriate performances of Baroque music on the piano.

The following excerpt from the full recording shows how Graham applies these elements to go beyond what’s provided in the score in the Allemande from Bach’s Partita No. 1 in B-flat Major, BWV 825:

Mozart Sonata in B-Flat Major (K333)

The next presentation featured a walk-through and commentary on Mozart’s Sonata in B-Flat Major. This turned out to be a particular hit with the audience, many of them having played it! Following from the previous session, Graham explored how touch, pedalling and dynamic variation could be used despite there being limited indications in the score and highlighted many of the work’s interesting features.

In this excerpt from his presentation, Graham shows how an overholding touch can be used instead of the pedal to create resonance and harmony:

Schubert’s Sonata in B-Flat Major (D960)

Rather fittingly, the day ended with a presentation on Schubert’s last sonata by Penelope Roskell. Penelope gave us some background context to the work, including how it is considered by some to be a swansong with beautiful melodies and harmonies often interrupted by ominous or somber motifs. After exploring various aspects of this monumental and complex work, the audience were treated to a performance of the first two movements!   

In this excerpt from her presentation, Penelope Roskell illustrates how the opening theme is interrupted with a trill on an unexpected note, giving the indication that this piece is not quite as serene as it might seem!

Many thanks to all of you who made the trip to London to attend or who supported us online. We hope you enjoyed the event as much as we did and found it both inspiring and informative!

London Piano Weekend

Join us online or in person on 24th & 25th September 2022 for the first of our London Piano Courses taking place in our new studios in central London! This weekend course features a variety of presentations, performance workshops and several Q&A sessions. 

For those able to join us in London, it’s an ideal opportunity to get feedback on your playing, help with specific challenges and trouble spots, and general encouragement in a convenient central location.

If you aren’t able to participate in person, you can still learn and gain inspiration from observing the sessions online. There will also be opportunities to ask questions via chat during various sessions and in advance for the Practice Q&A. The sessions will be streamed and all participants will receive high-definition recordings of them after the event.

Click here to find out more and to book your place!

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