Pieces from the Golden Age of the Piano CD – The Journey, The Outcome
August 25th, 2011 by Andrew Kraus

Why Am I Doing This?

In 1970 when I graduated from Boston University with a number of prizes and awards for my abilities as a pianist, I was fortunate enough to be accepted as a private student of David Saperton in the last year of his life.

Good as my playing was at the time, I knew, at a deep level, that there was more music in me than what I could express through my playing, and it was hugely frustrating to me.  But I did not know how to improve.  I came to find out that it was a matter of technique. Doing things in a better, more efficient way, was the answer – but where to learn, who could teach me, those were questions for which I had no answer, until…

…Anne Steinhardt, a former editor of the American Heritage Dictionary, and sister of Mary B. Davenport, one of my teacher friends in whose voice studio I did a lot of accompanying, recommended that I study with her former teacher, David Saperton, in New York. “You see, dear boy”, I remember them saying, “it’s time for you to learn to play the piano [ouch!!!] better”.

I had never heard of Saperton, nor heard his playing, though I had heard many of the greats of the time of my own coming of age, from Rubenstein to Serkin and Gillels, even a rare Horowitz performance, and even rarer one by Michelangelli.  But, of Saperton, I knew nothing.

What I can say today, is that meeting David Saperton, and working with him, was extraordinary from the initial intake audition to the detailed lessons on technique he gave me, and perhaps as important as anything else, the opportunity to hear the man play the piano in the very last months of his life.  It was luminously beautiful, and even though Mr. Saperton was near death, wrote in a handwriting that was shaky looking, walked slowly with a cane, when he played the piano, it was the playing of a younger, healthier man, infused with vitality, heart and spirit.

Listening to Saperton play was, for me, an initiation into a way of making music, and in some cases a type of music, that I had never experienced previously.  In a flash, I was transported back to the salons of the late 1920′s and early 1930′s in NYC (and Paris and other similar cities) where the Greats would gather, smoke their cigars, play the piano for each other, talk about the music. Very heady stuff for a young man such as I was at the time. Truth be told, it’s STILL very heady stuff for me.

The pieces are rarely programmed, they are usually short (3 to 5 minutes), and can be extremely difficult to play.  They take full advantage of the sonority of what we know as the modern piano. And, to meet the “cut”, they must be beautiful and “touch the heart”.  Wherever I have played them for people, the reactions have been extremely positive.  Even pianists in my audiences have come up to me after concerts, spoken well of my playing and saying things like, “I never heard that piece before. Where did you find it?”

Now, some forty years later, after much work, much study, much living, I believe that I can play the piano well enough to bring some of this sort of playing and repertoire forward from the original Golden Age of the Piano into the 21st Century, and it is, in fact, my Mission to do so.

Here is an example of a video recording of one of the pieces that will be on the CD. It was done in my studio. The pianist you can see in the picture near the top left is Leopold Godowsky, one of the greatest pianists of the Twentieth Century, and coincidentally, David Saperton’s Father-in-Law. Please note the interesting effect in the last few seconds of the piece where after I play a left hand arpeggio up the keyboard, I then move down to place my hands silently on a smaller chord, and, according to the composer’s direction, release the pedal so only that final silently played chord is heard.

What I’ll be Covering in this Series

Aside from the issue of generating the funding (roughly $6500 of which I will not get to keep a penny), to make the first CD, of what I plan to be a number of releases over the next five years,  there are a number of other things involved that I think readers will find of interest. Here are some of the topics that I’ll cover, though not necessarily in the order shown in this post.

  • Finding the right piano
  • Finding the right venue
  • Finding the right recording technician
  • Learning what’s involved in producing a CD for sale
  • Finding the right graphic artist
  • Generating the required funding
  • …and more

I’d love to hear from you, so please feel free to comment here.

You can also find me on Facebook here: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Andrew-Kraus-Pianist/237771946260815, and through Twitter as @IAmAPianist.





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