Youtube offers many channels with high quality classical music accompanied by synchronized scores. Ashish Xiangyi Kumar has an especially good one for piano fans. A large number of his videos feature two or more pianists interpreting the same work. To these, he offers his own thoughts on the pieces and the interpretations. A young Singaporean now studying law at Cambridge, Kumar brings to task a razor sharp mind and keen persuasive skills honed through a championship debate career. His notes read like chess matches analyzed by a grandmaster who can both understand and explain features large and small. He’s also a composer and if he can play what he writes, his chops must be first-rate.
The guilt? The recordings and scores come from somewhere…
For best results, start the videos, then click on the “Watch on Youtube” button and read the commentaries.
“At an evening party, Mozart bet a case of champagne that Haydn could not play at sight a piece he had composed that afternoon. Haydn accepted the bet and proceeded to play it on harpsichord only to stop short after first few bars. It was impossible to continue because the composition required him to simultaneously strike notes at two ends of the keyboard and a note in the very center. Haydn exclaimed, ‘Nobody can play this with only two hands.’
‘I can,’ Mozart said, and took his place at the keyboard. When he reached that problematic portion of his piece, Mozart bent forward and struck the central note with his nose.
Haydn conceded saying: ‘With a nose like yours, it becomes easier.'”
I’m relearning ‘Canope,’ one of Debussy’s amateur friendly Preludes that stretches hands all over the 88s and reading skills across three staves. One day I hope to don the scuba gear and visit ‘La Cathédrale Engloutie’. Here are Nelson Freire and Sviatoslav Richter wrapping their very differently-sized flippers around it.
Claude Debussy – La Cathédrale Engloutie (Nelson Freire)
Paul, older brother of philosopher Ludwig, lost an arm in WW1 and then commissioned composers to write left-hand only pieces for him. By all accounts a temperamental character, he torqued several now-great names while simultaneously enriching the repertoire through his sponsorships.